2009 BMW 7 Series Long Term Road Test

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2009 BMW 750i: Widescreen Review

March 22, 2010

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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: Triple Turn Signal

February 19, 2010

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I've been down this road before. Frustrated with the triple turn signal on our long term BMW 330i a few years ago, I was chastised for not reading the manual (Does anyone? Should anyone have to?). There, I was told, I would have discovered that the triple turn signal feature can be disabled.

My diatribe on why this is a pointless, useless and utterly infuriating feature (which I still believe), can be found here should you care.

Fortunately, on the 750i, disabling this nuisance is only a few clicks away. I turned it off.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2009 BMW 750i: Navigation in HD

January 25, 2010

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Not sure why I never noticed it before, but the navigation screen in the 7 Series is ridiculously large, like a mini-movie screen stretching across the dashboard. When you're using certain functions it's easy to miss just how big it is. Turn on the street maps at night though and it's hard to miss.

Now some would say it's all pointless, you can just scroll across smaller screens anyway. True, but between the clarity and its size, this BMW's navigation screen has to be one of the best setups in the super luxury sedan class. Best of all, it's easy to zoom in and out, and getting additional info is just a bump of the iDrive knob away. Never thought I would be writing that line.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line

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2009 BMW 750i: What Does That Dot Mean?

January 18, 2010

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Our long-term 2009 BMW 750i has a feature I never seen (or at least noticed) in any other car I've ever driven. It's a small thing, but it's the small things (and the big things) that add up and make a car special. And make a car worthy of a near six-figure price tag.

See that dot within the fuel range meter, it is telling me the volume of fuel I will need to get to the destination I had just programmed into the BMW's navigation system. If it is beyond the amount of fuel that is in the car's gas tank you know you better fill up if you are going to make it. If not, which is obviously the case here, you're cool.

Last night, I obviously had plenty to spare. There was 335 miles worth of fuel in the BMW's tank and my destination, a friend's house, was less than 100 miles away from my present location, which was Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. That's right sports fans, we had just watched my New York Jets continue their march to the Super Bowl and we were heading for home. Great day. Great game. Okay hot dogs.

By the way, that yellow triangle with the exclamation point is telling me the car is low on windshield washer fluid. Maybe I'll pour some in today.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 24,608 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Instrument Panel Color Change

January 06, 2010

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Just a little observation to share with y'all. Our longterm 2009 BMW 750i's electroluminescent gauge panel makes a significant color change when you switch on the headlights.

The top photo shows the white illumination that helps the display stand out during the day. At night, there's a switch to the orange-y reddish color. The color change is purposeful -- the orange-y color has less impact on night vision than the bright white illumination. Neat trick.

Looking more closely at the pics now, I see that not only do the numerals and tickmarks switch color, but the needles, too. I wonder why the rings stay white, though.

Maybe there are other cars whose gauges make a similar transformation and I just haven't noticed. They dim when you click the headlights on, sure, but change color? Hmmm. Am I nuts? Help me out here.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 23,609 miles.

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2009 BMW 750i: Are You Sirius?

December 17, 2009

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Last night on my way home I was singing along to the showtunes on channel 77 On Broadway. Then much to my dismay the station went silent.

This happens from time to time with satellite radio. It blanks out when you go under a bridge or sometimes when you're close to the beach. But it usually bounces back after a few seconds.

Nothing.

I tried another station. Frank Sinatra? Nothing. Then I got the message above. I guess our subscription ran out in the middle of my commute. Or something is wrong.

I'll let the Mikes know. I need my Seth Rudetsky fix.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 23,575 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Technology Quirks and Quibbles

December 06, 2009

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I spent all last week behind the wheel of our Long-Term BMW 750i, and in that time I learned a thing or three about its less obvious features. We all know it drives like a magic carpet and coddles like a Beverly Hills spa, but why doesn't the keyless entry seem to work, what's with the USB port in the glovebox, and how long does it take to rip Dark Side of the Moon to the car's on-board music hard drive?

All this and more after the jump.

No Ruffles Means No Keyless Entry

I've tried, off-and-on over the past eight months, to get our long-term BMW 750i's door to unlock without using the buttons on the keyfob. After a few seconds of swiping, pushing and pulling the exterior door handle I always get frustrated and just hit the keyfob button to get in and go. I finally did a little RTFM last week and learned the exterior door handles need to have a subtle set of "ruffles" (for lack of a better term) on the top of the door handle (just to the left of my hand in the photo above). If your BMW doesn't have these (our long-term 2009 BMW M3 does) then it doesn't have keyless entry. Hard to believe this is an extra-cost option on BMW's $80,000 top-end sedan -- but it is. You'll have to spring for the $1,700 Convenience Package to get "Comfort Access" on your 7 Series (also includes "soft close" doors and power-operated trunk).

