- Formal yet athletic appearance
- Strong powertrains
- Handles well for a large luxury car
- Back seat comfort better than a limo (iL)
- Many chances to upgrade
- Tech overload
- ActiveHybrid 7 should be smoother
- Interiors without upgrades feel stark
The 2014 BMW 7-Series is not just luxurious and comfortable, but exceptionally quick and technologically advanced.
The 7-Series has long been the flagship model for BMW, a roomy luxury sedan that's also where you'll find some of the most advanced technology in the world. Even though the 2014 BMW 7-Series builds on bones that are now more than five years old, last year's refresh, continued technology upgrades, and strong, efficient powertrains keep this trend-setter relevant-as well as one of our top high-end luxury sedan picks.
Last year, BMW gave the 7-Series a light makeover at the front end, and a more intensive workout inside, with new seats, better back seats, and new trim packages. It also added a new range of V-8 turbo engines, an updated hybrid model, and it made 8-speed automatics the norm across the range.
For 2014, BMW makes some minor feature and interior changes, but otherwise carries its big sedan over. That leaves its handsome body mostly unchanged. Its proportions hit the mark, with a nice wedge in its profile and a smart upkick at its rear end. Standard and long-wheelbase cars (with 5.5 extra inches of back-seat space) have equally dramatic looks. The interior wins us over, too, with a straightforward shape that avoids some of the clutter BMW is prone to. The switches and knobs have ceramic finishes here, and the wood is tightly grained.
There are five different powerplants offered in this year's 7-Series: 740i, 750i, 760i, Active Hybrid 7, and top-performance Alpina B7. All of these models include standard rear-wheel drive, although some offer all-wheel drive. While those who appreciate the 7-Series' sport-sedan pedigree will be able to parse out (and appreciate) the finer differences between these models, across the board you'll surely find that the 7-Series models accelerate swiftly, with amazing grip and more poise from a vehicle this size. These are for the most part surprisingly satisfying sedans for the driver, although comfort, luxury, and tech are at the top--and that also shows more for some models than others.
The 2014 BMW 740i and 740Li are the base models in the lineup; they come with a version of BMW's twin-turbo in-line six, making 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. With a curb weight about 200 pounds under that of the V-8 sedans, the 6-cylinders have more enjoyable handling. The 750i and 750iL adopt last year's brand-new V-8s, which put out 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque; BMW pegs their 60-mph runs at 4.7 seconds. The 760Li has a 537-hp twin-turbo V-12, but lots of features come standard, and that adds up to a portly curb weight. The 7-Series athlete is the Alpina B7, with its 54-hp V-8, firmly tuned suspension that's firmer than any of the other models can manage in Sport mode, bigger brakes, and other dynamic enhancements. The Alpina runs to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.
All 7er sedans have Driving Dynamics Control, which lets drivers adjust steering heft, damper stiffness, transmission shifts, and throttle response--but allows drivers to twiddle with the settings to fit their habits. Air suspension is also standard. 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.
The 7-Series does a top-drawer job of ferrying adults in any of its four outboard seats. Tall passengers fare particularly well in the long-wheelbase 7er. The thinner, more contoured front seats and redesigned back seats feel swell. BMW will install bucket-style seats in back, and equips them with ventilation and massage functions.
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.
BMW's iDrive controller still runs the infotainment systems. This year, it adopts a touch-sensitive surface that can accept handwritten input. In tandem with a reconfigurable display, it now has more intuitive, and coordinated, operation. It's also a better-looking interface. Attention Assist lights a coffee-cup icon on the dash when a camera detects a nodding-off driver. Adaptive cruise control can stop the car at low speeds if it detects a stopped vehicle or obstacle ahead.
Finally, rear-seat passengers can have their own iDrive controller, twin-screen entertainment, and control over a lovely Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker audio system.
2014 BMW 7-Series
The 2014 BMW 7-Series is well-proportioned, with detailing that altogether keeps the look trim, athletic, and elegant.
Just last year, the 7-Series was refreshed. Essentially, that means that it kept the same shape (and most of the sheetmetal) that it's had for the past several model years, but added some fresh details.
