What's New for 2008
The BMW 7 Series rolls into 2008 virtually unchanged.
As with the other top-shelf, full-size luxury sedans, the 2008 BMW 7 Series sits at the top of the premium car food chain, a great white shark in a tank of mostly pilot fish. Performance, luxury, space and high-tech features are found in great abundance here.
When it was last redesigned in 2002, the BMW 7 Series shocked Bimmer-philes with its odd styling details, chief among them a trunk lid that looked like it had been swiped from another car. This generation also introduced iDrive, BMW's multifunction controller that tended to bedevil even the most devoted technocrats.
Yet in spite of those quirks, this generation of the 7 Series has been a solid sales success for the legendary carmaker, thanks to its typical BMW traits of spirited acceleration, communicative steering and agile handling that make it feel like a car two-thirds its size. Contributing to this large sedan's nimble nature are standard active antiroll bars (Active Roll Stabilization) that automatically stiffen to reduce body roll. Those looking for even more adroit handling can opt for either the Sport Package (in the 750 versions), which provides firmer suspension calibrations, or the active air suspension (Adaptive Ride Package) that automatically firms up when the car is being hustled along a curvy road.
Although the 7 Series' iDrive has been roundly criticized, it has become somewhat more user-friendly through the intervening years while other luxury brands follow suit with similar multifunction controllers, which exist to minimize dash clutter. Compared to its chief rivals, however, the Bimmer's still lags behind, as Audi's MMI system is the most intuitive, with Mercedes' COMAND falling somewhere between its fellow Germans. Its Lexus and Jaguar competitors utilize touchscreens.
When it comes to an engaging experience behind the wheel, however, the 2008 BMW 7 Series is still tough to beat. An Audi A8 or Benz S-Class are certainly capable and worthy of consideration, though they still don't speak to a serious enthusiast the way the BMW does. Others worth a look in this segment are the Lexus LS 460 and Jaguar XJ8/XJR, which prioritize a plush ride over sport sedan athletics. The Lexus is sophisticated and opulent, though its antiseptic drive may leave some folks cold. In addition to their expected strong performance, the Jag offerings provide elegant, classical styling that goes a long way in this class. Obviously, none of these choices will disappoint, but for buyers who crave an engaging driving experience above all else, the 2008 BMW 7 Series remains the definitive choice in this high-end shark tank.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 BMW 7 Series is a full-size luxury sedan that's available in three versions: the V8-powered, standard-wheelbase 750i and long-wheelbase 750Li, and the V12-powered 760Li.
Standard features on the 750s include 18-inch wheels, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a moonroof, leather upholstery, walnut wood interior trim, 14-way power front seats (including power lumbar support), dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, one-touch windows, Bluetooth, a navigation system with voice control, and a 10-speaker CD sound system with an auxiliary audio jack.
Both 750 models are eligible for a long list of options -- the only difference is that the 750Li can be had with ventilated 14-way power rear seats to complement the extra legroom in the back. There are also a number of available packages, including the Sport Package (firmer suspension tuning, 20-inch wheels and a three-spoke steering wheel), the Adaptive Ride Package (self-leveling air springs and electronic damping), the Luxury Seating Package (a massaging driver seat, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades and a heated steering wheel) and the Premium Sound Package (13-speaker Logic 7 sound system with an in-dash CD changer). For the ultimate in personalization, there is also the Individual Composition package, which offers unique interior and exterior color selections, upgraded leather seating, a choice of wood cabin accents and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Virtually all of the above is standard on the 760Li, including the Adaptive Ride suspension. Additional options on all 7 Series models include keyless ignition, adaptive cruise control and a rear entertainment system (with a six-DVD changer). An exclusive 760Li option is a rear-seat beverage cooler (mounted in the armrest) and individual rear climate controls.
Powertrains and Performance
The BMW 750i and 750Li are powered by a 4.8-liter V8 with 360 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. The (revised) 2008 EPA estimates stand at a respectable 15 mpg city and 23 highway. The BMW 760Li offers a 6.0-liter V12 with an impressive 438 hp and 444 lb-ft; its fuel mileage rates 13/20 mpg. Both engines are paired with a quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels.
We've timed a 750i at 6.4 seconds for the 0-60-mph run, while a 760iL we tested was about a half-second quicker. BMW claims that sub-6-second times are possible with either drivetrain under optimal conditions.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, front and rear parking sensors and a four-year subscription to BMW Assist telematics are standard on every 7 Series. There is even a brake-drying feature that periodically wipes the brake rotors when the windshield wipers are in use. Rear-seat side airbags are optional, as is a Night Vision system, which uses an infrared camera to monitor obstacles nearly 1,000 feet ahead of your 7 Series.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 7 Series' cabin has the expected opulent atmosphere and a clean layout, thanks to the minimal center stack controls. The iDrive system was designed to consolidate various controls into one easy-to-use interface, but the learning curve is steep. Most basic adjustments can be made rather easily, but more complex functions require time with the owner's manual and patience. As you'd expect, the materials quality is high, though some plastic trim, namely on the upper door panels, is an odd misstep. A large rear compartment (especially in the long-wheelbase "Li" versions) and a well-shaped rear seat provide limolike comfort for those in back.
Whether you choose the V8 or V12, either engine provides a satisfying surge of power, while the six-speed automatic furnishes some of the quickest, smoothest shifts we've ever experienced. Steering feel in the 2008 BMW 7 Series cars is typical of the brand, with relatively high weighting and excellent feedback. Additionally, braking is sure and swift and body roll is minimal during cornering. While it may be a stretch to call such a large car nimble, it's easy to confuse it for a sport sedan when enjoying it on the open road.