The V-8 engine in the standard 7-Series delivers the kind of power you used to expect from BMW's M cars. The 400-horsepower, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 develops most of its torque as early as 1,750 rpm, and it pushes the 7er almost as well as the old V-12 did-with just a faint whistle from the turbochargers. Hooked into a cooperative six-speed automatic transmission with sport-shift mode, the 750Li can claim a 0-60 mph time of about 5.0 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph. Fuel economy checks in at a middling 15/22 mpg for the 750i, 14/21 mpg for the 750Li.
This year, BMW adds more driving hardware to the existing 7-Series sedans. Its xDrive all-wheel-drive system is available on V-8 sedans. It's a sophisticated system that can send up to 80 percent of torque to the rear wheels to improve traction. The 750i xDrive and 750Li xDrive models earn EPA ratings of 14/20 mpg. There's also a new M Sport package for rear-drive vehicles; it adds a body kit, 19- or 20-inch wheels, a special steering wheel, and Active Roll Stabilization (more on this later). New this year, a brake-regeneration system captures braking energy to run the alternator for slight fuel savings.
And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the new uber-Bimmer, the long-wheelbase $136,000 BMW 760Li. Fitted with a 537-hp twin-turbo V-12, a new eight-speed automatic, and rear-wheel drive, and weighing in at 4,800 pounds, this version teleports drivers from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 13/19 mpg. We haven't driven the V-12 edition yet, but when we do we'll add to this review.
One last word on the 2010 BMW 7-Series lineup: BMW had planned on introducing an ActiveHybrid 7 for the 2010 model year, and we've previewed it across High Gear Media as a 2010. The 7-Series Hybrid's still coming, but it's been switched to the 2011 model year (you can read our initial impressions here). Also, the 7-Series will add six-cylinder and V-8 Alpina trim editions in the 2011 model year. We'll bring you the 2011 review just as soon as cars are available.
No matter whether it's short or long, the 7-Series feels unbelievably nimble for a car so lengthy and heavy. It's stable and feels planted at the 135 mph on the Autobahn, as our first test drive back in 2008 proved. While it weighs plenty, the 7-Series' lightweight control-arm independent suspension front and rear gives its responses an airier touch. BMW's fitted optional active rear steering, which turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts in some situations to enhance turn-in; variable steering assist; Active Roll Stabilization, which engages anti-roll bars to limit excessive body motion; and on the 750Li, an air suspension. The somewhat maddening Driving Dynamics Control is also in charge of shock firmness, transmission shifts, steering heft, and throttle response-but drivers can twiddle with the settings to fit their habits. In our experience with the 750Li, it's best to leave the 7-Series in automatic modes and to trust the transitions to its transistors.
Braking is exceptionally strong, as we've come to expect, with many electronic controls to prepare, dry, control, and unlock brakes in extreme circumstances.
Motor Trend: V-8 has a "broad, robust torque band"
Edmunds: "we accelerated a 750i from zero to 60 mph in a scant 5.2 seconds"
Car and Driver: V-12 "turbochargers are relatively small for quick throttle response and minimal lag"
Edmunds: 760Li "accelerates with complete authority"
Motor Trend: automatic is "faster, smoother, and more economical"
Automobile: "manual shifting can be accomplished once the joystick-style selector is tilted to the left"
Motor Trend: "eight-speed transmission is attentive and smooth enough, though...it can seem busy"
Automobile: "feels much smaller than it is"
Motor Trend: "only the Normal setting feels harmonious. In Comfort, the soft damping can't control wheelhop, and in Sport, there's an agile car waiting to come out, but the artificial steering suppresses your urge to find it, and the ride becomes too wooden to allow good traction"
Edmunds: "more athletic but also has a stiffer ride quality"