2009 BMW 7 Series Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW 750i: Steering Feel that's NOT BMW-like

March 11, 2010

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These days I feel the need to preface all BMW 750i posts with a "No, I didn't get a flat tire" disclaimer. With that out of the way I can talk about a possibly related issue: poor steering feel/response.

I haven't been a fan of BMW's variable steering since I first experienced it on the current-generation 5 Series five years ago. The idea of trading in consistent steering response just so you don't have to turn the wheel as far at low speeds seems like a bad investment, though I suppose one could argue the average 7 Series buyer would happily make that trade.

But there's more to my issue with the 7 Series' steering than just its variable component.

Starting with my first stint behind the wheel after we acquired the 750i I felt like the steering was somehow "off." It's not easy to describe, but both the weighting and the initial turn-in didn't have the trademark BMW confidence I've come to expect. My first assumption: That's variable steering for you.

With every subsequent drive of the 7 Series the steering seemed a little more "un-BMW-like" than my previous trip. The last time I drove it there was an undeniable wobble in the wheel at high speed. This was between flat tire incidents, but it still felt like a wheel imbalance or tire bubble so I had Stokes do their best to fix it (which didn't fully eliminate the issue).

Then, when I was driving it in today, I felt an undeniable resistance just off-center as I made a right turn. At first I thought the variable steering had sent me into the curb and smashed the wheel/tire (even though I had plenty of room between the wheel and curb). But when I got out and inspected it everything looked fine. That means the resistance came from the car's steering system itself, not an outside impediment.

After some reflection it occurred to me the car might simply be low on power-steering fluid, though no warning lights have indicated such. Or maybe it's this rash of flat tires that have taken a toll on the alignment settings. That would explain the reduced feel and confidence, but not the weird resistance I felt this morning.

Regardless, if I'm looking for BMW steering feel I now grab the M3's keys.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief at 27,340 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Exhaust Me

February 23, 2010

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I noticed last weekend during my time with the 750i that its exhaust finisher is part of the bodywork and that the actual exhaust tips don't make contact with the fascia which houses the finisher. Not a big deal, but certainly a detail which seems contradictory to the car's otherwise purposeful demeanor, not to mention a little cheesy. It's also something we've noticed in other performance sedans.

Also, if you look carefully, you can see the valve in the left exhaust tip which opens at full honk to, well, let the honk out -- which does seem purposeful. Heavy, sure, but purposeful.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2009 BMW 750i: Go Jets

January 20, 2010

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Sunday night, after watching my NY Jets stun the city of San Diego and the rest of the football world, I drove our long-term 2009 BMW 750i from San Diego to Los Angeles in a monsoon. And I'd do it again.

This big sedan is fantastic in wet conditions. Its combination of state of the art electronics, 19-inch Goodyear Excellence tires and attack-grade steering and braking allowed me to push through the storm with extreme levels of confidence. It was a stressfree run of about 100 miles.

Honestly, the car was so good it was easy to get overconfident and overdrive the traffic conditions as most people were down to a crawl and driving in obvious fear. Move it people. Big 7 Series coming through.

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2009 BMW 750i: Smokin'

January 17, 2010

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Now this is how you should drive a luxury car.

Our BMW 750i may have a swanky interior but it also has an engine capable of 400 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 450 pound-feet of torque at only 1,800 rpm.

So drive it like you're being chased by the coppers.

Our 2009 BMW 750i is car of the week.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2009 BMW 750i: Feels Good at 120 MPH

November 03, 2009

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The professional driver that drove our long-term 2009 BMW 750i at this speed safely on a closed course told me that the car was completely unfazed by the velocity.

"Perfectly stable and very easy to drive," was how he described the 750i's behavior at 120 mph. Then he added, "After this drive, where I touched a buck forty on a rough road, I'm convinced this car will cruise at 150 mph all day long without taxing its driver. Too bad 99.9% of the people that buy a 7 Series won't ever drive it faster than 75 mph."

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

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2009 BMW 750i: Power Makes It A-OK

September 24, 2009

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After spending two consecutive commute days in the BMW 750i, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and disagree with Michael Jordan and his recent anti-750i post. Yeah, the throttle tip-in is a little harsh, but you get used to it after a few minutes in stop-and-go traffic. And the luxurious cabin more then makes up for it.