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2009 BMW 750i: Alley Cam

November 16, 2009

I know Mark Takahashi posted some photos last July of our 2009 BMW 750i's "alley cam," but I thought you like to see it action. Sorry about the auto-focus on my point 'n' shoot camera, but you'll get the idea I think. Also, there's a not-so-hidden Easter egg in the video that reveals an upcoming Inside Line full-test in a few weeks. Any guesses?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 21,087 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Chime In

November 11, 2009

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Last night, Scott and I carpooled home in the BMW 7 Series. He drove and when we got to his house I jumped into the driver's seat.

I got about 2 blocks away when my phone rang. It was Scott telling me he had the key in his pocket. So, I turned around and went back.

The BMW 750i didn't offer me any warning signals that the key was no longer in the running car. No lights, no messages, no bells, no chimes.

Just before Halloween when we posted the picture of our Mazdaspeed 3 done up like a vampire, I had driven the car to a deserted part of the garage, left it running, and jumped out to take a picture with the key in my pocket. You'd think I had robbed a bank. A frantic chime set off to warn me.

Keyless start can be a dangerous thing. It's easy to forget about the key when the car is still running.

Have you had a similar experience?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

P.S. I don't think the awesome Ford Futura pictured above has a warning chime either.

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2009 BMW 750i: Has This Ever Happened to You?

October 22, 2009

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So I'm driving along with my 2009 Blackberry Pearl Flip (no more butt-dialing!) paired to the 2009 BMW 750i. Joel, a friend from college, is on the line and we're discussing the upcoming NHRA Winternational drag races at Pomona.

Suddenly the line goes dead. Another dropped call, I figure.

But the screen above is not something I usually see with a dropped call. I pick up the phone and Joel is still there, loud and clear. He experienced no interruption, but the call was no longer hands-free through the BMW's speaker system and built-in microphone.

Instead of a dropped call, the Bluetooth connection has inexplicably terminated itself. The BMW hung up on the BlackBerry, so to speak, or vice-versa.

It hasn't happened again but, then again, I haven't made more than one other call.

This unprovoked loss of the Bluetooth handshake is a first for me in the 750i or any other car in our fleet. Anyone else out there had this happen in their own car? I'm not sure if this is a car issue or a phone issue.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,102 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Animated Explanations

October 14, 2009

Our 750i, being one of the world's most advanced cars, offers animated explanations for several of its features which play on its massive navigation screen. Here's the animation which explains the park distance control feature. Other animations include: Adaptive Light Control, Dynamic Stability Control, Integral Active Steering, Back Up Camera and Side View.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 18,913 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Homecoming Wheels

September 28, 2009

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You're a 15-year-old high school sophomore. No driver's license, means you've gotta ask your parents for a ride to the big homecoming dance. No wheels, no date. Safer to go with a couple of buddies instead.

But good news for Kyle Toepke, his parents have access to cool cars. When we asked if he wanted us to play the part of chauffer for his group, he responded coolly, "That depends. What are you driving?"

The 2009 BMW 750i sealed the deal, and Philip and Zack were pleased to tag on.

The 750i is luxurious and sophisticated, but also a little complicated. Being inquisitive teenagers, they pressed every button within reach, which resulted in the raising and lowering of the back sunscreen, rear door sunscreens and even the driver's headrest.

We arrived at the dance after a quick bite at Sonic Burger, and overheard Zack bragging to a friend in the parking lot, "There are so many buttons in this car, you don't even know what they do. The car is so cool."

Homecoming night had me thinking of how I arrived at dances. My parents' 1978 Chevy Caprice Classic wagon wasn't exactly my chariot of choice. Can you top that embarrassment?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @17,699 miles

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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: Auto Hold

August 18, 2009

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Our long-term BMW 750 has an Auto Hold parking brake feature. This system automatically sets the parking brake, then releases it when the accel pedal is depressed. The system could be useful when the vehicle is stopped on an incline. But the navi-display owner's manual states that this feature is also a benefit in stop-and-go traffic (?).

In any event, I can understand how an Auto Hold feature can be helpful in a 3-pedal car, but...

