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2009 BMW 7 Series: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2009 BMW 7 Series as our editors live with this car for a year.

BMW 7 Series 2009

What do you want to know about?


March 29, 2009

Basically, what we do here at Inside Line — after the powerslides, of course — is give advice. We drive and evaluate hundreds of cars each year and funnel our condensed experience and expertise to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. We're huge hits at parties. Trouble is, advice is easier to give than receive. For years now, we've been advising friends and family alike to forgo their gas-guzzling, overweight SUVs for large sedans or wagons, even as we've added SUV after SUV to the Inside Line fleet of long-term test cars. And it almost happened again.

When our long-term 2008 BMW X5 finished its tour of duty (and with our evaluations of a 2002 BMW M3 and 2008 BMW 135i due to wrap up shortly), we wanted to replace it with another BMW. Maybe a BMW with the all-new, twin-turbo, 400-horsepower 4.4-liter V8 and the fully revised iDrive control system? And so a 2009 BMW X6 5.0i seemed to be screaming our name. The twin-turbo X6 would certainly have made a fine road-trip toy, and would make for interesting comparisons of utility (or uselessness, take your pick) with our Infiniti FX50. But it was time to take our own advice. Instead of replacing our luxury SUV with a less useful version of essentially the same thing, we chose BMW's newest version of its flagship luxury sedan, the 2009 BMW 750i.

What We Got
While a V12-powered 760 is most likely in the works, the U.S.-spec 2009 7 Series (F01 is BMW's internal engineering code for the car) is currently available only with a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 and six-speed automatic transmission. This new engine effectively matches the performance of the V12 in the previous-generation 760Li, yet is less expensive and more environmentally friendly. The all-new power plant is rated at 400 hp at 5,500 rpm and 450 pound-feet of torque at only 1,800 rpm.

The EPA rates this drivetrain at 22 mpg highway, which is kind of impressive. Of course, if you stand on it, the speedometer needle will sweep to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds without a whir, buzz or roar, pressing you deep into the backrest of the massive, thronelike seats. It's then you're thankful that this big car has appropriately superb brakes attached to 19-inch wheels which are wrapped in turn by surprisingly sticky Michelin Excellence tires — 245/40R19s in front and 275/40R19s in the back. Together it's a combination that hauls the behemoth down from 60 mph in only 112 feet. Kind of impressive when you remember that the 2009 BMW 750i weighs 4,599 pounds.

iDrive has previously turned even the most tech-savvy automotive journalist into a version of cranky old television commentator Andy Rooney. Frustration with this all-singing, all-dancing control interface for a BMW's entertainment, navigation, ventilation and mechanical calibration has produced countless rants urging a return to paper maps and suspension settings that can be changed only with a toolbox. Thankfully BMW got the message (finally). The F01 7 Series also sports a fully retooled iDrive system that includes not just new shortcut buttons to back up the rotary controller plus a large 10.2-inch screen, but also new, more logical software. You can't evaluate such a system in a day, though, so a long-term experience to find its assets and liabilities clearly seemed in order.

The twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 is standard equipment for the new 2009 BMW 750i. It's a whole lot of motor, so it's only right that to keep it on the road we chose the Sport package ($4,900) which adds 19-inch wheels, active roll stabilization and a sport steering wheel (really, have you ever seen a BMW that didn't have the Sport package?). Other options on our new long-termer include a Luxury Seating package ($2,500), satellite radio ($595) and a nifty Camera package ($750) that shows rearview and front sideview monitors for avoiding those tricky curbs that will leap up and bite your fancy sport wheels if you're not careful.

Do the math and all this works out to a lofty total — yet not far from the norm in this class — of $89,870.

Why We Got It
Although we knew that the time was right for us to stray from the usual lifestyle SUV, it's still not an easy emotional decision. What if we need that third row of seats? Or the cargo hatch? Or the extra ground clearance? Or all-wheel drive? A spoonful of sugar, they say, helps the medicine go down. And, well, at almost $90,000 BMW's new flagship is one helluva helping of sugar.

The new forced-induction V8 represents another step in BMW's evolution toward slightly more responsible performance. It's a direction the company is taking seriously, as it's considering reducing engine displacement across the whole range of models — even in the M division cars — and further replacing normally aspirated engines with smaller-displacement turbocharged ones. Maybe there is a replacement for displacement after all.

At the same time, the forced-induction engine in our long-term 2008 BMW 135i has received mixed reviews during its time with us. While no one doubts the power, its soul and presence is in question, as is its real-world fuel economy. As far as the 7 Series is concerned, a luxury sedan is all about presence, so we wonder whether this turbocharged V8 can fill the spiritual gap left by a similarly powerful V12?

The Price of Entry
So, $90 grand? That's a house, or at least a cottage on a lake. Here in SoCal, of course, it wouldn't get you a driveway, and as far as cars go, $90,000 worth of metal ain't even getting a prime spot at the valet. And yet the 2009 BMW 750i might be different.

Those of us who have driven this car have been surprised that the price tag is below six figures instead of above. It's that good. But such impressions are not really the point of our long-term tests, though; we knew it was good after the 750i first drive. Now we've got 12 months to put 20,000 miles on our new 2009 BMW 750i and really evaluate what we get for $90,000.

Will we miss our cheaper, larger, yet less luxurious luxury SUV? Will the new 7 be able to handle real road trips with real families? Will Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds take it on his now-famous annual family vacation to Oregon? Will we, at the end of the day, question the sanity of purchasing such a vehicle as it sits in our long-term garage door-to-door with a 2009 Hyundai Genesis Sedan that's almost the same size and retails for only $40,000?

Stay tuned to the long-term blogs for real-world driving impressions of the 2009 BMW 750i.

Current Odometer: 3,953
Best Fuel Economy: N/A
Worst Fuel Economy: N/A
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 14.4 mpg

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Fast and Thirsty, For Oil at Least

March 30, 2009

Took the big, bad 750i this weekend and it is indeed one serious sedan. For something that weighs 4,600 pounds, the 750 can make surprisingly quick work of unsuspecting Mustangs on freeway onramps. Especially lowered black ones with Eibach stickers in the side windows, or so I'm told.

It also happens to have an alarmingly voracious appetite for oil. At one point this weekend I was warned by the much improved iDrive system that the oil level was at the minimum, which struck me as strange given the car only had about 4,700 miles on the odometer.

Since there is no dipstick, I had to rely on the computer to give me good advice. It said to add a quart, preferably Castrol. A bottle of full synthetic drained my wallet to the tune of $6.99, but considering that it only represented .007789% of the BMW's sticker price, it seemed like a worthwhile investment.

A quart later, the readout said I was topped off and ready to eat some more Mustangs. It also said the first service wasn't due for another 11,000 miles. Not sure how that works out, but if we're down another quarter at 10,000 miles I'll be a little suspicious.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 4,778 miles

Hits 5000 Miles in Holbrook, Arizona

April 01, 2009

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.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,201 miles

When You Get Tired of Santa Fe, Try U.S. Highway 84

April 02, 2009

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.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,850 miles (as of about 11:30 p.m. MDT, 4/1/09)

Headlights Are Superb on Dark Back Roads

April 03, 2009

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

Road Trip MPG, Plus Albuquerque Travel Tips!

April 04, 2009

I've already written in detail about my road trip in our long-term 2009 BMW 750i, bragging about its long cruising range and excellent headlights . Now I've got the fuel economy results for you. Although my numbers are short of the 750i's 22-mpg EPA highway rating, I'm still impressed given that (a) this car weighs 4,600 pounds; and (b) I didn't drive 75 mph.

Total miles: 1,948

Total gallons of 91 octane: 95.406

Average miles per gallon: 20.4

Best tank: 21.6 mpg over 435.7 miles

Worst tank: 19.2 mpg over 375.8 miles

5th gear, 6th gear & final drive ratios: 0.867, 0.690, 3.462

My best tank comes with a slightly amusing story: I get an early start on the drive back to LA from Williams, AZ. With the distance-to-empty meter showing 59 miles, I decide I'm too cool to make a fuel stop in Seligman, AZ, only to see a sign immediately after the exit ramp that says, "Next Services 56 miles." I look back at the DTE meter and it's already fallen to 55 miles. Oops. I spend the next 56 miles kinda-sorta hypermiling, finally pulling into the next gas station with 8 miles to empty. I put in 20.133 gallons, so with a 21.7-gallon tank, there's still a small reserve.

During my 24 hours in New Mexico, I visited the Unser Racing Museum, a collection of cars all driven by members of the Unser family. The Unsers are from Albuquerque; there's even a road named after them. The photos below are just a sample; the museum has a whole room dedicated to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and another to the history of race engine and tire technology. I also got a great restaurant recommendation from a museum docent: Sadie's, which makes traditional New Mexico food. Trust me, it's a mandatory stop in Albuquerque.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,326 miles

Better Database Than Other On-Board Hard Drives?

April 06, 2009

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

Simplified Interior

April 09, 2009

In years past, I knew I should expect a fair amount of aggravation when getting into a high-end German luxury sedan for the first time. Thanks to buttons labeled so cryptically that I'd want Daniel from Stargate SG-1 to help me figure them out to the various incarnations of electronic devil spawn — iDrive, COMAND and MMI — RTFM was almost always going to be required.

Our new 750i long-term car is a welcome departure from all that. Everything seems simpler than it was on the previous generation 7. In general, buttons are marked more intuitively. The climate controls now have their own display. The seat controls have been moved to the side of the seat cushion and are easier to use. The transmission selector makes more sense. And then there's the new iDrive — I'll cover it in another post, but suffice to say it's way better than before.

The owner's manual will no doubt be cracked a few times during the car's year-long stay with us. But overall you can get into our 750i and just drive — and that's quite nice.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Family Chariot

April 14, 2009

This past weekend, I used our long-term 2009 BMW 750i to shuttle my wife and two-year-old daughter to my in-laws house for Easter. There would have been quicker or more versatile long-term cars to put about 600 miles on, but for all-around style, comfort and luxury, the 750i was hard to beat. (And I would hope so, seeing as how it's priced at nearly $90,000.)

Most of what Erin wrote in her various posts about her long trip to Arizona proved to be true for me as well. A few more thoughts on using this executive sedan as a family sedan follow after the jump.

This is one impressive highway cruising machine. At speed, it just powers down the road with poise and presence. I could see where a small minority of people would find the car's ride quality to be a little firm. But for everyone else, it rides supremely. Meanwhile, the front seats are very comfortable and adjustable, and the max cruising range of 400 miles or so is nice to have.

Oh, and I was able to kill some time after Easter brunch by showing off the car to various family members. Side-view cameras, full-surround power rear window shades, voice-command bird's-eye nav, secret compartment to store stacks of cash from golden-parachute executive bonus payouts... it's the full uber-sedan experience. And then there was this conversation: Uncle Len: "This is a 750i? So does it have a 5-liter engine?" Brent: "No, it has a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8." Len: "Oh. I thought BMW numbers matched engine displacement." Brent: Well, they used to..."

