Full 2009 BMW 7 Series Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 BMW 7 Series has been fully redesigned. Highlights include new exterior styling, a revised iDrive interface and a new and more powerful turbocharged V8 engine.
The last-generation BMW 7 Series made people mad. Many car fans and Bimmerphiles hated its styling so much they turned its designer Chris Bangle's name into a derogatory term. From now on, to be "Bangled" is to have a previously attractive automotive design ruined. While subsequent BMWs took on many of the 7's controversial styling cues, the big flagship sedan remained the most visually challenging, and a lightning rod for critical wrath.
Now we have an all-new 2009 BMW 7 Series, and thankfully, designer Karim Habib won't be turned into a derogatory verb. While there are certainly some brash elements -- particularly the flared nostril grilles -- BMW's flagship has been significantly de-Bangled. The body work now appears tauter, the light clusters are more harmonious and the bulbous "Bangle-butt" trunk lid has been excised (he had a derogatory noun named after him, too). In short, the new 750i now looks more like a BMW.
Styling isn't the only issue BMW took on with the 2009 7 Series. As you likely know, iDrive has long been vilified for its clumsy operation and needlessly complex menu structure. The system has been improved over the years, but then so has the acting ability of the Rock, who still won't be taking home an Oscar any time soon. For the revised 7's iDrive, the multipurpose knob and large LCD screen remain, but physical menu select buttons have been added and the menus themselves laid out in a more logical manner. Dash-mounted preset buttons have also been added (other BMWs with iDrive had them, but the 7 didn't), and much of the climate control system has been put outside iDrive's jurisdiction. The result is a thumbs-up.
One thing not in need of help was the 7's driving dynamics -- the previous car was the most rewarding to drive in its class. The 2009 750i and 750Li carry on this tradition and gain a bevy of high-tech vehicle control systems. The new twin-turbo V8 is a remarkable engine, and the vehicle's handling remains a class benchmark. The new Dynamic Driving Control features four different settings that alter the aggressiveness of damper control, steering assist and ratio, antiroll bar stiffness, shift calibration of the six-speed autobox, throttle sensitivity and stability control. It's complicated, and we'd bet good money most folks will leave it on Normal, but it should reward an owner who likes to customize a car to his or her own driving tastes.
The 2009 BMW 750i and long-wheelbase 750Li are substantial improvements over the cars they replace -- and not just because of Bangle and iDrive. The 7 Series is a lavish, rewarding luxury flagship sedan designed for those who prefer to be involved with their car. This is a highly competitive class, though, that contains such premium choices as the Audi A8, Lexus LS 460 and Mercedes S-Class, They all have their own merits that appeal to specific buyers and are worth a look. Given the 7 Series' adjustable driving settings, though, it certainly stands a better chance of meeting more people's wants and needs. Plus, not being Bangled should help, too.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 BMW 7 Series is a large luxury sedan available in 750i and extended-wheelbase 750Li styles. Standard equipment on the 750i includes 18-inch wheels, run-flat tires, adaptive xenon headlights, an adaptive adjustable suspension, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors and keyless ignition and entry. On the inside, you'll find four-zone automatic climate control, 16-way-adjustable front seats, driver and passenger seat memory functions, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats and leather upholstery. Standard electronic features include Bluetooth, the iDrive electronics controller, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and voice activation and a 10-speaker stereo with HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and digital music storage (8GB). The 750Li adds a self-leveling air suspension and a longer wheelbase for more rear seat space.
Options are bountiful. The Sport package adds active four-wheel steering, a sport steering wheel, 19-inch wheels and active roll stabilization (the last two items can be ordered stand-alone). The Cold Weather package adds heated rear seats and steering wheel. The Luxury Seating package adds ventilated front seats, power rear sunshades and manual rear side sunshades (available as stand-alone), active adjustable driver seat bolsters and the Cold Weather package. The Convenience package adds a power trunk lid and soft-close doors. The Driver Assistance package adds a blind-spot warning system, lane departure warning and high-beam assistant. The Camera package adds rear and sideview parking cameras. The Premium Sound package adds an iPod/USB audio jack, a six-CD/DVD changer and a premium stereo. The Luxury Rear Seating package available on the 750Li adds rear ventilated, multiadjustable seats.
Stand-alone options include adaptive cruise control, a rear-seat entertainment system, a head-up display, infrared night vision and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the 2009 BMW 750i and 750Li are fitted with a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 good for 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control sends the engine's power to the rear wheels. There are four settings for shift response and speed as part of the Dynamic Driving Control system, which also provides different settings for throttle response, shock-absorber firmness, power-steering assist and stability control.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes (with brake assist, brake fade compensation, brake drying and a brake stand-by feature), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints.
Interior Design and Special Features
The redesigned 2009 BMW 7 Series features a much more user-friendly interior than its oft-criticized predecessor. The iDrive controller has been improved with new physical buttons that call up the many different entertainment and navigation functions, along with reorganized and redesigned display screen menus. Eight preset buttons (programmable for radio stations as well as other iDrive functions) are a welcome addition, as is the climate control display that's now separate from the main iDrive screen and located with the controls themselves. The electronic gear selector migrates from the steering column to the center console where it belongs, but the selector itself (shared with other BMWs) is still a needlessly complicated solution to a problem that never existed. In the end, the 7 Series remains complicated, but it's no longer as aggravating to use.
The 7 also remains very luxurious, with almost infinitely adjustable front seats and a staggering number of available features. The backseat in the 750i should be plenty large for most folks, while the extended-wheelbase 750Li will meet the added space needs of the large and/or in charge. Available rear-seat cooling, heating and adjustability will make their VIP rides even more posh. The large 17.7-cubic-foot trunk can be outfitted with an auto open and close feature.
The 7 Series' new twin-turbo V8 is a marvelous, torque-rich engine that effortlessly moves this huge luxury sedan. It actually feels reminiscent of a normally aspirated V12, with no perceptible turbo lag or vibration. Each of the 7's Dynamic Driving Control modes -- Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus -- provides meaningful distinctions, allowing for a wide variety of drivers to tune the car to their own liking. Those looking to high-tail it up to their mountain ski lodge will find the 7 behaves like a much smaller sport sedan in Sport Plus, while those on a beeline to Las Vegas will find the 750i to be a serene highway cruiser. However, all ride settings are on the firm side compared to a cushier luxury barge like the Lexus LS 460. Steering is a high point with the 2009 BMW 7 Series, and when equipped with the Sport package, four-wheel steering facilitates quicker lane changes and makes parking easier, thanks to a tighter turning circle.
Read our BMW 750i Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test