What's New for 2012
The 2012 BMW 7 Series is no longer the athlete of the flagship luxury sedan class, but its blend of comfort, luxury and driver involvement give it wide appeal.
Choosing a flagship luxury sedan to park in your garage is an enviable dilemma. There's pretty much no losing when your options include exotic names and alphanumeric soup like A8, Panamera and S-Class. Add to this list the 2012 BMW 7 Series, one of the sportiest and most popular luxury cruisers that blends a dynamic driving experience with practical, everyday utility.
For 2012, the 7 Series again offers a turbocharged inline-6 engine in the 740i and 740Li. Up until last year an inline-6 hadn't been seen in a 7 Series model in two decades. And although it's tempting to dismiss it as a pokey model intended as dealership traffic bait, the 740i with its 315-horsepower twin-turbo inline-6 is as quick from zero to 60 mph (5.8 seconds) as the V8-powered Lexus LS 460 and nearly matches the power of the V8 7 Series from 10 years ago.
The 7 Series is also one of the most engaging cars in the class to drive. Equipped with optional active steering, the 7 Series impresses with its ability to sweep around tight corners. Even in standard rear-wheel-drive form, it twists sharper and surer than many midsize luxury sedans. The Driving Dynamics Control (DDC) system even allows the driver to choose among four settings (including transmission response and suspension calibration) to satisfy a greater breadth of enthusiasts. We've found it hard to dial in that just-right combination of all the adjustable DDC attributes however, and we wonder if simpler would be better.
Despite its mastery, it's hard to proclaim the 2012 BMW 7 Series better or worse than other all-stars like the Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Porsche Panamera. It's simply different. Depending on what you intend to spend and how much space you want, we'd suggest looking at them all. And why not? There's no way to lose.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 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. There are also hybrid versions of the 750i and 750Li models reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the 740i includes 18-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, heated power-adjustable front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, four-zone climate control, leather upholstery and keyless ignition. Electronics features include the iDrive multimedia interface, a hard-drive navigation system with real-time traffic, BMW Assist emergency telematics, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with a CD player, HD Radio, digital music storage, iPod and USB audio inputs, and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 750i adds 19-inch wheels, a power trunk lid, full keyless ignition/entry, soft-close automatic doors, 14-way 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 and satellite radio. The Cold Weather package adds a heated steering wheel and heated seats front and rear on the 740i (they are standard on all other models). The Driver Assistance package adds automatic high beams, side and top camera views, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, and, on long-wheelbase and xDrive models, a head-up display.
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 power-adjustable and ventilated seats with a massage feature, while the M Sport package adds a choice of 19- or 20-inch wheels, an aerodynamic body kit, darkened "Shadowline" exterior trim and a sport steering wheel. A Rear Entertainment package includes a six-CD/DVD changer and twin rear display screens.
Other than the M Sport and Rear Entertainment packages, 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. Other notable stand-alone options for the 7 Series include active roll stabilization, active cruise control, an infrared night vision system, special interior color/trim schemes and BMW apps that integrate with iPhones and iPods.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 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 response, transmission programming, steering, suspension tuning and stability control intervention. Rear-wheel drive is standard.
In Edmunds testing, a 740i accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. The EPA estimates the 740's fuel economy at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
The 2012 BMW 750i and 750Li are powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, paired with a standard six-speed automatic. In Edmunds acceleration testing, the 750i and 750Li dashed from zero to 60 mph in a blink more than 5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 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 2012 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. BMW claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13/19/15.
Standard safety features on the 2012 BMW 7 Series include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, the 740i stopped from 60 mph in an excellent 109 feet. The heavier 750i came to rest in an equally impressive 112 feet. The 750Li was about the same.
Optional safety features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure and blind-spot warning, 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 presents the automaker's leading edge of luxury, comfort and technology. Supple leather and rich wood accents adorn almost every surface, and the available 14-way adjustable front seats ensure comfort for virtually any body type. The rear seats similarly accommodate taller adults, and the extended-wheelbase versions of the 7 Series offer even more legroom (by about 6 inches) and slightly increased headroom. Available rear seats that can heat, cool and even massage occupants should satisfy even the fussiest passengers.
The cockpit, with increased user-friendliness compared to its maligned predecessor, should soothe and reassure even the most technophobic driver. Some might still find the iDrive system a little tech-intensive, but BMW has commendably made the learning process more intuitive and we think it's an elegant alternative to a button-heavy dashboard. In terms of luggage space, the 7 offers 14 cubic feet, an underwhelming figure for this class of car.
Despite its significant curb weight, the 2012 BMW 7 Series is deceptively quick. Even though it has just six cylinders, the 740i offers a prodigious swell of midrange torque. Of course, the 750 and 760 models are that much more impressive. Compared to other luxury sedans like the Lexus LS 460, the 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.
Still, steering is a mixed bag: heavier than necessary at slow speeds and somewhat numb and detached at highway velocities. One senses computers working overtime behind the scenes, not only in the steering box, but also under the hood. There's a distinct, annoying delay when you first depress the pedal and wait for the engine and transmission to process your request. Sport mode wakes things up a bit, but its shift points are a little too aggressive unless you happen to be charging back roads.