2009 BMW 7-Series: Review
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2012.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
The 2009 BMW 7-Series is now in showrooms, redesigned from the ground up and sporting a brilliant new engine. While this fifth-generation model still doesn't exactly scream sex appeal, the appearance is undeniably less controversial than its predecessor. Despite the previous car being the best-selling 7 ever, the Bavarian automaker seems to have taken a step backward to move forward: This new generation seems to have evolved more from the 7-Series of the '90s than the model it replaces.
The list of standard equipment is impressive, including a two-stage brake light system, 3-D navigation, 4-zone climate control and countless other features. There are plenty of available extras as well, perhaps most importantly the Sport Package, which includes a clever new 4-wheel steering system. The 750Li model continues to offer fully adjustable rear seats with ventilation and massage functions.
Under the Hood
The new engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox, the only transmission available. Thankfully, the E-Shift lever is now back on the center console, and can still be used to shift gears manually. The ride control system has been updated, and its settings control the firmness of the suspension, as well as throttle response, shifting patterns, steering assistance and DSC (stability/traction control) mode. Additionally, the new 7-Series has an updated suspension system that sends information from front to rear quickly enough to allow the rear shocks to react to the very same potholes and bumps registered by the front end.
BMW's trademark iDrive control system is now in its fourth generation, and this latest iteration couldn't have come soon enough. When iDrive was introduced, it consolidated dozens of buttons into what was essentially one big button, and was said to be a leap forward in user friendliness. Several years and countless complaints later, the company says it has made the system much easier to use, thanks to the addition of some buttons. Irony aside, it's finally usable, and features a larger (10.2 inch) high-resolution display and 80 GB hard drive to store navigation maps and music files.
BMW Night Vision continues to be an option as well, and adds a new pedestrian-detection feature. By utilizing the far infrared spectrum rather than near infrared, the system nets a 1,600-foot range (as opposed to headlight range), giving it a considerable advantage over its competitors.
On the Road
Forget that, though, because the story here is in the brutish effectiveness of BMW's new twin-turbocharged V8. In any gear, at any rpm, the engine rips to redline as though there were no friction in the drivetrain, and gravity is basically an afterthought. Thanks to the compactness of the turbochargers, there's no lag in uptake, and you'd never know the car was turbocharged. The transmission is a good match for both the car's upscale manners and explosive engine, and it helps the car feel lively and unburdened. The large luxury car is capable of a stunning 5.1-second blast from standstill to 60 mph (5.2 in the 750Li), and there's no "M" logo to be found anywhere.
The Driving Dynamics Control ride selection works well, although the "comfort" mode is floaty at highway speeds. In a sense, it's an unnecessary setting, since most buyers looking for that much softness would likely just opt for a Mercedes S-Class. When the Driving Dynamics Control is in any mode other than "sport," the throttle pedal is initially difficult to modulate, requiring strong inputs before eliciting a result. By the time it happens, the oomph is dramatic, causing the mothership to fling forward with the awesome V8's entire grunt.
Right for You?
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.