Slow-going may make you question the 750i's "Ultimate Driving Machine" status, but stand on the gas when the traffic opens up, and you'll quickly forgive most of its shortcomings.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 17,002

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2009 BMW 750i: Yet Another Road Trip (part III)

September 23, 2009

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The final leg of our 2009 BMW 750i weekend trip was to See Canyon, about 8 miles south-west of San Luis Obispo, California. It seems See Canyon enjoys a micro-climate that's particularly well-suited to growing apples, and it's apple season y'all.

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2009 BMW 750i: Pedaling to Work

September 23, 2009

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The 2009 BMW 750i is a great car to drive fast, so responsive and eager even compared to its rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. If you're a big car guy, this is the big car to drive.

But it's a nightmare to pedal to work through commute traffic, so unspeakably bad that it makes even the clunkiest hybrid seem like a paragon of smooth sophistication.

Just as we've said before, the throttle tip-in is a mess, a combination of heavy effort, sluggish engagement and an over-aggressive follow through. If you're in bumper-to-bumper traffic and trying to use light throttle loads, you're always surging forward erratically while the throttle and the transmission try to figure out what's going on. We've all become accustomed to the car acting as if it wants to tag whatever happens to be in front of us.

The brake pedal adds to the confusion, because BMW builds a lot of brake rise in its pad material, so braking effect increases dramatically as the pads warm up. This is what you want if you're making a stop from high speed, because the pads compensate for the inevitable fade from overheating. But it is not what you want while in the commuter-hour accordion at 19 mph (the average speed on Los Angeles freeways during peak traffic congestion).

This is what happens when you can program the way the controls work. If there's money and budget to program for all the variations that you can encounter, things are fine. But if the BMW engineers never made it to Los Angeles or Chicago or New York, then things are very, very bad, because there's no way to allow the human computer to adapt to changing conditions with its own unique control solution.

It's true that the BMW 750i is always thinking. But when you're driving to work, you just want to make it stop.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 16,800 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: So Long Northern Calif.

September 07, 2009

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Hey, look at this - not every place in California is full of crazy people and pavement. There's plenty of wide open spaces and normal people when you get away from the large cities. Look at that behind the BMW, I think it's called nature (no people, crazy or otherwise would pose for this picture). Here's a few things I will and will not miss about the 2009 BMW 750i and Northern California:

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2009 BMW 750i: Even More Personalized Drive Settings, Please

July 30, 2009

750i drive settings screen

Every BMW 7 Series comes with Driving Dynamics Control, which alters the car's suspension, steering, throttle, transmission programming and stability control. These are Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. The car always defaults to Normal or Comfort upon start-up, since according to BMW, they didn't want to default the car to one of the more fuel efficient settings. "Bah," I say, but that's not what I'm here to discuss.

Within the Sport mode, you can further program what items are altered to their sport setting. Press the sport button and a display on the iDrive screen pops up informing you of your drive setting change and gives you the option of personalizing your settings further. Do so and you get this screen. It is broken up into drivetrain (throttle calibration and transmission programming) and chassis (steering and suspension).

Unfortunately, I'd like all of these areas to be individually selectable. See, I hate the Normal throttle calibration, but the Sport transmission programming locks out sixth gear and hangs onto revs longer. I don't need that when driving around town. I also prefer the Sport steering effort, but like the Normal suspension.

I'm not convinced you need these settings at all. BMW's were pretty damn good without them and if you want something softer, go buy a Lexus. Still, if you're going to make the effort to give drivers choices, why not go full out?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 13,714 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: I'll See You in Florida

July 28, 2009

BMW 750i at Trump National Golf Course

I attended an automotive unveiling of the brand new ****** ******* today at Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes. Last time I ventured to the Donald's ocean-side links, Sadlier and I went in our departed long-term Honda Accord. A nice car to be sure, but when visiting a place adorned with more gold than Louis XIV's bathroom, it's just better to drive a fancy car.

Scanning the key board, I boosted the 750i, eager to see if my initial impressions from back in March still held true. In short, abso-freakin-lutely. The BMW flagship is a remarkable engineering and technological tour de force. Lay into the twin-turbo V8 and it rushes forth with almost the same sort of hushed, effortless lack of drama as Rolls-Royce's V12. The ride, regardless of suspension setting, soaks up broken pavement better than almost every other car on the road. And the seats, oh boy the seats. My back feels like crap at the moment, and yet they have the ability to coddle and support in ways that would make my mother jealous.