There were a couple things that were disappointing from a road-trip standpoint. First, the trunk just isn't very big considering the size of the car. While the 750i's trunk capacity is listed at a decent 14 cubic feet, I found the shape — it's fairly deep but narrow — to be limiting. The trunk in our Pontiac G8, to single out another large rear-drive sedan, is a lot roomier. Additionally, there's just not that much interior storage space for road-trip related items. The center console bin, glove box and door bins are all small, and there are just two cupholders up front.

Was it nice to be rolling in style for this trip? Certainly. But the ho-hum real-world usability was a minor disappointment, and at times it did seem to be too ostentatious for what I was using it for. Maybe I just need a different career to appreciate it more.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,310 miles

Broken Cupholder Cover

April 16, 2009

A couple days ago, the "wood" trim piece to our BMW 750i's retractable cupholder cover broke loose. I was closing the cover and the trim piece got caught and popped off from its black plastic base. After that, the entire mechanism was a bit wonky. It wasn't opening and closing properly as one of the plastic hinges had become dislocated.

With a bit of fiddling, I got the cover to operate properly but it wasn't until today that I finally took a few minutes to snap the trim piece back in place. Everything is back to normal now.

But the cupholder cover is still flimsy in my opinion. And if this were my recently purchased $90,000 BMW — and I were one of those people who couldn't be bothered to fix things on my own car — I think I'd be pretty disappointed about the quality here.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

New iDrive Controller

April 21, 2009

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.

One other interesting thing: BMW has retrofitted many of its 2009 models to now include the new iDrive interface.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,450 miles

$90K and No iPod Connection?

April 27, 2009

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

Sideview Cameras

April 29, 2009

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.)

Now here's the view from the cameras.

The left camera gives a clear view of what's in (or coming down) the alley. The displayed yellow lines indicate the leading edge of the car so you know exactly how far you've pulled out.

I used the cameras a few times durning the time I had the 750i. It sure beats the alternative of slowly inching out into traffic.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

The Dyno Reveals The Beast Within

April 29, 2009

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:

As you can see, there's a big shelf of torque available all the way through the midrange. Torque rolls off steadily past 4,600 rpm followed by a more precipitous drop at 6,500 rpm. Without running all the numbers, it's likely that the BMW turns in its best acceleration times by shifting well short of its 6,700-rpm rev limit.

It's worth noting that turbocharged cars generally produce "high" chassis dyno results relative to normally aspirated cars rated at similar power. Part of the explanation is due to the turbo car's intercooler — automakers tend to heat soak the intercooler to somewhat higher temperatures during their certification process than what you get on a chassis dyno. The result is that the numbers claimed by the automaker end up appearing a bit conservative. And that goes for pretty much any modern turbocharged gasoline engine.

Conservatively rated or no, this sucker's quick. We clocked the 750i at 5.2 seconds to 60 and 13.5 @ 103.7 through the quarter mile. Not bad for a 4,600-lb sedan.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Engine Walkaround

April 29, 2009

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.

Fresh air enters the intake tracts from ducts in the nose of the car. Air travels through a couple of noise-reducing intake honkuses before making a U-turn through the air filter(s). This filtered air then curls around and enters each turbos' compressor.

The now-boosted air (pink) is also heated during the compression process. If you're an engine, pressure is good but heat is bad.

Enter the intercooler. Intercoolers are heat exchangers, and they chill the air by transferring its heat to the (in this case) water. The "water" is probably windshield washer fluid or similar. I'll check. In any case, it has its own cooling loop and another heat exhanger (a "low-temperature radiator") located in front of the engine's radiator.

You usually won't see liquid-air intercoolers on dedicated racing vehicles outside of drag racing. It's difficult to adequately cool off the liquid once you've dumped a lot of heat into it like during an endurance race, plus these systems add a lot of complexity and potentially catastrophic failure modes — you don't want water entering your engine's intake system, unless you like tacoed connecting rods and ventilated blocks.

For a street cars, which never see prolonged full-load operation, liquid-air works great. There's very little pressure drop in their coolers, and the liquid is (initially) more effective at cooling than is air.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

The Kitchen Sink

May 11, 2009

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.

It's not all roses

May 18, 2009

I was fortunate to spend most of last week with the our long-term BMW 750. What a great car: accurate steering with great "feel", excellent ride/handling balance, and gobs of power. The 750 handles like and has an overall feel of a smaller sedan.

What's left to do but pick nits?

1. There is a ton of wind noise coming from the driver's window area. I tried lowering and raising the window, of course, to try to reseal it. No joy. This condition was present in another 750 we drove recently, so this isn't an isolated case. (There is, however, almost no road noise present.)

2. Initial throttle tip-in is feeble. When the driver senses this he compensate by squeezing down more throttle, then the car quickly picks up. When driven aggressively, it's no problem at all. But when just cruising or puttering about at low speeds, it is a challenge to drive smoothly and not befitting a luxury car.

3. The A/C is weak (it was hot in SoCal the past several days.) Fortunately, there is a MAX A/C setting (full blast fan with cabin recirc) you can use when it's hot, but it's too loud and drafty to run this setting continuously.

4. Accessory drive noise. This is the worst problem of the car and it's annoying. The 750, with the exception of the D-window wind noise, is very quiet. However, from a start or at low speeds with partial throttle openings, the engine bay emits a relatively loud accessory-belt whining noise. The last time I heard such sounds were from a lower-end sedan.

None of these things are deal-breakers of course. It's still a great car.

But they shouldn't be present in a $90,000 sedan.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Eval Engineer @ 8740 miles

Shift-by-wire in relation to interior storage

May 19, 2009

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

The mystery of the not-so-worthless phone dock

May 21, 2009

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

Real-Time Traffic Right In Front of Your Face

May 26, 2009

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

Not Missing the "L"

May 27, 2009

My parents were in town over the holiday weekend, so I made the not very adventurous choice of requesting our long-term BMW 750i. Honestly, my family was due a little $90K kindness; last time I made them ride in our departed Scion xB.

I've always liked 7 Series backseats, because of one of my relatives used to own a '98 740iL, which had a positively expansive rear seat. But my parents are tall — 5'-10" and 6'-2" — and our BMW 7 Series is just the regular-wheelbase model. Would it be enough? In my family, we don't keep mild discomfort to ourselves — we complain loudly.

The answer is yes. They loved it back there. Ample legroom. Ample headroom. And they couldn't stop talking about the luxurious accommodations. (Actually, as luxury-sedan rear seats go, the 750i is a little basic in its amenities: discrete climate controls plus heated seats. If you want ventilated seats or power adjustments, you'll need a 750Li with the Luxury Seating Package.)

After this weekend, I'm not sure I'd ever order up a 750Li, unless there were 7-footers in my family. The 750i is perfectly adequate in back, and looking at the specs, it's easy to see why.

1998 BMW 740iL — wheelbase: 120.9 in., rear legroom: 41.9 in.
2009 BMW 750i — wheelbase: 120.9 in., rear legroom: 38.4 in.
2009 BMW 750Li — wheelbase: 126.4 in., rear legroom: 44.3 in.

So, yeah, our '09 750i has the same wheelbase as a LWB 7 Series of two generations ago.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Oil Please

May 28, 2009

As you can see, on my way home last night from the Speedway motorcycle races in City of Industry, California (about 35 miles east of our Santa Monica office) our long-term 2009 BMW 750i told me it needed oil.

It said please, so...

...this morning I quenched its thrist with a quart of Mobil 1 (0W-30). BMW recommends Castrol, but I was feeling rebellious. Total cost? $7.64 cents at my local Pep Boys.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 9,632 miles

Crash Test Video

May 29, 2009
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief


June 05, 2009

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, Editor in Chief @ 9,764 miles

10k on the clock

June 08, 2009

Our Long Term 750 just passed the 10,000 mile mark. In that short time the car has largely been praised but there are a few issues. The front cup holder door is busted and there's a distant but annoying rrrrrrRRRrrrr noise coming from under the hood. Sounds like an '88 Ford Taurus power steering pump. Also, Editor in Chief Scott Oldham said he'd prefer the Hyundai Genesis - and that's not as crazy as it sounds. I may be in that camp too.

Sure, the 750 is an excellent car - brilliant in many ways. Even when the car is switched off, the gauges look like they belong in a museum. The car's interior feels crafted not just assembled. And if you can't get comfortable in the 750's seats, it's time to start cutting back on the Biggie french fries and Angus Whopper with bacon.

But once the big BMW is under way, the driver can see, feel, sense and hear the fact that this is a very complex engineering masterpiece. I can't help but think most people just don't want all the drama and would be happy with something less expensive and less complicated. Then again, maybe those people aren't BMW customers - am I crazy or just too much of an average dude for this car?

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor @ 10,000 miles on the dot

The Cadillac of BMWs

June 10, 2009

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

Old School

June 17, 2009

While driving the 2009 BMW 750i into the office this morning, I spotted this early 1990s 7 Series in front of me.

I snapped a picture so you can see how the 7 Series has evolved since the E32 735i.

Which one do you like better?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Beauty Shots

June 21, 2009

By now you realize I've discovered the mosaic tool. But some cars are worthy of these multiple beauty portraits.

By now you also realize that the 2009 BMW 750i is car of the week.

With a 400-horsepower V8 and thousands of $$$ worth of goodies, we should have a lot to discuss.

All photos by Kurt Niebuhr. You can view larger sizes in the Intro article.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Looks Better My Way

June 22, 2009

I like the way the new 7 Series looks...mostly. One point of contention for me is the placement of those chrome trim slash turn signal things that straddle the front door slash front fender gaps. For me they're just too low on the car. To my eye they look like they were glued on in the wrong place by some assembly line worker watching the clock on a Friday.

So I fixed the problem in photoshop. Check out the lower pic. That's my version. Looks better right?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Because Hot Twins Like It

June 23, 2009

Last month I drove our long-term 2009 BMW 750i to the Industry Speedway in City of Industry, California for a Wednesday night of good old fashioned Speedway Motorcycle action.

I arrived early. So I parked and sat in the driver's seat of the 7 Series pecking away on the Blackberry waiting for my father to arrive.

And that's when it happened.

(photo courtesy of Industry Speedway)

I saw them coming out of the corner of my eye, the Industry Speedway twins dressed in just the right hot pants and boots combination to get the maximum roar from the crowd. And they liked my car, niether of them could take their eyes off it.

Only when they reached the twin kidney's of the Bimmer's grille did they shift their gaze from the car's big blue flanks. Now they were looking at me. But it was more than a look. They were looking me over. For a second, just a second, I was Brad Pitt, Zach Efron and Brody Jenner all rolled into one. For the moment I had abs of steel. And then one of them turned to the other and spoke. I could read her lips.

"That's a really nice car," she said getting a little chuckle from her twin.

Things like that just don't happen when you're driving a Prius.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 11,114 miles

Open Thread: Part 2

June 23, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2009 BMW 750i?

