What's New for 2011
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the 2011 BMW 7 Series gets a six-cylinder engine. Found in the new 740i and 740Li, it's an uprated version of BMW's twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6.
Picking a flagship luxury sedan is a rather pleasant dilemma to be faced with. It's not exactly choosing which supermodel to date, but really, it doesn't get much closer to a no-lose scenario than this. "Oh no, I ended up with the Panamera rather than the S-Class." Excuse us while we break out the string quartet.
So you can't lose by picking any of these sedans, but with differing style, character and driving dynamics, you can certainly find one that suits your tastes better than others. The 2011 BMW 7 Series is one of the most popular entries and also one of the sportiest, putting an emphasis on a dynamic driving experience while still being quite practical.
For 2011, the 7 Series also offers the widest breadth of powertrain choices. Joining the previous V8, V12 and hybrid engine choices are the new six-cylinders in the 740i and 740Li. At first glance, it's easy to dismiss it as the pokey model meant for dealership advertising fodder. However, the 740i with its 315-horsepower twin-turbo inline-6 is just as quick from zero to 60 mph (5.8 seconds) as the V8-powered Lexus LS 460 and more powerful than the V8-powered 7 Series from 10 years ago. It also gets the best fuel economy of the bunch, too.
As for the driving experience, the 7 Series is one of the most engaging vehicles to drive in the class. When equipped with the optional four-wheel steering, the 7 has an impressive ability to sweep around tight corners. The Driving Dynamics Control system also allows the driver to choose among four specific settings in order to cater to a greater variety of tastes. Unfortunately, we've found it hard to find that just-right combination of all the adjustable DDC attributes; we sometimes wonder if simpler would be better.
Even so, it's hard to say the 2011 BMW 7 Series is better or worse than other all-stars like the Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS 460, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Porsche Panamera -- it's just different. Depending on how much you're looking to spend and how much space you want, we'd consider taking a look at all of them. And why not? There's no way to lose.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 BMW 7 Series is available in 740i, 740Li, 750i, 750Li and 760Li trims. The Li indicates the extended-wheelbase body style, while the 750 models can be equipped with xDrive all-wheel drive.
Standard equipment on the 740i include 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, power front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, four-zone climate control, leather upholstery and keyless ignition (entry is still accomplished by pressing a button on the key fob). Electronic features include the iDrive multimedia interface, a hard-drive navigation system, real-time traffic, BMW Assist emergency telematics, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker sound system with two subwoofers, HD radio, 12 GB of digital music storage and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 750i adds a power trunk lid, full keyless ignition/entry, soft-close automatic doors, 14-way "multicontour" front seats with adjustable lumbar and side bolsters and upgraded leather. These features are all available on the 740. Both the Li and xDrive models include a self-leveling air suspension.
Most options for the 740 and 750 are bundled into groups. The Premium Sound package adds a 16-speaker upgraded sound system, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio input. The Cold Weather package adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and heated front seats on the 740i (they are standard on all other models). The Driver Assistance package adds automatic high beams, a lane departure warning system and a blind spot warning system.
The Camera package adds a rearview camera, a top-view parking camera and sideview cameras. The Luxury Seating package includes ventilated front seats, active front seat side bolsters and power rear and side sunshades. The Luxury Rear Seating package available on Li models adds rear seats that are power-adjustable and ventilated. The M Sport package adds active roll stabilization, 19-inch wheels (20-inch upgrade available), a sport steering wheel, an aerodynamic body kit and darkened "Shadowline" exterior trim.
Other than the M Sport package, the top-of-the-line 760Li includes all the above standard and optional equipment. Integral active steering is standard on the 760Li and a stand-alone option on the others. Additional stand-alone items available on all 7 Series models include a rear seat entertainment system, a head-up display, active cruise control, an infrared night vision system, extended leather trim, special interior color/trim schemes and ceramic-lined controls.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 BMW 740i and 740Li are powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo inline-6 that produces 315 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque. As with the 750, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard along with driver-adjustable settings for the throttle, transmission programming, steering, suspension and stability control intervention. Rear-wheel drive is standard. BMW estimates the 740i will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy had not been released at the time of this writing.
The 2011 BMW 750i and 750Li are powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is again standard. In Edmunds acceleration testing, the 750i and 750Li went from zero to 60 mph in just a hair over 5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. Opting for the Li and/or xDrive lowers those numbers by roughly 1-2 mpg.
The 2011 BMW 760Li gets a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 good for 535 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard. According to BMW, it goes from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13/19/15.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes (with brake assist, brake fade compensation, brake drying and a brake standby feature), stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, the 750i came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 112 feet. The 750Li was about the same.
Optional safety features include adaptive cruise control, rear and sideview cameras and infrared night vision with pedestrian detection that displays the images either in the main dash display or in the head-up display (if so equipped).
Interior Design and Special Features
As BMW's flagship, the 7 Series represents the company's pinnacle of luxury, comfort and cutting-edge technology. Supple leather and rich wood accents adorn almost every surface and the available "multicontour" front seats ensure comfort for virtually any body type. The rear seats are similarly accommodating for taller adults, and the extended-wheelbase versions offer even more legroom (by about 6 inches) and slightly increased headroom. Available rear seat heating and even a massage feature should satisfy the most demanding of passengers.
The cabin of the 2011 BMW 7 Series is more user-friendly than its much-maligned predecessor. Gone are the days when occupants would rather sit in silence than navigate the over-complicated iDrive system menus. Along with the main iDrive controller knob, several physical buttons help to simplify some of the most commonly used functions. Some may still find the iDrive system a bit complicated, but with continued use, we think the improved layout is an elegant solution to a button-heavy dashboard.
We haven't had an opportunity to drive the new 740i, but we doubt it'll be wanting for power given how robust the 750 models are. That twin-turbo V8 offers a flood of torque with little or no perceptible turbo lag. There is a slight delay from the time you apply pressure on the gas pedal to when the big sedan begins to move, but you can fix this by selecting a higher Driving Dynamics Control mode. The V12-powered 760Li, meanwhile, accelerates with complete authority for those who somehow think a twin-turbo V8 is a tad weak.
Compared to other luxury sedans like the Lexus LS 460, the 2011 BMW 7 Series is more athletic but also has a stiffer ride quality -- even in Comfort mode. That's not to say the ride is harsh, though. Instead, this stiffer ride results in a more engaging driving experience, making the 7 Series a luxury sedan that can also be fun to drive.