No matter which model you choose from the 2014 BMW 7-Series lineup—whether it's a standard 'i' or extended-wheelbase 'Li' model, or whether it has a five-digit or six-digit price tag—what you get is a plush, restrained big sedan with a plush yet restrained ambiance and an abundance of space and comfort.
Between the two, there is a difference worth parsing. While the Mercedes-Benz will remain offered exclusively in its long-wheelbase form in the U.S., the BMW 7-Series if offered in those two lengths. The extended-wheelbase ('Li') versions add 5.5 inches to overall length—and almost all of that goes straight to rear legroom. In these versions, entry to and exit in back is definitely easier, too.
With last year's refresh, the 7-Series got a thinner, more contoured design for the front seats—mostly without extendable thigh bolsters this time. While we still haven't had the chance to test these out on a long road trip and assure you they're as good as the seats they replaces, the 7-Series has quite a reputation for keeping trouble-prone backs well supported on the long haul. And we'll venture to say that the 7-Series remains one of the top picks for tall drivers.
Last year's round of changes also brought redesigned back seats; and you can still choose from bench seats or, with the Luxury Rear Seating Package, individual bucket-style seats with integrated massage and ventilation functions. With a four-zone climate control system, this is one of the top picks with which to transport very important passengers.
Ride quality isn't soft and pillowy, or at all bouncy; rather it's very well controlled, and about as firm as possible without compromising comfort. All 7-Series models now include an air suspension system, as well as dynamic damping, which together allow the driver to fine-tune the ride—as well as handling—to fit the mission (and the road).
The 7-Series remains the futuristic and tech-centric flagship of the BMW lineup; but you might not know it from within the cabin. These are models that are for the most part remarkably clean in design and devoid of excess buttons and switchgear. Much of that, of course, is replaced by the complex and sometimes frustrating iDrive interface—which gets a new touch pad this year.
Especially at the entry end of the lineup, we're surprised at how stark a lightly optioned 740iL can feel compared to some of its rivals, like a Jaguar XJ. But if you're willing to ante up option packages and you get top-notch materials, including beautiful wood and leather, with fit and finish easily on par with Rolls-Royce.
The refresh last year also brought new ambient lighting, more sound insulation, and other small changes to the interior make it a more comfortable, engaging place to travel. We still haven't revisited the 7-Series since then, but we hope to soon update those with proper 2014-model-year impressions.