Have you seen any on the road? Have you driven one? If so, write a review in the comments section.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Re-Broken Cupholder Cover

June 23, 2009

I signed up to drive our 750i the other night. Along with the key I was handed its faux-wood cupholder cover. The same cover Brent reattached back in April. "This fell off again," I was told.

We don't reach our next service interval for another 6,000 miles. Looks like we'll be scheduling an appointment to have this fixed before then.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 11,000 miles

Separated At Birth: 2009 BMW 750i Meet 2009 Lexus LS460

June 23, 2009

Here's a case of the chicken or the egg. Which is which?

If you're wondering, the Lexus had the lame fake tailpipes first.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Whatever Happened to BMW's Cool Wheels?

June 24, 2009

Our long-term 7 Series is an official Sport model. With that you would expect some "sporty" wheels, yet our car has nothing but a set of dishless, turbine-style rims that merely blend with the car instead of accentuating it.

On the right is a set of wheels from the 1999 740i Sport. They measure 18-inches in diameter, have a nice deep lip on them and are distinctive without trying too hard. They're an example of BMW's best work when it comes to stock wheels, an area that the company largely ruled throughout the early part of this decade.

It's latest attempts have turned out dull however. I even looked into accessory wheels on BMW's website and they're no better. I wonder who will take up the slack.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 11,128 miles

L, Buy, Abandon

June 26, 2009

Let's play a game. Does the car you've had your eye on rate a short fling with a no-strings-attached ending; is it worth a long-term commitment; or would you leave it by the roadside even if someone handed you the keys? The game is called Lease, Buy, Abandon.

The 7 Series has really come back around, getting away from the bulbous Bangle-butt styling to a cleaner, meaner look. So given your choice between the last three generations, which one would you lease, which would you buy, and which would you bury in the desert?

The E38 7 Series (1995-2001) was clean and swift, and was also the last 7 without iDrive.

The famed E65-68 7 Series got the brunt of a Bangle treatment, and just to kick it while it was down, the woeful first-gen iDrive.

The latest (F01) 7 Series is back in the game with svelte lines, serious stonk and an iDrive setup that works.

Escape Velocity

June 27, 2009

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

Back from SLO

June 28, 2009

After a weekend of strafing vineyards near San Luis Obispo in search of some real-estate info, the 750i carried our foursome back to L.A. in serene, coddling comfort. As a machine designed to shuttle a quartet in rapid solitude, you could do far worse than the 750i. When hustled, the 7 Series seems to shrink and begin imitating its smaller 3- and 5 Series brethren. Mechanical grip is far outside the comfort range of all but the most banzai passengers, and few spouses would leap that bar.

Even the spouses, however, were impressed with the afterburner-like thrust that made for drama free jumps onto Hwy 101, often via on-ramps about as long as a carrier-deck. Even when given the boot, and winding it's turbine-smooth twin-turbo V8 up to redline, full-throttle shifts were delivered swiftly but with a muted touch, preventing any frayed nerves inside the cabin.

Constantly inputting addresses into the nav system while moving from listing to listing, we can probably lay most past criticisms of iDrive to rest. The interface works well and rapidly, with a jog wheel that oozes quality through heft and feel. The graphics are clear and tasteful, and the widescreen display sports some impressive resolution.

Effortlessly hauling four passengers and luggage over the weekend, the 750i managed 18.7 mpg, and ranks as the complete package if you've the portfolio for its heart stopping sticker price. It handles superbly, has rocket-ship thrust, is quiet and extremely comfortable for four adults and sports useful and accessible technology. If you have the means and love to be involved with the car you're driving, this new 7 Series is worth a serious look.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 11,809 miles

Great brakes, SLO-speed touchiness

June 28, 2009

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

Getting the Finger

July 01, 2009

Last night on my commute home, I pulled up to a red light behind a woman in a BMW 3 Series. It's a long light so I looked down to play with the A/C controls for about 6 seconds.

When I looked back up she was waiting for me so I could see she was giving me the finger.

I gestured to her to say "What's your problem?" But she just kept staring daggers at me in the rear view mirror. So, I smile politely and continued singing along with The Who. But I kept trying to think why she was so mad at me. I didn't cut her off. I wasn't driving anywhere near her until I got to the light.

The only thing I can think of is that the brakes on the BMW 750i are very touchy. When I stopped behind her the car jerked a little. If fact, I have a hard time coming to a smooth stop in the 750i even when I try to baby the pedal. I wasn't very close behind her but I think it made her assume I came flying up to the light and slammed on my brakes at the last second.

Or maybe she was just nuts.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Four-place bliss

July 08, 2009

Our 2009 BMW 750i pulled shuttling duty again this weekend, as I'd family in town keen on hitting some of the sights. With as much four-up running as our 750i has had in the past few weeks, you're probably wondering if we're pinning away for the 750iL and it's more capacious back seat.

After last week's run up to San Luis Obispo, I was thrilled to snag the 750i again, as few machines have the sort of impact to impress out of towners. On the San Luis escapade, the 750i's back seat was plenty spacious with front seat passengers setting their perches at a comfortable distance from the dash, but not pushed back into another zip code. With no one in the cabin over six feet, there was plenty of stretch-out room for all.

With my bro (6'2") and nephew (6'0") in town, they were plenty comfy in the back seat with me (5'10") behind the wheel, and my better half (5'4") scooting the passenger perch up just a bit, but still far enough away so that her feet couldn't reach the firewall even if she stretched her legs out. So with an average mix of folk in the car, the 750i is still plenty spacious for all-day tours from Venice Beach up to Hollywood. If your family is all basketball players, you'll want the 750iL, which has stretch out room for all but the lankiest of passengers at every seating position.

Back seat accommodations received high ranks from the Seredynski men, especially the long and wide center armrest divide, which gave my nephew his own throne like-space in which to enjoy to his iPod. The rear windows dive towards the beltline, but the small pane in front of the C-pillar gives excellent outward visibility. They were cheered by the individual climate control stack and heated seats for rear passengers, but after hearing the 750i's price tag, wondered aloud why they didn't get the same super slick cooled seats as the front of the cabin. I tried to explain that those are only available on the 750iL, but there's just no pleasing family...

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor, @ 12,043 miles.

What is that smell?

July 15, 2009

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

Service Items

July 16, 2009

We dropped our 750i off at BMW of Long Beach to address the broken cupholder cover and A-pillar wind noise issue. We couldn't wait 3,000 miles for the arrival of its next service interval.

Our advisor began by plugging the 750i key into his reader. "Oh," our advisor began, "There are three open service campaigns on this vehicle. I don't think we can finish all of the reprogramming today. Can I offer you a loaner vehicle?" I had a carpool buddy waiting outside so there was no need to take him up on the offer. As we parted he added, "I will call you in the morning with an update. I hope to have the cupholder parts in by then too."

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 12,396 miles

The Nose Knows

July 20, 2009

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.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 12,420

The Gentleman function

July 21, 2009

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!

It's that switch to the left on the door. The iDrive display said that the front passenger seat can be adjusted with the controls of the driver's seat once you press that switch.

I have no idea if this is useful.

The movie at the bottom shows it in action, a la David Copperfield, complete with appropriate techo soundtrack courtesy of the sat radio.


It appears that with our 750, chivalry (or sexism?!) is not dead.

Let's hear from our female readers about this (both of you).

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 12,580 miles

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.

The driver's bottom seat cushion has a massage function activated with a door mounted switch to the far right, opposite of the Gentleman function switch.

The sensation is similar to that of a seat's lumbar support, but instead pressing on your booty. But it's a smaller lump than a lumbar, and feels about the size of a racquetball or perhaps a golf ball.

There's no vibation, just the lump that intrudes up into your right cheek, deflates, the feels as if it moves to the left cheek, then deflates. The lump seems to move in a somewhat circular path beneath your tuches, but there is more than one lump.

BMW's website states "Active seats are also available whereby the seat bottom moving up and down intermittently to mobilise (sic) the occupant's muscles around the hips and lumbar spine to prevent any feeling of cramp or fatigue."

Check out this lame video of the rump shaker in action.

I tried the rump massage for a couple of minutes, became annoyed, then turned it off.

I suppose you could use it to keep you alert during a long trip. Or if you were bored.

PS: I'm anticipating that some of you may use the trite term "happy ending" in your comments. Try something original, OK?

Albert Austria Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 12,700 miles

Service Follow-up

July 23, 2009

Last week the 750i went in to Long Beach BMW to address some service items. We were asked to leave the vehicle there for two days because, according to our advisor, their computers were down and it could take some time to perform the three DME updates our 750i required. But when the key was back in our hand it didn't seem like much was done.

Issue 1: A-pillar wind noise at freeway speeds.
Solution: No repairs performed. Technician could not duplicate during test drive.

Issue 2: Cupholder misaligned, causing the lid to pop off when opened or closed.
Solution: Reinstall driver's cupholder with existing parts. Fixed? Brent attempted this once before.

Issue 3: DME reprogramming per TSB.
Solution: Completed.

Issue 4: TCU reprogramming per TSB.
Solution: No repairs performed. This TSB applied only to vehicle distribution centers.

Issue 5: Replace front door handle cables per TSB.
Solution: No repairs performed. Bowden cables special ordered. ETA 2 working days.

We received a phone call yesterday that the door cables arrived. So we'll swing it by the dealership soon to perform the installation.

Total cost: None

Days out of service: 2

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 12,401 miles

Owner's Manual, Etc...

July 27, 2009

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

I'll See You in Florida

July 28, 2009

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

Even More Personalized Drive Settings, Please

July 30, 2009

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

Seat Calibration

July 31, 2009

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.

Here's what the owner's manual — accessible right on the spot with one turn and press of the iDrive knob — had to say about it.

I suppose this is used to ensure the seat memory functions are accurate, but they seemed to work normally.

I obeyed the electronic overlord's prescribed instructions, though, and motored the seat all the way forward and then back to my normal driving position. This seemed to please the machine.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

You Owe Chris Bangle an Apology

August 05, 2009

You owe Chris Bangle an apology.

When the American assumed the leadership of BMW's design group in 1992, BMW chairman Eberhard von Kuenheim and technical director Wolfgang Reitzle asked him to make BMW a leader in design, matching the company's burgeoning success in matters of engineering, marketing prestige and commerce. The world car market was in a recession and BMW had decided that the best way out lay in product excellence.

Bangle and his associates decided that the classic BMW shape had gone about as far as it could since the first 3 Series was introduced in 1976. To their way of thinking, BMW was simply making the same kind of sausage in different lengths, applying a unified design look to every model line in a stodgy Mercedes-like sort of way. Instead Bangle decided to pursue a direction in which each model would have its own unique look, becoming a kind of artistic expression of its own automotive spirit.

And as soon as the 2002 BMW 7 Series appeared, people began to hate Chris Bangle.

