2009 BMW 7 Series Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW 750i: Wrap-Up

March 30, 2010

We are now in the fifth generation of the 7 Series and BMW's flagship sedan is offered in a multitude of choices. Choose from a straight-6 diesel, twin-turbo V8 or twin-turbo V12 engine. There are the bulletproof 7 Series and the 7 Series fueled by hydrogen. This car is versatile, comfortable and luxurious, and it is here to stay. But just how durable is it?

Our long-term introduction of the 2009 BMW 750i opened with a photo of the sedan with its rear tires engulfed in vaporized Goodyear Excellence rubber. Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath captioned the image, "The 2009 BMW 750i will be with us for 12 months. These tires? Probably not."

At the time we had little idea just how ominous a prediction this would be.

Why We Got It
Believe it or not, our decision to add the 2009 BMW 750i to our long-term fleet had as much to do with function as fun. We have families, and family life demands more than just another coupe with a large-displacement V8. But we wanted a challenge at the same time. Could we do without three rows of seating? How about the utility of a rear cargo hatch? Was a conventional sedan, even with the immense proportions of the BMW 750i, suitable as a family-duty car? We know, it sounds nuts, but the 7 Series gave us an opportunity to find out if a sedan is really the right shape for real life.

A functional test was not our only reason for adding the 7 Series to our test fleet, though. We do like to have fun. And all-new for the 2009 BMW 750i was a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8, producing 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. This turbocharged engine had a smaller displacement and was more efficient than the 10- and 12-cylinder alternatives in the BMW arsenal. What sort of fuel economy would it return?

Coincidence also played a role in our decision to add a 750i to the long-term blog. We were offered a long-term Hyundai Genesis just about the time that we began testing the BMW. Both cars were built for the same purpose but the Hyundai did it for half the price. After a year, would we still be partial to the superior quality of a $90,000 BMW or would the bargain Genesis win our hearts?

Durability
We had just one objection when it came to how the 2009 BMW 750i drove. As one editor expressed, "the bog-n-burn throttle tip-in might be a deal-breaker if I were considering this car, at this price." Throttle input was seemingly all or nothing and made it truly difficult to manage smooth acceleration from a stationary position. But get out on the open highway and its character changed considerably. Here the engine and transmission synchronized effortlessly, allowing us to bask in the compliant ride and tranquil cabin. It was no wonder the 750i became our preferred road-trip car. A 400-mile-plus fuel range helped, too.

We drove through California wine country to San Luis Obispo on multiple occasions, north to Monterey and on to Sacramento. Weekend trips to Las Vegas were common, as were those to Phoenix. One interstate adventure even took us to the sights of eastern Arizona and New Mexico.

Inside the cabin this 750i was still a BMW, serene and well isolated from the elements. The choice of materials was top-notch throughout. We found everything we expected from a BMW sedan, including the lack of adequate interior storage space. Like so many BMWs before, the 7 Series also helped us become enamored of automotive technology. This generation of the 7 Series offers an improved iDrive interface, sideview cameras and curious details like the gentleman function.

Before we knew it we'd left the driver seat and found ourselves back outside of the car. This is where the real technology lives, within the engine and suspension components. As Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds commented following his suspension walkaround, "When you look under the skin of a car like this, it becomes clear why it costs as much as it does. You're not simply buying a badge."

With the technological wizardry of a 2009 BMW 750i comes the maintenance of its systems. We alternated service between Santa Monica BMW and Long Beach BMW during our test. Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt summed up our experience: "BMW's free scheduled maintenance didn't cost us any money. We can't say the same for time. All service appointments had to be scheduled a day or so in advance. If we decided to show up without an appointment, we were told our car may sit for a day or so before a mechanic looked at it anyway." We had some repeat issues with the cupholder cover and fuel cap, but we were never left stranded by the 7 Series.

Of course, we were never left stranded by this car largely due to the fact that it wears run-flat tires. We had to replace four tires during our test, three in a matter of just two weeks. One we lost to a nail and a pothole. Another delaminated on the 405 freeway. Two miles later a pothole claimed tire three. Just nine days after that a pothole laid waste to yet another sidewall.

Total Body Repair Costs: $325
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): None
Additional Maintenance Costs: $1,560 (all in tires)
Warranty Repairs: Bowden door-cable replaced, DME reprogram, cupholder lid replaced (twice), gas cap replaced (twice), drive-guard belt bracket removed
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Days Out of Service: 8
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
All long-term vehicles receive instrumented testing at the beginning and end of their 12-month cycles, and our 2009 BMW 750i was no exception. But it was exceptional in that it didn't miss a beat after more than 28,000 miles of testing.

