BMW AG's flagship sedan -- the long-wheelbase, 12-cylinder 760Li -- is one of those vehicles that churns up conflicting emotions. Stratospherically priced from $115,800, the big 7-series fairly bristles with enough high-tech gadgetry to baffle an aerospace engineer, and its distinctively styled rear end has elicited howls of protest from many aficionados. But the 760Li also comes with a supremely comfortable cockpit, a supple suspension and a potent power plant. Is that enough to justify the $122,095 sticker on our 2003 test vehicle? Read on. SHE: What's not to like about a car that squeezes your behind? I felt like I was sitting on a pulsating whoopee cushion in the 7-series, with its Active Comfort seats, which move each side of your bottom up and down every 60 seconds. Why? To prevent fatigue and improve posture, according to BMW. HE: I'm not even sure where to go with this little hand grenade you've tossed me. It's mighty tempting, but I think I'm gonna let this one slide. Before we get into the really heavy stuff, let's talk about that magnificent rear compartment in the 760. SHE: Well, how can you not love a car with a precious little minicooler built into the back seat? It was perfect for that special bottle of 1990 Morey-Saint-Denis that my neighbor gave me when my dog died. Our test car also had rear foot rests, heated and cooled rear seats, an aircraft-style overhead console with a lighted vanity mirror, climate controls and reading lights. There was even wood trim on the parcel shelf and a suede headliner. HE: It's true that the 760Li has a magnificent engine and suspension, but it's also true that it's almost more fun to be a passenger than the driver. Let's put aside your chauffeur-driven fantasies for a second and talk about the driving experience. The twin-cam 6.0-liter V-12 is truly superb. It makes 408 horsepower and 442 pounds-feet of torque, which I suppose you could argue is overkill here in North America. But it sure feels sweet beneath your feet. It's mated to a six-speed Tiptronic-style transmission which lets you shift manually without a clutch. Here's where we get into the first major problem. BMW has mounted the tiny gearshift lever on the steering column and programmed it in such a way that it requires a surprisingly complicated set of motions to do something as simple as shifting into reverse to back out of a parking space, then shifting into forward gear to get under way. SHE: You haven't even mentioned the dreaded iDrive, which we have sampled on several versions of the 7-series and still find virtually incomprehensible. Picture a big fist-size knob that doubles as a joystick and controls such functions as climate, audio and navigation. It should be intuitive, but it isn't. BMW just tried to cram too many functions into this unit. And the worst part is you have to take your eyes off the road to play with it. We now have put several hun dred miles on two different 7-series, and we still can't get used to the iDrive. HE: On the other hand, I'm seriously impressed with the sophisticated suspension system, which features electronic damping control and active roll stabilization. What that means is that no matter how rough the road, the 760Li does a spectacular job of smoothing out the bumps and potholes. It's almost impossible to ruffle its poise. The active safety systems are also state of the art, including dynamic stability and traction control, and dynamic brake control. Don't get the wrong impression. This BMW won't drive itself, but it will make almost anyone a better, safer driver. SHE: And if you get into real trouble, there are all those air bags and air curtains to protect your head, your thorax, even your knees in a collision. BMW has done a good job of using technology in other ways to make things easier and safer. The 760Li comes with such features as rain-sensing wipers and park distance control, and you can order active cruise control to help maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. HE: BMW certainly crammed a lot of electronics into the 7-series, some for the good and some not so good. The drive-by-wire system, for instance, eliminates the traditional mechanical linkages between the gas pedal and the engine, but there is a noticeable and disturbing throttle lag when you first touch the accelerator. Even everyday functions like the radio require additional training. For heaven's sake, our test vehicle came with a 46-page minimanual plus three regular owner's manuals! SHE: Ooh, not good. I haven't even read the manual that came with my George Foreman grill. 2003 BMW 760Li Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sedan.Price (Includes $695 destination charge): Base, $115,800; as tested, $122,095 (inc. $1,300 gas guzzler tax)Engine: 6.0-liter V-12; 408-hp; 442 lb-ft torqueEPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city/23 mpg highwayKey competitors: Mercedes-Benz S60012-month insurance cost (Estimated by AAA Michigan. Rates may vary depending on coverage and driving record): $3,362Where built: Germany Anita's rating: Above Average Likes: Lovely ambient lighting in doors. Heated/cooled massaging seats. Amazing limo-style rear compartment. Gorgeous suede headliner. Precious little cooler in rear. Power trunk closer.Dislikes: Front doors are too heavy. Nothing is familiar about the driving experience. Length makes it difficult to park. Paul's rating: Acceptable Likes: Sensational 12-cylinder engine. Supple, compliant suspension. Extremely comfortable cabin. World-class safety features. Dislikes: Disconcerting initial throttle lag. Gearshift lever difficult to use, especially for simple maneuvers. iDrive forces you to take your eyes off the road. $1,300 gas-guzzler tax. Extremely complex and difficult to operate, requiring 46-page minimanual plus three regular owner's manuals. Hideously ugly rear end.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||February 19, 2003|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||September 3, 2003|
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