They hated the strong new look, especially the unique tail treatment reviled as "Bangle butt" that had been adopted (as Bangle explained) to help keep the dramatically taller car from looking narrow and clumsy. They hated iDrive, the first production application of a console-mounted telematics interface. In fact Time Magazine later named the 2002 BMW 7 Series as one of the 50 worst cars of all time.

The 2009 BMW 750i shows us all just how wrong we were — and not in a good way, either. Even in these BMW photos, this car is boring and formless. It's marketing, not design.

BMW has steadily retreated in its design aspirations since 2002 and it has brought us to this turgid reinterpretation of the 7 Series, which looks as if someone had left a bar of soap in the shower just a little too long. New regulations for pedestrian safety make it difficult to draw the front of any car with any delicacy, but the pronounced schnoz of this car is pretty unpleasant. And the flaccid lines of the rear deck now make the car look narrow and ungainly from the rear, just as Bangle warned us. This is the adaptation of the new 7 Series package to the old pre-2002 sausage and it doesn't work at all.

Chris Bangle led BMW design for almost two decades, and his judgment enformed the design of three generations of the 3 Series, two generations of the 5 Series, two generations of the 7 Series, the return of the 6 Series, the introduction of the Z4 and the 1 Series, and the entry of BMW into the world of sport-utilities with the X Series. Bangle also oversaw much of the Mini project and the renewal of Roll-Royce. Even a cursory examination of cars from designers across the planet reveals design elements taken from cars that Bangle brought to production, notably the Bangle butt of the 7 Series and the controversial flame surfacing of the Z4. No other automotive designer of the recent past has been so influential.

Bangle left BMW last February on his own terms. He wasn't pushed out, but reportedly he could see in the design approved for the 1 Series that BMW was retreating again into being a sausage-maker. And he must have been disappointed in the reaction of so many self-styled design experts in the media who dissed him at every opportunity.

But we were wrong about Chris Bangle. He pursued the kind of excellence that makes BMW such an interesting company, only to discover that most BMW drivers seem more interested in prestige than art. In fact, the whole episode suggests to me that too many BMW drivers might be just as shallow as everyone says, the kind of guys who drive around with their foglights switched on just to remind you that they have foglights and you don't.

A couple weeks ago I spent a dinner in the company of a group of automotive designers who had gathered as the jury for the annual Michelin Challenge Design competition, and it was interesting to hear acknowledgments that their opinion about many of Bangle's design innovations had become thoroughly positive over time.

So Chris Bangle, we apologize. You were way better at the design thing than we recognized. Maybe we've learned that it's a lot easier to draw something that looks the same than it is to draw something that looks new. Maybe we've learned that there's a difference between automotive marketing and automotive art.

Enjoy that farmhouse in Tuscany that you're restoring.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 13,680 miles

An Effective LCD Screen for the Information Age

August 10, 2009

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, Editor in Chief @ 13,625 miles

Pretty Dirty

August 11, 2009

It's not all skidpads, slaloms and smoky burnouts at Inside Line.

We spend an awful lot of time at car washes and gas stations.

The light interior of our BMW 7 Series is starting to show some dirt. The seats are holding up fine but the footwell is showing the grime of dirty soles.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Yup, There's an App for That

August 14, 2009

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).

Just for fun, here's a bonus graph of a Boeing 737 taking off from Atlanta.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 13,881 miles

It's the little things

August 17, 2009

This weekend was the first time I've spent any real time in our long-term 7 Series. I just used it for regular family stuff: grocery-getting, trip to the beach for an evening stroll, visit to grandma's house (not more than a few miles away), dinner out one night. Every time I got into it, though, I'd notice one thing or another that struck me as a really great touch. One such item: four infinitely detentable doors. Sure, it's quite helpful in parking lot situations and it's even a nice safety feature, preventing little (and big) hands from being crushed by a rebounding door. But in practice, the feature operates so smoothly and feels so high-end, it really makes me say, "Wow."

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 13, 949 miles

Auto Hold

August 18, 2009

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...

I'm not sure if it is much of a benefit with an automatic transmission.
Perhaps it's useful on steep hills at stoplights, even with the automatic.

There are several ways to deactivate the Auto Hold (per the onboard owner's manual):
1. Engine is switched off
2. Door is opened and driver's seat belt is unbuckled
3. Vehicle is braked to a standstill with the parking brake while driving (parking brake is set)

I tried the feature and it works fine on level roads, but you do have to overcome a bit of resistance when you try to accelerate.

I didn't try on this feature on any hills and certainly not in stop-and-go traffic.
Has anyone experienced a similar feature in stop-and-go traffic?
Wouldn't you just keep your foot on the brake and transition to throttle?

If you're that inconvenienced you might as well pop for the ACC (adaptive cruise control).

Perhaps I will evaluate the Auto Hold feature on a future road trip to San Francisco.
But probably not while on the 405.

Albert Austria, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 13,900 miles

Starting to Blend In With the Crowd

August 19, 2009

The BMW 7 Series made a bit of a stink in 2002 with its divisive design. From the odd headlights to the monster hump on its trunk, it was a love it or hate it proposition.

It seemed like a mistake at the time, but at least BMW was sure that people were noticing its big sedan. After a mild facelift a few years ago and a full redesign for 2009, I can't help but notice that the big BMW has slowly been watered down to the point of obscurity.

Nobody notices this car, and it's not just the average onlooker. I actually had a guy who was driving a previous 7 Series ask if this was the new car. He couldn't really tell. When I told him it was indeed the new model he just sort of shrugged his shoulders.

Made me glad I'm not a car designer, it's one of the toughest jobs in the business.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 12,984 miles


August 20, 2009

See a dramatic sky, take a picture of a long-term car.

I was really glad to be driving the luxurious BMW 750i this morning. I was feeling a little under the weather and the interior of this BMW is so comfortable and full of little features to brighten my day.

Its seats are sturdy and covered in soft leather. The center storage compart is also covered in plush leather, so after I hooked up my iPod to play soothing morning music, I could rest my arm on its softness when stopped at traffic lights.

I cranked up the seat heaters and floated smoothly to the office.

The BMW 750i helped me ease into my day.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 14,043 miles

My Favorite Setup

August 21, 2009

This is how I like to roll:

iPod playing: check
Air conditioner running: check
Seat heaters on high: check

Does anyone else like to drive with the A/C and seat heaters on at the same time?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 14,083 miles

Back Seat Features

August 24, 2009

I ventured up to Santa Barbara on Saturday to have lunch with my vacationing parents, then ferry them down to LAX afterward. To their pleasant surprise, I showed up in our long-term BMW 750i — a rather significant improvement over the Kia Amanti rental car they'd been tooling around in. Although our long termer isn't the extended wheelbase 750Li, it should come as no surprise that it still managed to provide tons of space (even with the seats set for my 6-foot-3 self and 6-foot Dad).

Here are some of the features they had at their disposal in the back seat of our 750, which includes the Luxury Seating Package (ventilated front seats, power rear and rear-side sunshades, adjustable driver seat bolsters, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel).




1) Every 750i comes standard with quad-zone automatic climate control, which includes rear seat controls that mirror those up front. Thanks to an ALL button (a new feature for BMW), all temperatures can be synced. The Luxury Seating and Climate packages include three-level heated rear seats. Below, you can see the two cigarette lighters and power points.

2) These vents in the B-pillars do a better job of keeping your face cool than the center console ones. It's nice to have both.

3) The rear seat features a huge armrest with a flip-up cubby and slide-out cupholders.




4) The rear windows can be covered with these power screens to keep the sun and paparazzi blocked. My parents don't have the latter problem.

5) The rear screen can be controled from the back or from the driver's window switch area.

6) Both sides of the back seat feature controls for both side screens and rear screen. There's also an ash tray, which you can see in the lower left.

Had we gone with the 750Li, we could have opted for the Luxury Rear Seating Package, which includes multi-adjustable and ventilated rear seats. We also could have had a rear-seat entertainment system on either 750i or Li. Oh well, my folks didn't seem to complain.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 14,879 miles

Tell Me Why I'm Wrong - Road Trip Edition

August 27, 2009

I need a car for a family vacation - Ford Flex is the obvious choice. Or is it...

Yes, the Flex's DVD player is nice, so is the spacious interior and built in cooler. But I chose the BMW 750i. For one thing, I only have two small kids, so a sedan like this is plenty big enough. Here's another good reason I chose the BMW:

I'm driving, I want to be as comfortable as possible - these seats do it. Other reasons I chose the 750: The trip to Sacramento, California takes about 7 hours but we're staying for more than a week - The Flex will be best during those 7 hours but once I get where I'm going, I'd rather have the BMW to pick up friends, go to dinner etc (Freeport Inn here I come). And the final reason I picked the BMW - It's a freaking $90,000 BMW sedan!! Why wouldn't I take it?? I might own a vehicle like the Flex one day, this BMW - probably not.

This trunk is big enough to hold all our luggage and gear, right? We'll see.

Did I make the right choice or will I be sorry?

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor - cresting the Grapevine on I-5.

Plenty of Junk in the Trunk

September 01, 2009

Initially I was worried about taking the 750i on a long trip - As soon as I got the car home, I wondered if maybe I'd opted for fun over practicality - the trunk size was a big worry. With some careful packing I found it is quite spacious and I didn't have to leave anything behind.

This packed trunk includes: 1 very large suitcase, 2 medium sized overnight bags, a large open canvas bag stuffed with swimming gear, a purse sized sundries bag, a messenger bag w/ laptop and various electronics and cables, a smaller canvas bag filled with shoes, 2 kid sized sleeping bags, 2 large pillows, 3/4 size acoustic guitar, a collapsible Razor scooter and a non-collapsible Barbie three wheel scooter. All in all, I'm impressed.

Brian Moody - Chief Luggage Sorter.

15k Miles - Road Trip Edition

September 02, 2009

About 100 miles south of Tracy, California the big BMW hit the 15,000 mile mark. Cruising up Interstate 5, it quickly becomes obvious where this car does its best work. The stop and go traffic plus low and moderate speeds of city driving don't help the 7 Series shine. This car likes extreme drivng, the harder you push it, the better and more natural the responses. Hit the brakes at 30 MPH and they feel grabby and abrupt - brake hard at 80 MPH and everything suddenly makes sense - same principle applies to the car's throttle response.

Every time I enter the freeway, signal for the left lane and leave 18 wheelers and minivans far behind I can't help but think of the Springsteen song Born to Run. This BMW truly is an excellent road trip car. Anyone think there's a better sedan for gobbling up highway miles?

Next time, I'll figure out the car's best MPG.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor @ 15,004 miles

California Road Trip MPG

September 04, 2009

I was all set to write about the big BMW's fuel economy when I noticed something - this is a real nice looking car. Dark blue paint with gray wheels and subtle shiny bits makes it look sleek and powerful. I like the rear end treatment on this version better than the previous 7-Series.

Anyway, here's my fuel economy so far:

Best 20.6 - worst 16.4. The car's on board computer says the vehicle's overall average is 18.6 MPG.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor @ 15,400 miles.