Our first test of the BMW proved its worth. It needed just 5.2 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill (4.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). The quarter-mile fell in 13.5 seconds at 103.7 mph. This time improved to 13.4 seconds at 105.2 mph after one year of service. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton noted, "The car is still a rocket and the surge of power as it shifts is uncommon. There's even a wave of power at about 100 mph right before the finish line as it upshifts to 4th gear."

The 2009 BMW 750i showed some signs of age over time. And by signs of age, we mean 0.89g of lateral grip, a slalom speed of 64.9 mph and a stopping distance from 60 mph of 118 feet. These figures were very good when this 4,600-pound sedan was new, and they were even more so considering the miles on the clock. Time did little to change its dynamic demeanor. Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot commented, "This car shrinks around its driver in the slalom and its electronic performance enhancers — active suspension, rear steer and variable-rate steering — actually work despite their confusing interface. Impressive balance and communication for a car this large."

Best Fuel Economy: 24.7 mpg (459 miles on best tank)
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 17.3 mpg

Retained Value
Our Imperial Blue Metallic BMW 750i rolled into the Inside Line test garage with a price tag of $90,870. It left one year later, down 23 percent in value according to Edmunds' TMV® Calculator. This equates to a price of $69,607 for a private-party sale. Not too bad. But we are guessing that if you purchased a flagship luxury sedan, money isn't much of an object. Rather than squeak out the extra $5 grand available from a private party, you will likely just trade your 7 Series in for the latest model.

True Market Value at service end: $69,607
Depreciation: $21,263 or 23% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 28,867

Summing Up
Had our test of the 2009 BMW 7 Series ended after 11 months, we would cite our interactions with local dealerships as the only negative experience. BMW service departments were always busy and the time involved in making an appointment became a deterrent. We waited for multiple issues to arise between visits, a routine that left us unsatisfied. But our test did not end after 11 months.

Over the final month of our test we tasted the cost of ownership beyond BMW's free scheduled maintenance: the tires. Blame thin sidewalls. Blame road maintenance crews. Blame the driver for not avoiding potholes. But finger-pointing doesn't give back the $1,500 we spent on tires.

After a year, we can report that no sedan is going to replace the functional superiority of an SUV. That in mind, we didn't pass up the opportunity to drive the 7 Series in place of our SUVs very often. We made due with its shortcomings in exchange for the supple highway ride and overall BMW experience. In one year we accumulated more mileage on the 750i than any other long-term car over the same stretch. So did the BMW hold its ground beside the upstart Hyundai Genesis? We need only look at the 7's odometer: 28,867 miles — almost 4,000 miles more than any vehicle before it.

In the end, our long-term test of the 2009 BMW 750i left us wanting more, as in more time with the car. We'd have made it a two-year test if BMW had been up for it.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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2009 BMW 750i: We Go to Alice's Restaurant

March 30, 2010

750iphoto-alicesrestaurant.jpg

Another exercise in distance driving and found myself again with the BMW 750i in my driveway with about 1000 miles over the weekend in front of me. You can't help but look at the thing and wonder if there's too much car here to have much fun, all 199.8 inches of it from tip to tail and 4,599 pounds.

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2009 BMW 750i: We Go to Alice's Restaurant

March 30, 2010

750iphoto-alicesrestaurant.jpg

Another exercise in distance driving and found myself again with the BMW 750i in my driveway with about 1000 miles over the weekend in front of me. You can't help but look at the thing and wonder if there's too much car here to have much fun, all 199.8 inches of it from tip to tail and 4,599 pounds.

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2009 BMW 750i: Widescreen Review

March 22, 2010

2009 BMW 750i wide nav.jpg

Tromping around L.A. this weekend in the 2009 BMW 750i (flat-free), it's hard to deny that BMW has managed to resurrect the once maligned iDrive multimedia interface. Much of the credit goes to the standard display, a high-resolution widescreen monitor that shames nearly any other in-dash piece on the market today. And it's not just the acreage or near Cinemascope aspect ratio of the screen that makes it so effective. The crisp resolution paints sharp graphics with such authority, you can't help but have faith in such precision.

