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 short- or long-wheelbase (Li) body style, the 7-Series accelerates swiftly, and doles out amazing grip and poise for its size. Most of the lineup still puts luxury, comfort and tech at the top, but these are deeply satisfying sedans to drive.
The 740i and 740Li, the base sedans in the lineup, draw power from a 315-hp twin-turbo inline-6. They take roughly 6 seconds to reach 60 mph. The turbo-6 has a character that fits this car remarkably well, thanks to its abundant torque produced at low rpm, the 6-cylinder's linear acceleration and the fact that it's more than 200 lb lighter than V-8 versions. This year even the 7-Series gets the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 7-Series' V-8 engines are new this year. The 750i's twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 now makes 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. Hitting 60 mph takes just 4.7 seconds, according to BMW.
The Alpina B7 also has the high-output V-8, rated here at 540 hp and 538 lb-ft, plus a suspension tuned more firmly than any other 7-Series even in Sport mode. The Alpina hits 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds.
Otherwise, there's an M Sport bundle that includes a body kit; 19- or 20-inch wheels; a sport steering wheel; and Active Roll Stabilization.
BMW offers all-wheel drive on most 7-Series models-this year, for the first time, with 6-cylinders. The system splits torque nominally to the front wheels at a 20:80 ratio.
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 4,800 pounds. The ActiveHybrid7 is the model for green shoppers. It now combines the 6-cylinder with electric motors and a battery pack. Other BMWs with the same system haven't improved gas mileage enough to justify the expense.
The 7-Series comes standard with an air suspension as well as Driving Dynamics Control. The electronic system lets drivers tweak steering, suspension, transmission, throttle, and stability controls to suit their driving habits. Active rear steering is an option; it can turn the back wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds to increase maneuverability. With all those electronics running interference, it's no wonder the 7-Series' steering comes off as artificial and numb.