So Long Northern Calif.

September 07, 2009

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:

I will miss the around-the-corner market - this one is in my old Land Park neighborhood in Sacramento. I admit, the 750 looks a little out of place here.

I will NOT miss the big BMW's city manners. Too jerky and abrupt for these conditions. The 750 craves high speed open highways. Driving it gently around town just doesn't work. For that, I'd rather have a Cadillac DTS.

I WILL miss the 750 little touches. Here's the steep driveway I parked on every night while visting my dad. And....

here's how the door never shuts on me or crushes my leg. No matter where you throw the door open, that's where it stays. German Engineering!

I'll also miss the 750's thoughtful tech features. The numbered buttons at the bottom of the picture can store AM, FM and satellite radio presets as well as map scale presets. See how there's a crappy song playing now? Well before you start punching random buttons not knowing where a favorite station is saved, you can lightly touch the button first and it will tell you (on the screen above) which station or map scale is assigned to that button. Tech that makes life easier - thumbs up BMW.

And finally, I will miss the open spaces and local, uh... culture(?) of Northern Calif. Out here you learn two important lessons - 1) some parts of the USA are still calm and uncrowded. 2) The BMW 750i really likes those places.

Brian Moody, Road Warrior @ 15,823 miles.

Tell Me Why I'm Wrong

September 11, 2009

I like the BMW 750i but after spending nearly two weeks with the car I'm beginning to think of it as a very attractive ex-girlfriend - pretty, smart and sophisticated but ultimately not worth the hassle. Here's why -

Like that ex (let's call her Marie) the BMW has a few issues. No, it's not fond of making a scene in public but both the car and the girl sure needed a lot of extra attention. The warning lights alone had me on my toes during a recent family road trip. Here's how it went:

Before leaving, I check all the fluids and tires - everything was fine. 60 miles from home, a warning light comes on "low oil" it says. 12 hours ago it was at max now it's at the minimum mark (you check it via an in-car display). OK, so I stop and get oil - hit the road again. 2 hours later, warning light comes on "low washer fluid." I haven't used the washer fluid since i picked the car up 3 day prior, where did it all go? This one can wait - once I arrive at my dad's house, I drop some washer fluid in, light goes off.

3 days later, warning light comes on "tire pressure low." oooook then. So I check, all the tires are at about 30 lbs - some are at 29.5 one is at 31. The indicator says it's the left front tire - of the four tires, it isn't the lowest. Granted the elevation and temperature is much different than where I live so I air up all the tires anyway - warning light goes off.

4 days later, on Interstate 5 just North of Fresno, the check engine light comes on. C'mon - this is getting old. Plus, despite the check engine light, the vehicle status still says all is "OK." Regular service is due anyway so we're taking to the BMW dealer to see what's up with the light. Still don't know why - service advisor says it's usually emissions related. Yes, I checked the gas cap.

Both the BMW 750i and Marie were great but I can't help but think the trip would have been a little more trouble free had I opted for a the Ford Flex or Hyundai Genesis. Maybe the BMW (but not the girl) is worth the hassle - what do you think? Are the little annoyances worth putting up with in exchange for the 7's power, handling, massaging seats, excellent stereo and impressing the neighbors? I'm leaning toward no.

Brian Moody, chief happy-to-be-home editor @ 15,973 miles.

A Tale of Two Germans

September 16, 2009

Hey 750i — we had a good thing going there for a while. You showed me things I'd never seen before with your sideview cameras. You had this way of making me feel important when I slid behind your wheel. And though I never really got into it, I thought it was really cool that you offered to tenderize my rump roast after a long day at the office.

You were everything I ever wanted in a luxury sedan. But then I met the S550, and it was like someone turned a giant spotlight on your flaws. That rough, herky-jerky attitude you've got when driving me around town? The S550 doesn't have any of that — that baby is smooth, smooth, smooth. Compliant. Acquiescent. Luxurious. And the S550 also has a nicer cabin.

I'll still drive you whenever I can get my greedy little paws on your keys every now and then. But while doing so, I'll probably be thinking of the S550. Mentally comparing you two, and having you fall short.

Just thought you should know. Have a nice day!

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

Free Scheduled Maintenance

September 17, 2009

We spent $0 to service our 2009 BMW 750i thanks to BMW's free scheduled maintenance program. But it cost us 4 days. Can that still be considered free?

Long Beach BMW had a 9am Thursday appointment available and we took it. We arrived on time and the car was pulled inside before we left. On the agenda was its routine service, a check engine light and misaligned hood.

We contacted our advisor at 3pm to learn they couldn't see our car yet. It would stay overnight. And 24 hours later we initiated contact again. "I was just about to call you," our advisor began. "My mechanic won't be able to complete the work today. And he's not in this weekend. Can I get back to you on Monday?"

Monday afternoon the phone rang. The car was ready. Oil, oil filter and microfilters were refreshed. Our check engine light was the result of a leaking gas cap, so it was also replaced. One of the strikers was adjusted to remedy our misaligned hood. And per an open campaign the front door handle Bowden cable was replaced. Should this take 4 days? Would you be satisfied?

Free scheduled maintenance is in the eye of the beholder.

Total Cost: $0

Days out of service: 4

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 15,994 miles

Sorry Officer, I Was Looking At That Billboard

September 18, 2009

Obviously this would have been a better picture if I had been driving our long-term BMW 750i, but I was in our M3 when I stumbled upon this billboard in Westlake Village yesterday about 30 miles north of our Santa Monica office. It's on the west side of the 101 freeway facing northbound traffic.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

2009 BMW 750i

September 21, 2009

It seems our 2009 BMW 750i is the natural choice for road trips. It lays waste to mile after highway-mile effortlessly. This week's installment of the Edmunds Family Vacation takes us to Crystal Cove State Park south of Newport Beach, California. The Park is has a strange and complex history (Native-American habitat, Rancho San Joaquin, the Irvine Co., the burgeoning film industry, Japanese-American farmers, a small, eclectic colony of surfers who built most of what remains, and finally the State of California ownership who refurbished 21 of the original 46 structures), but the public may now reserve one of the cottages--if you've got the determination of a person trying to get a U2 concert ticket with a high-speed internet connection — for about between $65-$350 per night depending on the cabin and the season.

It seems strange that the State owns this ramshackle collection of surf cottages, but the unspoiled views and walks on the beach are there for the public to enjoy; just like they did in their heyday of the '40s and '50s.

You'll notice there's not single photo of the car because there's no vehicle traffic allowed in the Park and you must park on the East side of Pacific Coast Highway and hoof it to your cabin. They do offer a bellman service for your luggage, however.

What I will say about the car is that I'll echo the entire staff's sentiment that the marrying of awkward throttle mapping and busy transmission calibration do not make for a seamless experience in Friday bumper-to-bumper traffic — where I believe I achieved the worst fuel economy to date with an agonizing 7.7 mpg from Fullerton to Crystal Cove.

Click below to get a rough idea of what the cabins look like prior to and just after the renovations. Bummer the sun didn't burn through until we were leaving the next day.

The next installment will be the Paso Robles wine country and a day tour of J. Lohr winery.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 16,150 miles

Yet Another Road Trip (part II)

September 22, 2009

Yep, those are Cabernet Sauvignon grapes — about a month away from being harvested. The second part of our Summer Road Trip took us about 250 miles north to Paso Robles for a tour of the wine country (again). We're "members" of the J. Lohr winery who invited us up to learn a few things about harvesting and blending Rhone-style wines, but not from those Cabernet grapes. Click through if you care.

This here is a (surprise) French-made Pellenc wine harvester. When you've got a day to three days to get all of the grapes off the vines, hand-harvesting is a thing of the past. This crazy machine literally straddles a row of vines, shakes only the ripe fruit from the vines (leaving raisins and green grapes behind), and conveys them to a two-ton hopper a row away that takes them to a waiting truck.

Those plastic hoops vibrate the grapes away from the plant and they drop to the floor and are moved along the conveyors. How 'bout them tarz (480/70R28)!

More harvesting in progress...

...and of course the fermenting, aging, and finally blending. We were given the opportunity to make our own "GSM" (Grenache Syrah Mourvedre) Rhone blend. It wasn't as good as J. Lohr's, and it wasn't pretty either.

The good news is that the 750i now achieved a more respectable 19.3 mpg on the 362 miles we piled on getting to Paso Robles.

Next up: Picking apples in See Canyon...

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 16,550 miles

Pedaling to Work

September 23, 2009

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

Yet Another Road Trip (part III)

September 23, 2009

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.

There was a time in See Canyon when picking your own basket of apples was the only way to purchase said tree-ripened fresh, apples, but it's getting harder to find orchards that will even let you do that now. We found one small family-owned orchard that still will (if you've got an apple-pickin' escort), but most cite liability issues and lawyers as reasons that all-American tradition is dying. What's this world coming to?

Anyway, the 750i again was a worthy road-going luxo-cruiser. Here's a list of things nearly every staffer has already blogged about, to which I add my votes:

Good Things

It certainly goes like stink when you put the spurs to it. The Comfort setup is appropriately named (at cruising speeds - more on this below).

The new iDrive is so much better that BMW should've called it something else.

Three-zone HVAC plus heated/ventilated seats is the key to family harmony.

Actually earns decent fuel economy with cruise control set to "something above" 70-mph.

Bad Things

That whole bog-'n'-burn throttle tip-in (especially in Comfort mode) might be a deal breaker if I were considering this car, at this price.

The trunk might also be a tad too small for the size/class of this car.

No Comfort Access seems like more than a simple oversight (should be standard on a 750i).

Same goes for real-time tire-pressure display with tire locations. Why isn't it standard?

I'd probably not order light carpet (due to propensity to get dirty quickly).

I'd probably not order a light colored dash pad (due to glare on the windshield)

Final fuel tally turned out to be rather impressive considering the twin-turbo V8 that drives this thing: 721.1 miles traveled with 35.748 gallons of premium fuel consumed = 20.2 mpg.

I'm glad we chose this car for our trip, but I think I'd try something else next time. Sure, it was comfy, rapid, and impressed the neighbors, but there were a couple times when the car threw-up an error on the dash. One concerning a power steering "failure" had self-resolved by the time I got the camera out. Ghost in the machine? And after reading Brian's post, I can't help but worry that I might get stranded a very long way from a BMW Service Center one day. With so many electronic gadgets, there's something very uncompromisingly neat about all the tech in this car, but there's also something very spooky, too.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 16,830 miles

Power Makes It A-OK

September 24, 2009

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

Homecoming Wheels

September 28, 2009

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

Don't Touch Me, I'm Driving

October 01, 2009

Our 2009 BMW 750i has seat massagers! Score! I couldn't wait to try them out as rarely am I ever in a car with seat massagers. So luxurious! And, yes, I've read Al's post on the "rump shaker" but wanted to check it out for myself. I love seat heaters. I'd love having my backside massaged, too, right?

