In nearly every model in the 2012 BMW 7-Series lineup, you're bound to feel a little overwhelmed by all the technology on board. Especially as you move up the model line, to the $150,000 760Li, the 7-Series' features tend toward absolute comfort and ultra-luxury upgrades. But if you want to geek out, there are plenty of chances to do so.
The feature that does the most, and takes the most heat, is iDrive. The latest version of BMW's haptic-feedback-controller system uses simplified menu systems now, with clearer, more intuitive symbols, and it now seems to wade into the car's climate, audio, phone and telematics services with something approaching ease of use.
As it's improved, iDrive's also been augmented with new bookmark buttons and direct-function buttons that let you drill more rapidly in through its deep database. In the process, it's dialed back more physical controls into the cabin--while the original goal was to replace all of them with a single wheel.
BMW's voice-activated navigation system remains one of the best, outputting its data on a wide, gorgeous 10.2-inch high-resolution display, and storing its maps on an 80GB hard drive. If you're tired of wading through iDrive, you can always Google a destination and send it to your car's GPS live from the Web.
We're always happy to listen to BMW's audio systems, which now have the firepower to match the best luxury vehicles on the planet. The head unit in the 7-Series will play DVD-etched music files, and also has built-in HD and satellite radio hardware. A rear-seat entertainment system is optional on V-8 cars, and standard on the most expensive 7ers.
Options, even on the 760Li, include night vision, massaging rear seats, adaptive cruise control, and a choice of wood trim.
For years, BMW stubbornly considered Bluetooth and other connectivity items as options--even in the 7-Series--but it's gradually getting past its quixotic ways. For 2012, the automaker has at last has made a USB port and iPod adapter part of the 7-Series' standard kit, and all models get a rear-view camera system as well as a sport steering wheel. Also for 2012, all 750i models and above get premium sound.
Also new this year with the Driver Assistance Package are side and top-view camera views; that package also includes the Head-Up Display in all-wheel-drive xDrive models.