The current 7-Series hits a home run in its profile. The proportions are on the mark, versus prior generations with too-tall decklids and big panes of glass. The current silhouette is a knockout. Though it's long, the shape still has a pronounced wedge and an upkicked tail. It's equally dramatic, whether it's the standard car or the long-wheelbase model, with its 5.5 inches of additional rear-seat legroom.
Last year's refresh ended in a new front end with more visually interesting details below a wider twin-kidney grille. BMW added a long chrome strip across the bumper, while the taillight design is a little more crisp and detailed.
The cockpit is a win overall, with a straightforward design that's not cluttered and chaotic, as luxury cars can be. The 7er cabin has streamlined dash shapes, tight-grain wood, and ceramic-finished knobs. At the center sits iDrive, the infotainment interface that adds a touch-sensitive control puck this year. Along with a reconfigurable display, it's better looking and more intuitive.
2014 BMW 7-Series
Depending on which engine you choose, the 2014 BMW 7-Series can be merely assertive and responsive or downright scorching.
There are five different drivetrains offered in the 2014 BMW 7-Series--740i, 750i, 760i, Active Hybrid 7, and Alpina B7. All have rear-wheel drive, but can be fitted with all-wheel drive.
The 740i/740Li sport BMW's latest twin-turbo inline-6. Rated at 315 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, these models deliver ample acceleration that's smooth and linear. BMW quotes a 0-60 mph time of about 6 seconds, all we think you need in an executive-class sedan. The bonus: this 7er feels lighter at the controls, taking midrange passes in stride, or rocketing along back roads at the top of the rev range. The 6-cylinder puts 200 pounds less on the road, so steering and ride benefit, strongly.
The 750i/750iL cars stock twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8s with 445 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. BMW drops a 4.7-second time for 0-60 mph runs. Go even heavier, even more powerful, and the 760Li uses its 537-hp twin-turbo V-12 to lurch to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. It's not much quicker than the V-8s, since BMW really ladles on the luxury gear, tipping the scales at 4,800 pounds.
The most athletic 7er is the Alpina B7. Its V-8 gets a twin-turbo boost to 540 hp and 538 lb-ft; it also gets a stiffer suspension and bigger brakes, and BMW quotes its 0-60 mph time at 4.5 seconds.
On most models BMW sells an M Sport package. It has 19- or 20-inch wheels; Active Roll Stabilization; its own distinctive body add-ons; and a sport steering wheel. All-wheel drive can be fitted to most 6- and 8-cylinder cars. It deadens the already artificial steering but puts 20 percent of the torque to the front wheels, for improved traction.
The ActiveHybrid 7 joins the lineup this year. It pairs the 6-cylinder with electric motors and a lithium-ion battery. In other BMWs, this execution hasn't been much more efficient or quick, but we'll reserve impressions for a full drive.
Every 7er has an air suspension. BMW also grafts on Driving Dynamics Control, a drive-mode selector that tweaks steering weight, shift patterns, damper damping, all in the name of giving drivers a say in the car's setup. There's also an active-steering system that helps low-speed maneuvers, and disables at higher speeds to maintain excellent tracking. Ride quality isn't pillowy abd soft, not at all bouncy. It's well controlled, as firm as possible without cutting into comfort.
That said, electronics can overwhelm the 7-Series at times. Without them, it's impossible to conceive of how it would respond-as it does-like a smaller car. With them, the inevitable sacrifice is direct connection with the car's steering rack, its throttle, a fixed suspension setup. It's at the brink of turning the car's responses purely into algorithms.
2014 BMW 7-Series
Comfort & Quality
With excellent seats, vast back-seat space, and top-notch fit and finish, luxury isn't in any way compromised in the 7-Series.
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.
Unlike Benz, BMW still offers its big sedan in two lengths. The long-wheelbase car has 5.5 inches more between its front and back wheels, and it devotes all of it to rear-seat leg room. It's the difference between an executive sedan and a chauffered car. All passengers have better seats this year, regardless of body length, as BMW adopted thinner front seats with deeper contours. The 7-Series is one of our picks for very tall drivers, thanks to all of these thoughtful touches.
As the flagship of the BMW lineup, the 7-Series can be fitted with a long list of luxury accommodations. The back seat can be optioned up from bench to buckets with ventilation and massage control.