Wrong. It's so distracting trying to drive when there's a small ball moving around on my butt cheeks, sometimes even lifting me up. It almost felt like I was rocking back and forth on a boat. After several minutes of that, I turned it off. But then the small ball stopped in an uncomfortable spot so I turned it on again until it moved elsewhere. But I felt that ball regardless of where it moved. So I just turned it off in the least annoying spot. Cool thing was that after awhile in the off position the ball got absorbed back into the seat. Neat.

This seat massager reminded me of the chair massagers my dad used to have an affinity for when I was growing up. So relaxing when kicking back in front of the TV with a TV dinner and beer. But when you're out on the road? That's no time to relax! Maybe when you're sitting in the car waiting at the curb for your kids to get out of school or something like that but I don't see using it while commuting to work. Especially when you're like me: the type to fall asleep during a massage.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 18,282 miles

Limo Duty

October 05, 2009

I'm not really that into outlet shopping but my girlfriends talked me into taking a trip up to the Camarillo outlet mall.

As usual, I was the designated driver because of my car choices. Actually, one of my friends doesn't even have a driver license. She grew up in New York City and never needed nor bothered to get one.

So, I showed up on Saturday with the roomy and luxurious 2009 BMW 7 Series. My friends couldn't be more pleased. From its soft, quiet ride, to the individual climate controls and heated seats, to the navigation system with traffic notices, to the entertainment features, the BMW served us well. Driving can be a little numbing but the 7 Series is a great passenger car.

As Ed mentioned in his M3 post, iDrive is no longer a hassle. It is much improved and actually easy to use and extremely helpful.

As you can see from the photo, we shopped 'til we dropped. The BMW 750i's 17.7 cu-ft trunk swallowed our packages with room to spare.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 18,513 miles

Returning to its Spiritual Home

October 08, 2009

The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena is arguably the world's leading automotive design school. So when I was invited to participate in a class, the first consideration was not what am I going to wear, but what am I going to drive? After all, I'm going to be talking with tomorrow's design leaders.

Of all the cars in the Inside Line fleet, the 2009 BMW 750i seemed the most logical, given that the last two BMW design chiefs were Art Center graduates: Chris Bangle ('81) and current head of design Adrian van Hooydonk ('92). (Maybe this was why there was a reserved, curbside parking spot for me when I arrived?)

While BMW was not the focus of the outside class, the Bimmer's stance gradually sucked in the attention of the designers-in-waiting. They walked around, peered inside the cabin and one gently traced the lines of the hood with his finger, for added sensory training. Either that or it was a not-so-subtle reminder to head to the car wash next.

Class instructor David O'Connell, former head of Mitsubishi Motors Design, abandoned his lesson plan and joined his students, as did Stewart Reed, the school's chair of transportation design, for an impromptu walk-around.

Nearly two hours passed while the car was inspected from headlamps to lip spoiler. Finally, it was time to say good bye. Pulling out of the tree-lined hillside campus, I couldn't help but sense that Art Center is the 750i's spiritual home.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @18,669 miles

Jacket Required

October 13, 2009

There is a thing here in LA, that I'm sure is not unique to the Southland, called Dine LA. Basically a bunch of restaurants, typically nice places, have a prix fixe menu at a somewhat lowered cost. My girlfriend is really into the festival and we try a few places every year.

When she told me we were going to a steak place on Sunset Boulevard, I thought of her run down Jetta with a broken headlight and squeaky death trap brakes. "I'll drive. I insist."

If you knew me, you'd know I have no business driving a car such as the 750i. I don't shave everyday, I get dirty all the time being a photographer and I dress down accordingly. But in a weird twist of fate, looking like I rolled out of bed at 3 in the afternoon and dressing kinda sloppy works in the Hollywood crowd. Especially when you mix in a 7-Series.

"FANCY!" exclaimed my girlfriend as we approached the car heading out for dinner. No doubt it is. The sumptuous leather, nicely polished wood and uber-comfortable seats are worlds above my means. As a cherry on top of this luxury sundae is a meaty engine that can deliver when called for. It was going to be a fun night out on Sunset Boulevard.

When we got to the restaurant, I was glad I insisted on taking the BMW over my girlfriends' car. In front of the place was parked a Phantom, a 911 Turbo and a murdered Quattroporte. Our 7-Series gave us a hallpass. This place was oozing with haute culture. There were men in $3k suits and women in cocktail dresses wearing sunglasses. At night.

Then we two comparative hillbillies walked in. They spot us for who we are right away and seat us next to the kitchen door. I enjoyed our dinner, but I all honesty I didn't need the organic Hungarian Beet Mustard and a micro-greens salad with my steak. I just wanted a good steak. I was ready to go before the check arrived.

On the way back to my place, I knew this car didn't suit me. It's not what this car represents that bothers me, because honestly I could care less. What it offers is almost completely wasted on me. I can appreciate it for what it is, but I don't need rich Corinthian leather or fancy wood. If I had a choice between a Tacoma and the 750i, I'd take the Tacoma without hesitation.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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

Has This Ever Happened to You?

October 22, 2009

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

Door Ding Hell

October 27, 2009

Just look at that nasty door ding in the passenger side rear door of our long-term 2009 BMW 750i. I'd give anything to know the name of the careless, disrespectful, narcissistic, repugnant sociopath that did it.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 19,621 miles

Heated Seats and Steering Wheel

October 29, 2009

This morning it was a bitter 56 degrees Fahrenheit in Santa Monica, but I survived the wintry turn thanks to the heated driver's seat and heated steering wheel of our long-term 2009 BMW 750i.

The car's three-level bun warmers worked like a charm, defrosting my bod just enough without causing sweaty back syndrome, even on the highest setting.

Even more impressive was the performance of the BMW's heated steering wheel, which kept my digits toasty without a single inconsistency of temperature. No hot or cool spots here, just the right amount of heat for the extreme conditions.

All of the above may seem trivial, but if you use as many different heated seats and wheels in as many different cars as we do here at Inside Line you learn that all heated seats and wheels are not created equal.

After this morning's cold front, I give the the BMW's heated accomodations high marks for BTU output, heat consistency across surfaces and quick warm up.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 19,652 miles

The Run to Vegas

October 30, 2009

Our coverage of the SEMA Show has already hit full stride, but the show itself takes place next week in Las Vegas. And flying to Las Vegas from Los Angeles is never an option for those of us that love to drive. It's a 295 mile run through the desert if you stay on the interstate, but there are more than a few detours (great roads, great scenery) that are worth the extra time and miles.

I leave for Vegas on Monday and this year my chosen stead is our long-term 2009 BMW 750i (Last year I drove our long-term Cadillac CTS and the year before that I took our long-term Infiniti G35.). I've already thrown our Escort radar detector in the BMW's glovebox, so I'm sure not to forget it, and as you can see I already plugged Vegas into the car's nav system.

I'll let you know how it goes next week.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Tale of Two Flat Tires

October 30, 2009

Getting two flat tires in a single trip takes some luck, and getting two flat tires within 25 minutes takes some skill. But when the tire we're discussing is the same tire...well, I'm not sure what that takes. Maybe it's just a matter of acknowledging a greater power really wanted that tire to be flat!

Or at least as flat as our long-term BMW 750i's run-flat tires can be.

It all started with a random lane change on the 101 freeway. Halfway through it I spotted road debris but I had no real option to avoid it without massive steering input at roughly 65 mph. It looked like nothing more than a blue party streamer, so I didn't think it deserved drastic or dangerous action on my part.


"Hmm, that seemed loud for a paper streamer..."

About 10 minutes later I heard a "DING" and the LCD screen lit up with the first message above. I figured it was more than just a paper streamer I had hit with my right front tire. But at that point I was on Malibu Canyon Road with no where to stop, plus I knew the BMW 750i had run-flats so I figured I'd get to PCH and stop at a gas station.

Once parked it didn't take long to spot the problem. In fact, a good chunk of the blue streamer remained with the tire, conveniently marking the nail's location. And once again, between the run-flat sidewall and the lack of any obvious signs of air loss (no squished sidewall or scary sounds, vibrations or pulls from behind the wheel) it seemed a no-brainer to continue on and stop at Stokes Tire Pros in Santa Monica for a simple patch. I even called ahead and told them I would be there in 15 minutes.

Probably about 45 seconds after hanging up, while heading south on PCH behind a large truck (I was staying in the slow lane and keeping it under 45, just to be safe) I spotted a massive pothole just as it slipped out from under the truck before disappearing under the BMW. It was on the right side. Lined up perfectly with...


The right front tire, already confirmed to be carrying a nail and rolling on low tire pressure according to the 750i's gauge cluster, slammed into said pothole.

This was immediately followed by a definite sound, vibration and pull coming from the right side of the car. I uttered several inappropriate words and pulled into another gas station to see if there was any visible change in the tire's condition. The now-drooping sidewall was easy to spot, but a closer examination revealed the new issue with the tire.

I've rarely seen a tear this large in a sidewall, and I've never seen one like this in a run-flat tire. I'll probably never know if the pothole would have done this to any tire, or if it was a combination of the existing low tire pressure and the impact that ripped this hole in the 245/45R19 Goodyear Excellence.

I still made it to Stokes (about 10 miles away), but I was now using the flashers and staying under 30 mph. They had to special order the tire, but they had it installed by mid-afternoon. They also gave the car a four-wheel alignment, something I suggested given the severe impact and clear evidence of force traveling through the car's right-side front suspension.

Final bill: $473.62.

I now have a new appreciation for the capabilities of both run-flat tires and potholes.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief @ 19,730 miles

20,000 Miles Old

November 02, 2009

I'm not sure what's more shocking, the fact that our long-term 2009 BMW 750i blew through the 20,000-mile mark today or how disgustingly dusty its gauges are.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 20,012 miles

Feels Good at 120 MPH

November 03, 2009

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

Welcome To Nevada

November 06, 2009

You learn a lot about a car between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Most of your time is spent on Interstate 15 banging through the set of the Road Warrior. It's a wonderful drive to clear the head and education yourself about a vehicle's rights and wrongs. Basically, it's a 600 mile (300 miles each way) run with nothing to do except nit pick your ride.

Here's what I learned about our long-term 2009 BMW 750i, there are ten.

1) It can travel more than 400 miles on a tank of Premium.

2) Its driver's seat is comfortable for atleast 300 miles.

3) Its steering wheel mounted cruise control controls are very intuitive. I especially like the thumb wheel used to dial your speed up or down.

4) The BMW's navigation system is easy to program and never seems to think you're someplace you're not.

5) It likes to go fast. So I'm told.

6) There's still a little too much surface vibration in the big sedan's ride (probably due to our combination of a Sport Package and run-flat rubber), but not enough to keep me from driving it for the next week.

7) Its engine and transmission are from the engine and transmission Gods. This car's twin-turbo V8 is its absolute best feature.

8) Its headlamps are some of the best in the world. It's dark out there in the dessert.

9) You can use the seat heaters and air conditioned seat function at the same time. Not sure why.