As I looked out upon the Pacific Ocean, I had the sudden urge to jump in the 750i and just start driving until I hit the Atlantic in Florida. I'd probably regret it somewhere during my seventh hour through Texas, but I could think of few other cars I'd rather make the journey in than the 7er.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2009 BMW 750i: Great brakes, SLO-speed touchiness

June 28, 2009

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Our long-term 750i's lethargic throttle tip-in has earned some comment, but on Day 2 of a real-estate road trip up to San Luis Obispo (SLO), it's the brakes that are garnering attention. For cars that are often used in a livery trade or for carting dignitaries of all types, a calm throttle tip-in is not unusual. That little bit of play in the first bit of the throttle's travel allows you to serenely circle courtyards and other public spaces without disturbing your passengers or mowing down the valet. In the 750i, once you get used to dipping through this first bit of throttle travel, smooth and timely getaways are a snap. The brakes have an alternate personality.

Cruising around SLO with a workmate and our spouses, the gentle gas-pedal tip-in is a boon to smoothness, allowing us to crawl around neighborhoods searching down real-estate addresses without inducing throttle whip-lash. The brakes are the opposite in their engagement, very touchy at the first sign of pressure.

At speed, the 750's binders are impressive: linear, excellent pedal feel and firmness, gobs of whoa power. When carting around friends at lower speeds however, the electric-swift touchiness of the binders becomes apparent, and requires some retraining of your right foot. For the throttle, you need to get through the first half-inch of play before you meet the useful portion of the throttle map. For the brakes, it seems the moment you rest your foot on the pedal, you earn a quick grab from the binders.

We've got it all sorted before a Starbucks run, helping keep the interior's ivory leather spot free, which is ridiculously comfortable for four average sized adults. As we cruise from listing to listing (to greet home prices that still seem out of whack with reality), we wonder aloud if we couldn't just move into the 750i, which costs more than homes we've all lived in, but somehow seems worth the sticker price.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 11,644 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Escape Velocity

June 27, 2009

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Our long-term 2009 BMW 750i snagged a roadtrip assignment this weekend it seems built for: hauling two couples around the tawny tufted hills of San Luis Obispo (SLO) on a real-estate scouting trip. We couldn't have chosen a more capable machine for the mission. Much like a veteran hunting dog that remains tranquil in its cage before being unleashed on the hunting field, the 750i calmly threaded its way through stop and go traffic out of L.A. Friday afternoon.

XM's Classic Rewind always sounds better with the weekend on tap, but in this Beemer the XM signal seems to carry more fidelity than in other XM applications, and the audio system provides solid mid-bass punch. As the 750 glides almost silently up the coast with the cooled seats set at the lowest position, the mild ventilation is a near perfect counter to the late-day sun parked over the Pacific.

I'm heading north to meet Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor Phil Reed and our spouses, who departed L.A. on the morning train. There's little hope of catching them, but the 750 should at least narrow the gap so we can all catch an earlier dinner. Once traffic finally breaks north of Santa Barbara, the twin-turbocharged V8 displays its own locomotive character. Spilling over with torque, it easily dispatches left-lane lollygaggers, while maintaining it's near silent demeanor. Though not on the same titanic plane as the Mercedes twin-turbocharged AMG V12, the direct-injected 4.4-liter V8 has a more agile feel to the way it revs, while only buttery vibrations make it into the cabin.

With traffic withering, and remaining left-lane squatters (are we in England?) getting a nice view of the 750's taillights, you realize that the 750i is not a machine for this continent. It can sweep down beautiful roads such as California's luscious Hwy 101 at speeds easily double the posted limit, but those are not things we're allowed here in the land of the free, and the left-lane squatters prove we haven't the discipline for it anyway. The 750i is the kind of machine built to make runs between L.A. and New York ...weekly.

Sadly, I'm only headed to SLO, and scythe off the 101 with plenty of daylight left, and spacious wheels to carry us all to dinner.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 11,406 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: The Cadillac of BMWs

June 10, 2009

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Our 750i features an adjustable air suspension. There are four settings to choose from - Normal, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Nothing really new here, manufacturers have been offering adjustable suspensions ever since they got too lazy to tune them right the first time.

In this case, the Normal setting is perfectly comfortable for everyday cruising, and if you feel the need to throw a few tons of German steel around with your fingers, the Sport+ mode is quite effective.

