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SAFETY | 10 out of 10
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Sideview camera 'lets the driver view oncoming traffic when trying to enter a road from, say, an alley or garage exit'
Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front and rear side airbags, knee airbags, and curtain side airbags
Head-up display 'is easily legible'
The 2012 BMW 7-Series hasn't been crash-tested by either of the major agencies--the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That's because it's a very expensive, and relatively rare, model, and both agencies tend to favor the most popular models.
But the BMW 5-Series has fared quite well, and the 7-Series is at least somewhat mechanically related to its smaller sibling. Furthermore, the 7-Series' extreme helping of safety gear also earns our respect, along with the big score. Every 7-Series gets standard front, side, and side-curtain airbags; rear-seat side airbags; front-seat active head restraints; and knee airbags. Each copy also has standard anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. And BMW also fits a rearview camera, a front-view 180-degree camera, and parking sensors to assist drivers in keeping the 7-Series clear of parking-lot trouble.
All-wheel-drive 7-Series sedans have standard hill descent control--in this case, not for amazing off-road traction, but for controlling the car on icy, messy roads.
The options offered on the luxury sedan will appeal to technophiles and safetyphobes, too. A Driver Assistance Package bundles together blind-spot detection, a lane-departure warning system (which vibrates the steering wheel when the car drifts from its lane) and automatic high-beam headlights.
Two items we'd probably opt out of are the available head-up display, as well as the night-vision system. They're both good ideas in concept, but in execution they end up cluttering the view of the road ahead.
Despite a lack of scores from both major safety agencies, the 2012 BMW 7-Series has a good track record for safety plus one of the best rosters of safety gear.