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?
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
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
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.