Then there's Comfort mode. Dial that setting up and our 750 becomes a BMW Brougham d'Elegance. It's comfortable and soothing in a waterbed kind of way, but it's also a little bit disconcerting. I mean this is a BMW right? I don't care if it was called Vicodin mode, the car shouldn't feel so detached from reality. If Normal mode isn't comfortable enough for someone, then maybe a BMW isn't for them. C'mon BMW don't go down this road, please.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 10,067 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: TPW MIA, but OCD-PSI = AOK

June 05, 2009

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With Scott hogging all the seat time in the Hyundai Genesis I was forced into the BMW 750i recently. But I'm used to compromising my lifestyle when circumstances require it, so hold off on any cards or letters of concern.

Some (including Scott) have commented on the 750 feeling less sublime than its pricetag would suggest. And while no tire pressure warning lights have appeared in the gauge cluster I took it upon myself to check air levels on a cool morning before setting off. Truth be told, I'm a bit of stickler for tire pressure, and pretty much assume its off until I've checked it myself.

Surprise-surprise, every tire was low by 2-3 pounds (factory calls for 32 psi). This isn't enough to set off any warning lights, but it can impact everything from ride quality to steering feel (especially if your PSI-OCD, like me).

I actually thought the car felt great before adjusting the tire pressure, but I feel better knowing they're spot on now. About the only thing that annoys me on the 7 is the need to constantly upgrade its throttle setting to "Sport" every time I start it. And the variable steering often has me "over-turning" at low speeds as the steering ratio ramps up.

Otherwise I love this car. But I'm taking the Genesis this weekend, so maybe I'll agree with Mr. Oldham by Monday.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 9,764 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: The Dyno Reveals The Beast Within

April 29, 2009

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Yup, that's our long-term 2009 BMW 750i on MD Automotive's Dynojet chassis dyno in Westminster, CA.

And why not? After all, its 4.4-liter V8 is not only twin-turbocharged and equpped with direct injection, it's been turned inside out. That's right--the intake manifolds are located where the exhaust manifolds usually live, and the turbos nestle in the vee formed by the two cylinder banks.

Does this unconventional layout actually work? Is Nutella a delicious spreadable chocolatey substance? When we finally defeated all of the 750i's numerous electronic protections (including one that throws the transmission into Park if the wheels turn while the door is open), we found out just how angry this flagship luxury liner can be.

Hit the jump for the dyno chart.

BMW rates the 750i at 400 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 450 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm.

We started our run after 2,000 rpm and found that peak torque arrived a bit later than BMW's claim. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that the engine is, shall we say, robust. What's more, while on the dyno the BMW breezed right up to the rev limiter with little more than a whoosh, as if it wasn't even working hard.

Click the image below for a larger version:

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2009 BMW 750i: Engine Walkaround

April 29, 2009

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Once you remove the plastic breastplate covering our long-term 2009 BMW 750i's engine, it's easier to see what's going on in there. Click the image above for a larger version.

Basically, there are two of everything. The flow paths for the two cylinder banks are completely independent--the two flow streams do not converge until after the exhaust exits the turbos.

Green arrows denote the location of the two airboxes where panel air filters reside. There are two probe-type hot-wire mass flow sensors (red arrows).

Purple arrows show a peek at the compressor housing of each turbo. The hard metal line and hose that curls around each turbo are coolant lines--when you shut off the engine, the coolant in the turbo's center housing boils. This is intentional, and is called a thermal siphon--the water vapor then moves up the line and more coolant takes its place, thereby preventing the heat that is "soaking back" (from the exhaust manifolds and downpipes) from coking the oil in the bearings.

The blowoff valves are integral to the compressor housings and are actuated electronically rather than pneumatically.

Yellow arrows point to the oxygen sensors located just upstream of the close-coupled catalytic converters. The closer the cat is to the turbo, the more quickly the cat's substrate can heat up and become functional, which improves emissions. BMW mounted these cats as close as they feasibly could have.

As you might imagine, there's a lot of heat shielding in the engine's vee around the turbos. Exhaust manifolds are dual-walled "tube within a tube" arrangements--there's an air gap that surrounds each exhaust primary tube. This helps the cat "light off" quicker and reduces the transmitted heat load. Still, I'm curious how well the surrounding bits hold up over time.

Blue arrows point to the liquid-to-air intercoolers. These are mounted directly to the front of the engine via isolation mounts. This makes for a very tidy and modular package. Had BMW used air-to-air intercoolers instead, they would have been forced to package much larger-diameter plumbing to the nose of the car, and then back to the intake manifolds. Air-water coolers can be smaller, too, since water has a high specific heat (i.e. it requires a lot of energy to raise its temperature one degree).

