2013 BMW 7-Series Performance

9.0
Performance

There are four different engines offered in the 2013 BMW 7-Series, as well as all-wheel-drive variants available for much of the model line, and a hybrid model. With any of these choices, in standard or long-wheelbase (Li) body style, the 7-Series models accelerate swiftly, with amazing grip and more poise from a vehicle this size. Most of the lineup still puts comfort, luxury, and tech at the top, but these are surprisingly satisfying sedans from the driver's seat.

At the base level, the 740i and 740Li come with a version of BMW's twin-turbo in-line six, making 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Even here, the 7-Series is quick--about six seconds to 60 mph. And the character of the turbo six fits this car remarkably well, thanks to its abundant torque produced at low rpm. six-cylinder's smooth, linear acceleration and the fact that it's more than 200 pounds lighter than the V-8 versions. This year even the 7-Series gets the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission.

Stronger turbocharged V-8 engines headline the 2013 changes--with the 7-Series models now ranging from strong and confident to blisteringly quick.

The 7-Series' V-8 engines are new this year. In the 750i models, the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 now makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. The dash to 60 mph takes just 4.7 seconds, according to BMW.

Also featuring the V-8 is the performance-focused Alpina B7, which now makes 540 horsepower and 538 pound-feet, plus a suspension that's firmer than any of the other models can manage in Sport mode, as well as bigger brakes, and other enhancements. The 0-60 time here is about 4.5 seconds.

Otherwise, there's an M Sport package that provides a body kit; 19- or 20-inch wheels; and Active Roll Stabilization, as well as its own sport steering wheel.

xDrive all-wheel drive is optional on most of the model line--it's offered in six-cylinder models for the first time this year--and while the system does slightly affect the steering's feel on center, it does send 20 percent of the torque to the car's front wheels for better traction.

The 760Li, a long-wheelbase-only edition fitted with a 537-hp twin-turbo V-12, is at the top of the prestige scale. Count on 4.6 seconds to 60 mph, even though it weighs in at a more portly 4,800 pounds.

For those who want performance without as much consumption, there's the ActiveHybrid 7, which will join the lineup later in the model year and now pairs the six-cylinder engine (not the V-8 anymore) to a system using electric motors and a special lithium-ion battery pack. In general, in BMW's other models, we've found this system lacking in smoothness, while not all that much quicker or more efficient than the normal six-cylinder versions.

Electronics are both friend and foe in the 7-Series. Without its battery of electronics, this big sedan might feel like a land yacht, but altogether they dramatically broaden the 7's driving feel. Even in Normal mode, the 7er is unbelievably nimble for a car so lengthy and heavy. Although we haven't yet driven the significantly changed V-8 models, our drives of the current-generation 7-Series have always left us awestruck over how planted and stable it feels, wither at low speeds or at Autobahn-style limits.

All versions get an air suspension, plus Driving Dynamics Control, a system that governs shock firmness, transmission shifts, steering heft, and throttle response--but allows drivers to twiddle with the settings to fit their habits. BMW also offers optional active rear steering, which turns the rear wheels opposite the fronts in some situations to enhance turn-in, which does noticeably speed up the steering response. Across all of these systems, if only the steering feel weren't so artificial, the 7-Series would comport itself better than any of the large German luxury liners.

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