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2009 BMW 750i: Yup, There's an App for That

August 14, 2009

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Followers of our long-term big Bimmer have probably heard about the throttle tip-in this car exhibits right off the line. I decided to post a graphical representation of it with the help of my iPhone and the Dynolicious application. Dynolicious uses the phone's accelerometers to measure the G load, figures those loads in with their duration and gives a decent calculation of speed, horsepower, torque and braking. The graph shows horsepower in yellow, speed in red and longitudinal Gs in blue.

See that graceful sweep at the beginning of the graph? That's the tip-in, a brief hesitation upon throttle application before the car really gets moving. A good, aggressive launch will give a flatter curve, as shown in the graph below. The top graph represents a launch in Comfort mode, while the bottom graph shows a launch in Sport+ mode. Personally, I like the idea of having the choice between these modes. If I want to drive like a chauffeur, I can glide away from a stop. If I want to drive like Jason Statham in the Transporter, the Sport+ makes that possible (except for the really silly stunts, of course).

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2009 BMW 750i: An Effective LCD Screen for the Information Age

August 10, 2009

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Whether you like it or not, we live in an information-driven society. The trick these days isn't obtaining information, it's managing it in a way that doesn't bury you. For this reason I give BMW credit in how they've set up the LCD screen in our long-term 750i.

The options for the display range from a single-screen dedicated to one type of information (i.e. audio system) to split-screen (showing two types of information like audio and navigation) to turning the screen off completely.

I like to set the screen up as seen above. Let's take a look at the display and consider all the pieces of information it's providing:

1. Current Sirius Satellite Station ( Classic Vinyl)

2. Current Song being Played (Molly Hatchet's Flirtin' With Disaster)

3. Current Time (9:18 a.m.)

4. Current Location (southbound PCH in Santa Monica)

5. Current Navigation Scale (1-mile)

6. Compass (North is "up" with the current navigation configuration)

7. Current Signal Strength for my Paired iPhone (full bars)

8. Current Signal Strength for Sirius Satellite Radio (the cute little dog means you're receiving)

9. Current Signal Strength for GPS (the pyramid shape with bars above it)

Of course this is just one version way to set up the screen. You can configure it in an almost infinite manner. In a world drowning in information, this is a good sign that we might someday get a handle on all of it.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 13,625 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Seat Calibration

July 31, 2009

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Yes, seat calibration. It's what our longterm 2009 BMW 750i requested upon shutdown yesterday with a ding and this message. Apparently HAL lost track of where in its range of travel the driver's seat was.

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2009 BMW 750i: Owner's Manual, Etc...

July 27, 2009

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Last week I was whining about the lack of an owner's manual in our long-term BMW M3 before a co-worker pointed out to me that it's available on iDrive. And it's far easier to find what you need in this electronic version than it would have been in a huge paper book anyway.

But wait, there's more...

Here are a few more observations about the 750i, which I hadn't driven until this weekend.

1) The detent-free, self-damped doors which soft-lock in whatever postion you leave them are brilliant. Hauling an infant in and out of the 750i's back seat all weekend (often in tight parking lots), I came to greatly appreciate this feature. There's nothing worse than trying to balance a door between detents only to nudge it accidentally and have it whack the car next to you. It's never a problem with the 750i.

2) I can't believe comfort access doesn't come standard on this car. This puts me back into the key-out-to-unlock, key-back-in-pocket-to-prevent-loss cycle I can't stand on any car with keyless access and keyless ignition. Without a place to put the key, it's got to back in my pocket. It's troubling that a car this costly doesn't come equipped with this feature as standard equipment.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2009 BMW 750i: Rump shaker

July 23, 2009

Trying to stay alert during that long haul to Monterrey?
Or did you just have a particularly killer Pilates workout that left your glutes sore?

Perhaps you may be interested in a seat feature that BMW offers.
Our long-term BMW 750 has the Active driver seat equipped with butt massage.

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2009 BMW 750i: The Gentleman function

July 21, 2009

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I was planning to write about the wonderful seats in our long-term BMW 750 and the dizzying number of adjustments, heating and cooling, and butt massage.

But all that got tossed when I came across this in the iDrive display under Front seats:
The Gentleman function.

What the..?? This should be interesting!

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2009 BMW 750i: The Nose Knows

July 20, 2009

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I love technology. Especially when it solves a problem that we all just figured was "just the way it is".