10) All the numbers on its dashboard add up to 4,407. (Don't check.)

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

20 Miles Plus on Zero Range

November 09, 2009

This weekend I learned three more things about our long-term 2009 BMW 750i.

First I learned that its fuel range read out will click all the way down to "Range 1 miles". Then I learned that if you keep driving it will count down to zero. But instead of "Range 0 miles" the readout changes to "Range ---- miles" (pictured above).

And the third thing I learned is that if you're really stupid and really stubborn you can continue to drive the car at least 20 miles in the city beyond that zero range mark.

You haven't lived until you've entered a crowded drive-thru line 15 miles into driving with zero range. That, my friends, is a rush.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 20,486 miles

Chime In

November 11, 2009

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?

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

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Ate My Skirt

November 12, 2009

See that front piece on the seat in the BMW 750i? It's power-adjustable to accommodate long and short legs.

When I took over the car from Scott the other night, I needed to adjust the seat for comfort. His legs are longer than mine.

As I pushed the button to close up the front of the seat, it started to swallow up the material of my skirt. Oops!

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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

The Ultimate Luxury

November 30, 2009

The ultimate luxury during cross-country motoring is not having to go the gas station. Sure, you want to take a break during a long drive, but trying to fight your way to the pumps through a horde of minivans on a Thanksgiving weekend is not for those who value the structural integrity of their sheetmetal.

Say what you will about the relative merits of its fuel efficiency, but the 21.7-gallon fuel tank of the BMW 750i took me 459.3 miles before the reserve light finally forced me to the gas station. And for that I'm thankful. It was desperate enough just to be out amongst the civilians on the Interstate during my trip to Phoenix and back.

Sometimes it's all about cruising range, and that's what a big car does best.

Of course, if every gas station looked as good as this 1958 design for Shell by Meusburger and Ramersdorfer that you can still see in Goetzis, Austria, I might be going there more often.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 22,396 miles.

Technology Quirks and Quibbles

December 06, 2009

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).

Why is there a USB Port in the Glovebox?

Speaking of missing options, our long-term 7 Series has no USB port in the center console for listening to external music players (ala iPod/iPhone), but it does have a USB port in the glovebox. Why?

Because this port can be used to upload information to the car's computer, including a driver profile and music stored on a jump drive. In theory you can have one BMW all set up just the way you like it and then export those settings to a jump drive. Slide said drive into another BMW's USB port and import the settings so you don't have to start from scratch on the new Bimmer's plethora of adjustments via iDrive.

I say "in theory" because I could not get our car's USB port to recognize anything I plugged into it. I put some songs on a jump drive to try uploading them into the car's music hard drive but it wouldn't recognize the drive. You're also supposed to be able to upload music from a music player, but it also wouldn't recognize my iPhone when I plugged it into the port. I know the port works because it will charge my iPhone when it's plugged in. It's ironic because the owner's manual says not to use this USB port to charge devices, but that's the only thing it did seem capable of doing.

Let 'er Rip!

Thankfully, the USB port isn't the only pathway to the 750i's music hard drive. You can also rip CD's the old fashioned way. Just put one in the CD slot and scroll to the "Store in vehicle" option. This method worked as advertised in the owner's manual, ripping CD's to the car's 12 gig hard drive in about 2 minutes per song. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Cars Greatest Hits took approximately 10 minutes (those are densely packed CDs), while Rush's Hold Your Fire (with eight songs) took 5.

Auto Up Windows, but only when Door is Shut

One last technology quirk I noticed while playing around with the BMW 750i — the auto-up windows only work when the doors are shut. At first I thought the driver's window was broken, as it would lower with a single push but I had to hold it to make the window close. All the other windows were working both directions so I made a note to have this looked at. Then I shut the driver's door and happened to try again. It worked fine. Not sure where this programming comes from, but if you happen to have you BMW's doors open and the windows won't auto up, don't panic.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief @ 22,930 miles

Gimme Shelter

December 08, 2009

Last night in my sleepy beach community, we were rocked with high winds after a day of rain. Of course, the day before I had put up my outdoor Christmas decorations. I found them all over my lawn when I got home. It was also trash night and the containers were tossed all over the street. Part of my next door neighbor's roof was in my yard.

The funny thing was, that I didn't realize how windy it was while I was driving home. There were some traffic lights out in my neighborhood and I wondered about that. But I felt no tugging on the car. And I didn't hear anything. It was only when I pulled onto my street and saw the mess that I noticed it was windy. And it wasn't until I opened the car door that I realized how severe it was.

Our luxurious 7 Series kept it all away from me. My commute home was rather peaceful and toasty.

This video is very dark. It was late and the moon was nowhere in sight. But it's the sound that I wanted to capture anyway. I drove to the beach and recorded with the window up, then I put it down so you can hear the crazy wind and turbulent ocean waves, then up again so you can hear how well the BMW 750i keeps you insulated. The window goes down and up twice. So, turn up your speakers and be glad you were safely in your home last night.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Power Steering Groan

December 15, 2009

I spent the past couple of days in our 2009 BMW 750i. Sounds to me like the power steering pump is on its way out. Fluid levels are up to spec. And there aren't any visible signs of leakage. But it's groaning louder than I remember, even with minimal steering input. We're going to see what the dealer has to say.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 23,000 miles

Are You Sirius?

December 17, 2009

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.


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

Instrument Panel Color Change

January 06, 2010

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.


January 17, 2010

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

What Does That Dot Mean?

January 18, 2010

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

Open Thread

January 19, 2010

What do you want to know about the 2009 BMW 750i that you don't already know?

Have you driven one? Seen any on the road? Write us a review.

Are there any pictures or videos you want us to take?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Lights My Fire, Three Times

January 19, 2010

Gotta love the Germans. Decent cupholders are still a struggle, but our long-term 2009 BMW 750i has three cigarette lighters onboard; one up front and two on the back of the center console just inches apart from each other.

Name me another car that has two cigarette lighters that close together. Heck, name me another car with three lighters.

Hey, Wolfgang, enough with the fire, give me someplace to put my Big Gulp.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 24,619 miles

Go Jets

January 20, 2010

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.

Plus, in the German sedan tradition, this thing has an awesome set of wipers. Visibility was simply not a problem, even during the more severe downpours. And the rain sensors always chose the right speed for the wipers. This is rare. In many cars they're often too slow and allow too much water buildup before they activate, or they go wild after just a drop or two.

The 750i isn't perfect, but when the sky opens it's pretty damn close.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Sporty Wheel, Sporty Feel

January 20, 2010

Like my high school pal, The Game, I like big cars. Actually, big sedans.

The BMW 750 is probably the sportiest of the big luxury sedans. Contributing to this is the small diameter steering wheel. It feels much smaller than the steering wheels on the Benz S-Class and the Lexus LS.

I measured our long-term 2009 BMW 750i's steering wheel and got 380 x 370 mm (they're not round, you know, but slightly oval-shaped.) Compare this to our long-term BMW M3 sports sedan, which I measured at 365 x 360 mm, more circular, but not much smaller than the 7.

Large sedans have large steering wheels so the driver doesn't become cramped and uncomfortable on long drives. But the wheel on our 7-series is never uncomfortable.

I like big cars. And for me, the 750's steering wheel is the perfect size, even for a big car.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 24,650 miles

The Trunk of a Crossover?

January 21, 2010

Our 2009 BMW 750i has a meager 14.0-cubic-foot trunk capacity and a ski pass-through, but no folding seat. So you might think our sedan is pretty useless for hauling compared to most luxury crossover SUVs and the emerging population of luxury hatchbacks (5 Series Gran Turismo, Audi A7).

Today, though, I got out my tape measure and, unofficially, found the 750i's trunk competitive with the cargo bay of a 550i GT I measured recently.

This isn't that surprising, mind you, given that the Gran Turismo has only a 15-cubic-foot bay until you fold its reat seats (--> 60 cubic feet). But I think it's a relevant comparison, given that the two cars share the same platform architecture and have nearly the same wheelbase (120.9 vs. 120.7), the same track width (63.4 front, 65.1 rear), and the same overall width (74.9). Our 750i is 3 inches longer overall — 199.8 inches. Also, BMW is targeting a similar buyer with these cars... the difference might come down to a Labrador.

Here are the numbers. For width, I'm giving you a range from the narrowest point to the widest. And for height, it's the lowest-clearance point to the highest.

750i 550i GT

Liftover height, in. 27 27 3/4
Depth of trunk/bay, in. 43 3/4 36
Width of trunk/bay, in. 31 — 54 40 3/4 — 52 3/4
Height of trunk/bay, in. 19 1/4 — 20 1/4 13 — 26 3/4

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Washer Fluid Low

January 22, 2010

What? — another one? Our long-term 2009 BMW 750 has been asking for windshield washer fluid for a few days now. It reminds you with this telltale and an annoying chime on each startup.

Because I love to add washer fluid to our test cars and am experienced in such matters, I added a half gallon to our 7-series this morning.

You can see in the bottom pic that the filler neck (which snakes below the shock tower brace) is translucent and not opaque as on our long-term BMW M3, so you can see the overflow coming.

I hardly use the windshield washer fluid, using it only to clear dried roadsalt — and that was in Michigan and not in LA. But others here, I suppose, don't like dust and dirt on the windshield.

I'll save the other half gallon for the next test car.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 24,500 miles

Oh So Nice

January 22, 2010

If you don't always have the chance to sit in a 750i and just check out the details, I hope this helps:

(May require a download from Microsoft to work. Works with IE only)

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 24,156 miles

Navigation in HD

January 25, 2010

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

Which Trunk Capacity Figure Is Correct?

January 28, 2010

Last week I mentioned that our long-term 2009 BMW 750i has a 14-cubic-foot trunk. Then, vvk observed that my number was wrong, writing that the correct capacity is 17.7 cubic feet. I've seen this latter figure in a number of sources as well, so I wasn't sure which to trust.

So I asked a long-time friend in the BMW product communications department. Here's what he told me:

"We use the SAE 1100 standard for US trunk volumes. In the case of the 7 Series, it's 14 cu. ft. In Europe, the volume is listed as 500 liters, which translates to 17.7 cu. ft., so it's quite possible that you've seen both."

So there it is. 14 cubic feet. But it looks like so much more.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Engine Oil Level at Minimum!

February 01, 2010

I won the vehicle service telltale lottery once again: I got a warning in the meter cluster that our long-term 2009 BMW 750 was low on oil. Instead of popping the hood, I checked the level through the iDrive display (above).

I checked what type of oil to add, again through the iDrive — and got little info.
Looking in the paper book, it said SAE 0W-40, 0W-30, 5W-40, and 5W-30. But it didn't specify mineral or synthetic.

I remembered that new BMWs take fancy BMW-branded synthetic, so I picked up a quart of Mobil 1
5W-20 ($7) at Target, because that was the only Mobil 1 viscosity on the shelf.

Why Target? Because I'm in West LA and have no idea where the auto parts stores are near me.