No matter where you sit, the 7-Seres has a remarkably calm interior, for something with so many features. Excess switchgear is avoided where possible; iDrive takes over some of the controls, and with its touchpad surface it's easier to use, though it still requires lots of learning and practice.
Base 740i sedans can seem stark, but spending up into the option list grants this sedan some of the glamour BMW generously applies to its Rolls-Royce cars. Beautiful wood and leather are just the start; the 7er has ambient lighting, lots of sound insulation, and touches like a flip-out tray table for the back seat.
2014 BMW 7-Series
The 7-Series is a showcase for BMW's top safety technology.
The 7-Series has not been crash-tested by the U.S. safety agencies in its current generation-and it likely won't be-due to its price and relative rarity.
That said, we'll wager a lot on the 7-Series' reputation for wrapping in some of the best safety technology in the world-and say that this is an extremely safe pick.
All models have active headrests, knee airbags, and rear-seat side airbags. A front-end 180-degree camera and a rearview camera also are included, as are parking sensors. AWD models get hill descent control, to make sure slippery hills are handled with care. A coffee-cup icon lights on the dash when a driver-facing camera detects a sleepy pilot, and BMW's latest adaptive cruise control system can bring the car to a complete stop from low speeds, if it detects an imminent impact.
BMW also sells a bundle that includes lane-departure warnings, automatic high beams, and blind-spot monitors. The head-up display is something we'd pass up: its display occupies a big piece of the windshield, and it seems more a distraction than a driving aid.
2014 BMW 7-Series
The 2014 BMW 7-Series offers a stunning array of in-car technology; and the iDrive interface is much-improved.
The 2014 BMW 7-Series lineup reaches far up the luxury ladder; and while it's possible to get a 740i for less than $75k, it's unlikely that many buyers will have the restraint to keep it at that.
Last year, BMW's iDrive interface added new navigation graphics, a faster processor, and 3D output. Revised menus and a bigger voice-command vocabulary now include voice-to-text operation. The system also now has a touch-sensitive puck for hand-written inputs, Palm Pilot-style. BMW also integrates smartphone services and apps in with iDrive.
Of course, the luxury touches are myriad. Massaging rear seats, night vision, wood and leather choices are a start; it's simple to spend a lot of money once you take them up on the power trunklid, soft-touch doors, and multi-contour seats.
We'd also save money for the spectacular sound of the 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, with its surround-sound capability and its pretty aluminum speaker grilles. The optional rear-seat entertainment system brings with it twin 9.2-inch displays for rear-seat passengers, as well as its own iDrive control knob.
2014 BMW 7-Series
From Active Hybrid 7 to the 760Li and Alpina B7, the 7-Series covers varies expectations for excess and consumption.
Yes, the 2014 BMW 7-Series lineup is big, spacious, luxurious, and powerful; but that doesn't entirely preclude fuel efficiency. Depending on which model in the lineup you choose, the 7-Series can, simultaneously, be surprisingly good on gas.
Gas mileage ranges up to 28 mpg highway for 6-cylinder models, up to 30 mpg with the ActiveHybrid 7. On V-8 cars, it's as good as 25 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive.
The same 16/24 mpg rating is applied to both the short- and long-wheelbase twin-turbo Alpina B7, the high-performance edition of the 7-Series, while the V-12 760Li gets just 13/20 mpg.
Throughout the lineup, the 7-Series gets a suite of fuel-saving technologies: auto start-stop, brake energy regeneration, and an ECO PRO mode. Auto start-stop turns off the engine at idle, for instance at a stop light, and restarts it when the driver lets off the brake. And Brake energy regeneration captures some of the energy that would otherwise be lost in braking.
The driver needs to select ECO PRO mode, but it functions mostly unobtrusively, managing powertrain behavior and programming of the heating, air conditioning, heated seats, and exterior mirror heating to maximize efficiency. With it you also get a coasting mode that can decouple the engine from the transmission, allowing extended coasting at speeds of up to 100 mph. And in some conditions in the ActiveHybrid 7, the engine completely shuts off during coasting mode, restarting only when you reaccelerate.