Case in point: our BMW 750i's sideview cameras. Peeking the nose out of my driveway is usually fraught with anxiety, wondering if there's some fast moving car or motorcycle bussing down my street. Our 7-series calms my nerves by peeking out from the parked cars thanks to some tiny cameras mounted at the leading edges of the front wheel well. Cool...just cool.

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2009 BMW 750i: What is that smell?

July 15, 2009

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I turned on the seat heaters in our BMW 750i last night. Then I turned on the seat coolers at the same time. Then it smelled funny so I turned them both off.

Why did it let me do that?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 12,300 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Real-Time Traffic Right In Front of Your Face

May 26, 2009

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I have my complaints with our long-term 2009 BMW 750i's navigation system. Yes, it's quite easy to enter an address with iDrive version 2.0, but why can't it add "on the right" or "on the left" when it tells me, "your destination is ahead"? A basic Garmin Nuvi can do that... And, in a $90K car, shouldn't the computer's linguistic skills have advanced beyond directing me to the "one hundred ten freeway" as I approach the 110 fwy?

Still, while I had the 750i's nav system programmed for a restaurant on Friday evening, I happened upon a friendly feature. See the yellow warning icon? That means there's traffic on my route and I didn't have to look over to the nav screen to see it. Nor was conversation in the cabin interrupted by an audio warning.

Although, in this case, I didn't really need a warning. Note that the speedometer reads 0 mph -- because I was stopped in traffic.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,543 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: The mystery of the not-so-worthless phone dock

May 21, 2009

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Our long-term 2009 BMW 750 has a mobile phone dock in the center console. Is that like a worthless 90's phone dock where you had to buy the luxury carmaker's branded phone for $1500? That was my first thought. Also, look at the cradle shape. What phone would fit in that!

I spoke with the BMW PR guys in Jersey to unravel this mystery. Allow me to break it down.

It turns out you need a snap-in adapter that you can purchase from your BMW dealer. Adapters are available for several popular phones throughout BMW's model range. But for the 750, adapters are available for only these three phones: Apple iPhone, Blackberry Curve, and Motorola V8/V9m. The adapters cost $175 for the iPhone and $117 for the other two. Other applications for popular phones will be added periodically.

Why would you pay for and use the adapter, you ask? If you connect through Bluetooth, you still get full control of your phone through the idrive and vehicle display interface. And of course you can charge your phone through the 12V port. So why?

There are three advantages for buying the adapter:
1. Your phone is charged when docked. We all know that Bluetooth drains a lot of go-go juice from the phone when it's used. You'll also leave the 12V port open for your radar detector, espresso machine, or hair dryer.

2. The dock also provides a connection to the car's more powerful roof mounted shark-fin antenna (which also receives GPS and radio signals) for improved cellular reception. Some phones don't have a good internal antenna and some remote or rural areas have a weak cellular signal. The docked phone may be a benefit in these conditions.

3. Music/MP3 files on your phone can be played through the vehicle's stereo and can be controlled through idrive and the vehicle display.

Are the advantages of the dock worth $175, or even $117? BMW said it's a popular option.

What do you think? I'm particularly interested in those BMW owners (and others) who actually bought the adapter and use it.

In any event, even though it takes up a lot of center console storage space, this phone dock is not-so-worthless after all.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Eval Engineer @ 9000 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: Shift-by-wire in relation to interior storage

May 19, 2009

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Our long-term BMW 750 has a shift-by-wire transmission -- there is no mechanical connection between the shifter and the transmission.

One advantage of shift-by-wire is that the shift lever does not need to be positioned just forward of the center console -- the most common setup. Placing the shifter on the IP (instrument panel) or on the steering column frees up additional interior storage room in the center console area -- room for cupholders and storage boxes.

In a previous life, I worked on shift-by-wire development for a leading automaker. Myself and my colleagues were surprised by the then new (current) BMW X5 and the integral debut of their new shift-by-wire system placed in the center console.

We asked - why would they make it so big and place in that position?

Perhaps that's what people are used to. And this may be a trend because the new Prius shifter is also in a more conventional position than previously. But the Benz S-Class has a small shift lever on the steering column (top right pic), so who knows the overall direction.

Our long-term BMW 750 has the same shift-by-wire location as the X5. And this contributes (but not solely) to a lack of interior storage space in the vehicle.

The center console box is ridiculously small. You can fit an iPod, or a mobile phone, or a pack of Lucky Strikes. There isn't room for say, a hard case for a pair of Oakleys (I tried).

There is a undersized glove box (filled with the owners book) and a small storage box by the driver's left knee. And a cute little storage box above the glovebox. You can fit some CDs or a pair of sunglasses with a small or no case in that one. Except for the tiny door map pockets, that's it.