And surprisingly, I actually had to open the hood to dump the oil in: there's no where to add oil through the iDrive.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 25,205 miles

25,000 Miles

February 02, 2010

The 7 Series has been in our long-term fleet for less than a year's time, and we've already passed 25,000 miles. We've taken it on road trips to San Luis Obispo, New Mexico, Sacramento, a multi-leg sojourn to Newport Beach, Paso Robles and See Canyon, and Las Vegas.

Happy 25K, Mr. 7.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor,


February 08, 2010

Oh yeah, the BMW 750i also has a heated steering wheel. Of course, it does. I'm surprised it doesn't have a latte machine in the dash.

Heated steering wheels are a feature I never paid attention to before I tried it in our Dodge Ram. Now, it's my new favorite thing. The BMW 750i's heated steering wheel is subtler than the Ram's but still cozy.

I was on the road early this morning and really wanted to pull over, rest my face on the steering wheel and take a nap.

Do you think heated seats and steering wheels would put you to sleep on a long road trip?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 25,324 miles

Tiny Outer Mirrors

February 10, 2010

As regular readers may know, I love our long-term 2009 BMW 750.
I even prefer it to our long-term M3, but I'll write that post another day.

One thing I don't like about our 750 (besides the engine accessory drive noise, wind noise, and throttle hesitation, then surge) is the outer mirrors. They're tiny.

I suppose this was done in the name of styling, because from the outside those mirrors don't look too small.

This is one car that would benefit from a blind spot detection system.

Turn my head? Yeah, I do that too.

But good mirrors and a proper blind spot detection system can also be helpful.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 25,400 miles

A Case for Dark Interiors

February 18, 2010

This is what the back of the driver's seat in our 750i looks like. Before I was a parent this sort of thing would infuriate me. Parenting, however, has a way of tempering one's demeanor. Now instead of being angry at the rugrats who I'm certain made this mess, I simply wish our BMW had a dark interior. In fact, shouldn't all our cars have dark interiors?

More examples after the jump...

This is innocent enough. Everyone occasionally drags their clodhoppers across the door as they climb out. But a giant black mark? Really?

Same deal here. Tan plastics and carpet just aren't up to the wear and tear we put on our cars. I'd go so far as to argue that they also aren't up to the wear and tear I put on my personal car. Give me a dark interior any day over this.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Triple Turn Signal

February 19, 2010

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

Thwack, Thwack, Thwack, Thwack

February 22, 2010

This is what the left rear tire on our 750i looked like this morning after delaminating while rolling down the 405 freeway. Yes, those are cords.

Not a chance these two things are related.

We're replacing the tire.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Tire Replacement

February 23, 2010

We ordered up a replacement tire for our 2009 BMW 750i after Josh broke it yesterday. Our local Santa Monica shop, Stokes Tire Pros, needed a day to secure the 275/40R19 Goodyear Excellence runflat.

This morning we drove over, swapped our corded mess for an inflatable tire and were on our way in about an hour. After tire disposal and installation we spent under 400 bucks, which was cheaper than the dealership wanted for rubber alone.

Total Cost: $395.74

Days Out of Service: 1

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 26,808 miles

Exhaust Me

February 23, 2010

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

Tire Replacement. Again.

February 26, 2010

Less than two miles passed after having replaced a rear tire before ^this^ happened. It wasn't a big pothole, in fact I barely noticed it, but it was big enough and placed perfectly enough to cause the bubble/tear/mouth shown above. Sigh.

A new Goodyear Excellence, size 245/45R19 took a full day and a half for Stokes here in Santa Monica to procure, and cost $367.22 installed.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 26,816 miles

Who Has the Better Butt?

March 04, 2010

Last night I parked next to an older BMW 7 Series, and couldn't resist taking this quick shot of the two big Bimmers side-by-side.

Personally, I love the styling of our 2009 750i. Although I think the other car is still handsome as well.

Do you prefer the old or new?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 27,036 miles

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

March 08, 2010

It had already been 9 whole days since our last flat in the 7 Series, so we were due, I guess. It had rained a bit since then, too, so fresh potholes were just waiting to ruin yet another run-flat tire.

This is in the front driver side tire. It measures about 3.25 inches, but it isn't nearly as spectacular as some of our other recent blowouts in this car. Time to limp it back to Stokes. I'm sure they've been missing us.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor,, @ 27,238 miles

Check Engine Light

March 11, 2010

Somewhere in between buying new tires for our 2009 BMW 750i, the check engine light clicked on. We tried the simplest fix first. Run the onboard diagnostic check through iDrive. Everything checked out fine there, but the light was still on. So we tried the second simplest fix. Unscrew the fuel cap, screw it back on and drive 10-15 miles. No dice. So we drove to Santa Monica BMW.

DME fault code 190302 was to blame for the light. And the fix was documented in service information bulletin B12 28 09. Per the bulletin, the tech tested for a DMTL system (emissions) leak. When he found no leak, the code was cleared and order restored. It sounds like the fuel cap was the problem after all. Our adjustment fixed the fault but just didn't clear the code.

While we were there the dealer performed campaign B11 09 09, which involved removing the drive belt guard bracket. Now we're back on the road and back to hunting potholes.

Total Cost: $0

Days out of service: 1

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 26,968 miles

Steering Feel that's NOT BMW-like

March 11, 2010

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, Editor in Chief at 27,340 miles


March 12, 2010

Two days out of service (Thanks, Bryn.) and one, $297.72 (shipped) 245/45R19 Goodyear Excellence run flat from Tirerack, we're back in business.

Stokes, as well as four local BMW dealerships, were out of stock on this tire and wanted a week to get one. Tirerack had just a few left and we had it in hand the next day. Our guys at Stokes charged us $27.25 for install and disposal.

Total: $324.97

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 27,248 miles

Skimpy Storage Options

March 15, 2010

I have big sunglasses.

They come in a ridiculously big, white case.

But should the ridiculously big, white case not be able to find a safe storage spot in a big car like the BMW 7 Series?

Won't fit in the center console. Won't fit in the door pocket. Will fit in the glovebox, but still nudges the case when I close the lid.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 27,566 miles

Enough Trunk Space for Just About Anything

March 16, 2010

Would you look at the size of that trunk? I mean, that sucker is huge. Maybe it's just the petite size of the girls clothes that News Editor Toepke left in the trunk, but still there's clearly room to spare in there.

Now, there are still some problems. I mean, there are small cargo nets on the sides, but what about stuff that's loose in the middle? Where the net for that?

And the liftover height isn't all that low. The lid doesn't close on its own either. Petty quibbles maybe, but this is a $90K car, shouldn't have to ask for anything at that price.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 27,579 miles

Exxon Valdez

March 19, 2010

You don't usually think of a BMW 750i as some kind of an mpg solution, but a trip to Phoenix and back reminded me that it's brilliant for long distance cruising. You just sail right by gas stations, laughing all the way.

This is what happens when you're driving a car with a fuel tank that holds 21.7 gallons. You might not have mpg, but a least you've got cruising range. Of course, there were times when I felt like the wacky Dennis Hopper character in the post-apocalyptic Waterworld, hoarding fuel oil in the Exxon Valdez, the world's last supertanker. (It's since renamed many times in the wake of its notorious oil spill in 1989 and is now doing business as the Dong Fang Ocean).

Did the 425.4 miles on the way over on one tank and then did the 423.4 miles on the way back on one tank. Just drove with traffic, which was 80 mph depending on the location of the photo radar setups in Arizona. Got 24.7 mpg, which is not so bad (actually a record in this car, which invites exhibitions of speed every second). If you program your destination into the navigation system, the graphic at the bottom of the instrument binnacle that shows your cruising range will also plot your destination mileage, so you know if you'll have to stop for gas before you get there.

Of course, any sane person would stop at least once during such a distance anyway, but the BMW keeps you from being tethered to all the usual Interstate off-ramps where drivers are searching for fuel. I've made the Phoenix trip on holiday weekends and getting stuck in some bad gas station in Blythe for 25 minutes is not fun.

When you're driving this car, you'll never having to eat again at some franchise fast-food place in back of the gas station. Instead you can risk being poisoned at Farmer Jack's Bar-B-Q and Methane Gas Emporium, and who wouldn't want that?

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 26,000 miles

Widescreen Review

March 22, 2010

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.

Unlike other systems that categorize road type by color (black for surface streets, red for interstates, etc.), the BMW display keeps all roads white, making it more difficult to anticipate where freeways morph into surface streets. It does however, have excellent interstate markers, and the white street color with thin black borders allows it to break down complex interchanges with exceptional clarity. This large BMW screen is just a preview of things to come, as more of the dash itself is quickly headed towards customizable displays.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 27,825 miles

We Go to Alice's Restaurant

March 30, 2010

Another exercise in distance driving and found myself again with the BMW 750i in my driveway with about 1000 miles over the weekend in front of me. You can't help but look at the thing and wonder if there's too much car here to have much fun, all 199.8 inches of it from tip to tail and 4,599 pounds.

Then you throw the roller, the laptop, and the helmet bag into the trunk and you realize there's some benefit to be found in 14.0 cubic feet of trunk volume.

Pound up Interstate 5, skipping over the crests of the overused concrete slaps, and then you're happy to have 120.9 inches of wheelbase to sting the sting out of the concrete chop. Plus you instinctively reach for the switch on the center console to get the comfort calibration for the chassis setup, something that no longer seems an indulgence just for wimps.

Cross over the Coast Range on California Highway 198, the secret fun zone on the way to Monterey (unless the CHP is lurking in Priest Valley), and as you hit the narrow earthquake fault along Warthan Creek on the other side of Coalinga, you wonder again if this car is just too big for a road that is really meant for a Lotus Elise. The adjustable chassis calibration is your friend again, but the secret here is the optional active anti-roll bars, which seem to give you a more natural control of the body than the Mercedes system, which relies on the dampers to do the work.

Drive a bunch of cars at the WAJ track event at Laguna Seca. When someone wants a ride to the airport, there the BMW 750i waits.

On to the Bay Area and then a Saturday breakfast run to Alice's Restaurant, a roadhouse on Skyline Boulevard above Woodside since the 1950s and now morphed into an eating place for motorcycle guys. The BMW is carrying a major load of insect carcasses on the grille by now, but this is the right look for Alice's, where you want to look like you get out more often than just weekends.

Then later that day to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for an old motorcycle show and a night of indoor flattrack, plus Ray Abrams gives us a walkaround of the Kenny Roberts' TZ750-powered dirt-track bike that he restored for KR's ride at the Indy Mile last summer.

And finally a trip home on Interstate 5, running a gauntlet of CHP patrol cars, as traffic enforcement was tight at the beginning of Easter week.

Altogether a bunch of places with no special lessons learned, yet there wasn't one aspect of the trip at which the BMW 7 Series performed with less than spectacular competence.

Proving once again that a true luxury car is able to go anywhere, anytime.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 28,886 miles.


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

Retained Value
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

Summing Up
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.