What you can't see are the plastic intake manifolds mounted to the outside of the cylinder banks. Again, this approach (the "inside-out" V8) is easier to package since the intake manifolds are relatively small.

Click the jump to get a better idea of the airflow paths of this engine.

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2009 BMW 750i: Headlights Are Superb on Dark Back Roads

April 03, 2009

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You run out of daylight in a hurry when you keep detouring onto back roads, and so the long-term 2009 BMW 750i and I found ourselves on some really dark sections of U.S. 491 and Interstate 40. However, I think it just might have the best headlights I've ever experienced on a vehicle because I've never felt so relaxed while driving on unfamiliar roads at night.

Our car doesn't have the High-Beam Assistant (part of the $1,350 Driver Assistance package) that automatically shuts off the high beams to avoid blinding other drivers or otherwise causing offense. But, the standard adaptive bi-xenon headlights are exceptional on their own. "Adaptive" in this case indicates that the lamps will swivel laterally to see around corners and also adjust the beam vertically to compensate for uphill/downhill travel or changing loads (like when you brake hard).

I wasn't aware of the lateral and vertical beam adjustments as I drove, but I undoubtedly benefited, because the 40 has quite a few turns and elevation changes between Gallup, NM, and Williams, AZ (my stopover for the night). What I did notice was the impressive reach of the light spread both in normal and high-beam mode.

Obviously, the 750i's excellent road manners contributed to the pleasant nighttime driving experience, too, but after my experience last night, I'll never underestimate the importance of high-quality headlights. (This photo was snapped in Williams before I set out this morning; the bug layer will be addressed promptly.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,805 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: When You Get Tired of Santa Fe, Try U.S. Highway 84

April 02, 2009

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My Arizona-New Mexico road trip in our long-term 2009 BMW 750i spanned about 1,900 miles in 48 hours. I'm tired now. More entries are coming tomorrow on fuel economy (over 20 mpg) and the car's adaptive bi-xenon headlights (as used on a very dark road). Right now I want to tell you about U.S. Highways 84 and 64 between Espanola and Bloomfield, New Mexico.

These roads are off the beaten path, but if you're already in New Mexico, the combination of the roads themselves and the scenery along them is pretty enjoyable. Most of the turns are of the fast, sweeping variety, so these aren't the best back roads for a Miata. Still, there's just enough challenge to make you glad you picked something fun to drive rather than renting a Toyota Avalon (I've never seen so many in a 70-mile stretch).

And our BMW 750i is fun. It feels smaller and lighter than the previous-generation 7 Series even if it isn't in actuality. The steering is excellent -- just the right weighting and I could easily get a read on how well the 245/45R19 98Y Goodyear Excellence "grand touring summer" run-flat front tires were gripping.

The big sedan also has amazing body control, and although the pavement was pretty rough in spots (no potholes, though), it never got unsettled mid-corner, which made it easy to settle into a rhythm -- so much so that I didn't lose much time with my back-roads detour. This car is quick wherever it goes. I look forward to doing this again. Real soon.

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2009 BMW 750i: Hits 5000 Miles in Holbrook, Arizona

April 01, 2009

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Our long-term 2009 BMW 750i hit the 5K mark last night in a town I'd never heard of between Winslow, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico. We'll go as far as Santa Fe before turning back.

I put on about 800 miles yesterday, and much as James wrote in the full test, I was struck by the way the 7 Series managed to be fabulously comfortable while simultaneously shrinking around me: At no time did I ever feel like I was hanging out with a full-size sedan. The 750i hides its inches and pounds quite well.

For most of the trip, I had the Driving Dynamics Control set on "Normal," though I switched to "Comfort" for the roughest parts of Interstate 40. The difference in ride quality was small. Even in Comfort, I didn't feel isolated from the road, but I had the perception of slightly more suspension travel over the roughest patches.

No complaints about the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8, well, other than not being able to hear the turbos at all. As you've read, it's strong at any speed, but really starts to feel its oats around 3,000 rpm. And if you keep the accelerator pinned in "D," the six-speed automatic won't upshift until right at the V8's 6,800-rpm redline.

Most surprising was the long cruising range. My fill-ups have been conservatively timed due to the remoteness of the high desert, but with a 21.7-gallon tank, 400-mile tanks would be easily attainable.

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