With regard to interior storage, I realize that this vehicle is not a SUV or wagon. But it's not a Porsche either.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Eval Engineer @ 8900 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: The Kitchen Sink

May 11, 2009

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Our long-term 2009 BMW 750i is crammed full of technologies that are expressly intended to make its would-be owner's life (and those of his/her family) as coddled as possible.

For example, there are detents that hold the doors in any position you choose; cooled cupholders; rear wheel steering; sideview cameras; active stabilizer bars; active dampers; active steering; active headlights; crotch coolers and electrically-operated thigh supports in both front seats; in the backseat there are heated seats and dual-zone climate control... you get the idea.

Even opening the trunk is made easy--press any of the three different buttons and the lid swings all the up.

The downside is that this mechanically-assisted opening feature cranks up the effort required to close the trunk. You've really gotta put some back into it to whing that sucker down, and if the latch doesn't catch, the decklid just whips all the way back open.

Not the end of the world--it's just that the rest of the car had me prepared for a trunk that had a GPS-linked laser proximity array triggered by brainwave activity. You mean I gotta use my *gasp* muscles??

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor at 8,373 miles.

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2009 BMW 750i: Sideview Cameras

April 29, 2009

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Though our 2009 BMW 750i is somewhat light on equipment, it does have the Camera Package that adds front sideview cameras and a rear backup camera. The sideview cameras are pretty trick, as James first noted in one of his old TFTC posts. In certain situations, they are very useful.

More on how they work after the jump.

One camera is mounted on each side of the car on the front fender near the wheel. If you're stopped or moving at low speed, you can push a button next to the iDrive controller and the views of the cameras are displayed on the navigation screen via a split-screen.

The camera's main use is in situations when you're pulling out into oncoming traffic and your visibility is blocked. Alleys or crowded city streets with parked cars are both very good environments to use the cameras in.

For example, take a look at the lead photo. You can see how pulling out into the alley could be dangerous.

Here's a representative photo of my completely blocked view out the driver-side window. (It's representative as the lead and next two photos taken weren't quite in the same place, but the result is the same.)

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2009 BMW 750i: $90K and No iPod Connection?

April 27, 2009

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I'm not addicted to my iPod. In fact, I hardly use it compared to most people. But when I get into a brand-new, fully redesigned luxury car with a $90,000 sticker price, I expect a real connection.

Because of the way our 750i is configured (e.g. light on options) it doesn't have a proper iPod port. Instead, there's nothing but an "aux" jack, so you're left sifting through songs by using the iPod itself as it flops aimlessly atop the console cover.

Not a big deal really, but it's a silly feature to leave on the options list given the overall complexity and feature content of the audio system itself.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 7,640 miles

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2009 BMW 750i: New iDrive Controller

April 21, 2009

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In our 2009 BMW 750i Full Test, we noted how BMW dramatically improved its iDrive controller interface. Before, using iDrive was like wearing a jock strap -- you did it because you had to but the experience was typically unpleasant. Now, iDrive has new preset buttons, simplified menus and separated climate controls to be quicker and less befuddling to use. To continue the analogy, it's like wearing boxer briefs now.

I shot about two minutes of video of our long-term BMW 750i's iDrive in action. It's mediocre amateur video making at its very best. It follows after the jump.

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2009 BMW 750i: Better Database Than Other On-Board Hard Drives?

April 06, 2009

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Here's something interesting I've noticed about our long-term 2009 BMW 750i. Its on-board hard drive is able to recognize a lot more CDs than any other in-car hard drive I've ever used. Here's an example: Tool's Vicarious album. (Editor's note: Ooops, 10,000 Days...)

I've never before been able to impose my Tool fanaticism on my coworkers, because other cars (Infinitis, Mitsubishis) don't pick up the track titles so there's point in ripping the CD to the hard drive. But the BMW 750i knew which CD I'd popped in, so now everyone gets to enjoy Vicarious for the next year.

During the 2,000 miles I just spent with the 7 Series, I only encountered one CD (Faithless/No Roots) whose album information the car couldn't pick up. Now I'm curious to find out if our BMW has some uber version of Gracenote.

Of course, if you're not all old-school and don't have a big collection of CDs as I do, this might not be a big deal to you. That's fine, but with only an aux jack (and no USB port) in our car, using the on-board hard drive to store music is the easier, more ergonomic option.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,445 miles

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