Compared to other smaller, low-def displays (such as in our LT Volvo XC60) the BMW's panoramic screen sits proudly, high in the dash. Its near hi-def images, whether it be maps or radio information, are so crystalline on the screen, that you say to yourself, "Well, look at how exact that is, it must be accurate..." The display, which uses a white-ish gray for roads, could actually use a little more color at the expense of cleanliness.

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2009 BMW 750i: Exxon Valdez

March 19, 2010

Exxon Valdez.jpg

You don't usually think of a BMW 750i as some kind of an mpg solution, but a trip to Phoenix and back reminded me that it's brilliant for long distance cruising. You just sail right by gas stations, laughing all the way.

This is what happens when you're driving a car with a fuel tank that holds 21.7 gallons. You might not have mpg, but a least you've got cruising range. Of course, there were times when I felt like the wacky Dennis Hopper character in the post-apocalyptic Waterworld, hoarding fuel oil in the Exxon Valdez, the world's last supertanker. (It's since renamed many times in the wake of its notorious oil spill in 1989 and is now doing business as the Dong Fang Ocean).

Did the 425.4 miles on the way over on one tank and then did the 423.4 miles on the way back on one tank. Just drove with traffic, which was 80 mph depending on the location of the photo radar setups in Arizona. Got 24.7 mpg, which is not so bad (actually a record in this car, which invites exhibitions of speed every second). If you program your destination into the navigation system, the graphic at the bottom of the instrument binnacle that shows your cruising range will also plot your destination mileage, so you know if you'll have to stop for gas before you get there.

Of course, any sane person would stop at least once during such a distance anyway, but the BMW keeps you from being tethered to all the usual Interstate off-ramps where drivers are searching for fuel. I've made the Phoenix trip on holiday weekends and getting stuck in some bad gas station in Blythe for 25 minutes is not fun.

When you're driving this car, you'll never having to eat again at some franchise fast-food place in back of the gas station. Instead you can risk being poisoned at Farmer Jack's Bar-B-Q and Methane Gas Emporium, and who wouldn't want that?

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 26,000 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Enough Trunk Space for Just About Anything

March 16, 2010

7series-trunk-1600.jpg

Would you look at the size of that trunk? I mean, that sucker is huge. Maybe it's just the petite size of the girls clothes that News Editor Toepke left in the trunk, but still there's clearly room to spare in there.

Now, there are still some problems. I mean, there are small cargo nets on the sides, but what about stuff that's loose in the middle? Where the net for that?

And the liftover height isn't all that low. The lid doesn't close on its own either. Petty quibbles maybe, but this is a $90K car, shouldn't have to ask for anything at that price.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 27,579 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Skimpy Storage Options

March 15, 2010

BMW_750i_storage_1_1600.jpg

I have big sunglasses.

They come in a ridiculously big, white case.

But should the ridiculously big, white case not be able to find a safe storage spot in a big car like the BMW 7 Series?

Won't fit in the center console. Won't fit in the door pocket. Will fit in the glovebox, but still nudges the case when I close the lid.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 27,566 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Tired

March 12, 2010

750 tire 2.jpg

Two days out of service (Thanks, Bryn.) and one, $297.72 (shipped) 245/45R19 Goodyear Excellence run flat from Tirerack, we're back in business.

Stokes, as well as four local BMW dealerships, were out of stock on this tire and wanted a week to get one. Tirerack had just a few left and we had it in hand the next day. Our guys at Stokes charged us $27.25 for install and disposal.

Total: $324.97

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 27,248 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Check Engine Light

March 11, 2010

09_bmw_750i_eng_light_1600.jpg

Somewhere in between buying new tires for our 2009 BMW 750i, the check engine light clicked on. We tried the simplest fix first. Run the onboard diagnostic check through iDrive. Everything checked out fine there, but the light was still on. So we tried the second simplest fix. Unscrew the fuel cap, screw it back on and drive 10-15 miles. No dice. So we drove to Santa Monica BMW.

DME fault code 190302 was to blame for the light. And the fix was documented in service information bulletin B12 28 09. Per the bulletin, the tech tested for a DMTL system (emissions) leak. When he found no leak, the code was cleared and order restored. It sounds like the fuel cap was the problem after all. Our adjustment fixed the fault but just didn't clear the code.

While we were there the dealer performed campaign B11 09 09, which involved removing the drive belt guard bracket. Now we're back on the road and back to hunting potholes.

Total Cost: $0

Days out of service: 1

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 26,968 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2009 BMW 7 Series in VA is:

$132 per month*
* Explanation
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