Can one really find happiness with a $111,500 BMW sedan? My gut tells me no ... but then, I can't speak for everybody.
One glance at the tested model - a 760i, the second-most expensive of four trim levels of BMW's 2006 7 Series - certainly offered the prospect of many happy motoring days ahead. Everything on the car looks bigger than life.
The monster-size, 20-inch performance tires look like rock crushers, with the rubber wrapped around alloy wheels that seem to contain 20 spokes each.
Those big tires make the 760i seem like it has the dimensions of a mini-limo, yet it actually falls just short of 200 inches in length. The engine driving all this is a 6-liter, quad-cam V-12 with 48 valves. Those big numbers generate even more big numbers: 438 horsepower and 444 foot-pounds of torque stepping up at just under 4,000 revolutions per minute.
Even with nearly 4,800 pounds of weight to propel, the V-12 does a fine job in all driving conditions. Steering is light and nimble.
It should be noted that accelerations from a standing start are not of the drag strip variety. They're more like brisk runs up through the sophisticated six-speed automatic gearbox. Once you get on the far side of 3,000 rpm, however, you need to start backing off, lest you end up on the far side of 80 miles per hour ... making yourself a California Highway Patrol magnet.
Oh, yes, the tester was subject to a $1,700 gas guzzler tax, with anemic fuel ratings of 15 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway. The manufacturer's recommendation is for premium unleaded fuel, and given the current price of that primo-octane gasoline, the estimated annual fuel cost of $2,117 on the tested 760i's sticker was laughable.
That estimate equates to about $41 a week. Filling up a nearly dry 760i gas tank of 23.3 gallons with premium gas is going to be a $75-or-more proposition in Northern California. You do the math from there.
This is not my idea of happiness, but then again, I'm guessing that folks who drop more than $110,000 on a BMW aren't necessarily worried about where they're going to come up with the funds for their next fill-up.
Stepping inside the BMW offered perspective on what constitutes a true luxury sport sedan. You might recall that last week's review of the 2006 Infiniti G35 Sedan also involved a car billed as a luxury sport sedan. Yet, the G35 had a starting price of only $31,300.
What do you get for an extra $80,200 in the '06 BMW 760i? A lot.
Like the Infiniti G35, the 760i has a full range of vehicle-control systems and state-of-the-art safety devices. But the interior comfort/convenience amenities inside the 760i are far more numerous and opulent than what's found in the Infiniti product.
Think the difference between a Four Seasons hotel and a Motel 6.
The BMW's automatic climate-control system includes a micro-filter and a solar-powered, automatic air-recirculation system that cools the car's interior when it's sitting all by its lonesome in the hot sun.
There's a proximity sensor in the key fob that automatically unlocks the doors when your hand touches any of the door handles. Yes, the car will start at the push of a button when the key fob is in your pocket.
The climate-control system also manages temperatures in the front console storage area. Cellular phone controls join audio system controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
That audio system is a kicking Logic 7 with 13 speakers and digital sound processing. The compact disc player can swallow up to six CDs at a time.
BMW's iDrive, with the signature big knob on the center console controlling so many in-car systems, is still a 7 Series staple. Criticized by some as too complicated and cumbersome, I must confess that I have become used to it. And if my technology-fearing fingers can adapt, the rest of the motoring universe should have no problem.
There also are memory settings for the power seats, exterior mirrors and the telescoping/tilt steering wheel. Sensors detect and sound audible warnings about too-close objects when parking or on the move.
Those comprise just the short list of passenger-spoiling features. Add to all this the fact that three back seat passengers have plenty of room to stretch out in their kingdom of leather-wrapped seats.
OK, maybe happiness is attainable in a big BMW sedan, but it's definitely a niche designed for those who aren't fiscally challenged.
BMW 7 SERIES AT A GLANCE
Make/model: 2006 BMW 760i
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door, rear-drive, luxury sport sedan
Base price: $111,500 (as tested, $116,990)
Engine: 6-liter V-12 with 438 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 444 foot-pounds of torque at 3,950 rpm
EPA fuel economy: 15 miles per gallon city; 22 mpg highway
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with special features
Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion with speed-sensitive feature
Brakes: Power-assisted, four-wheel, vented discs with anti-lock and other braking-enhancement features
Suspension: Independent, strut-type on front; multi-link on rear (anti-roll bars and coil springs front and rear)
Fuel tank: 23.3 gallons
Interior volume: 104 cubic feet
Trunk volume: 18 cubic feet
Curb weight: 4,762 pounds
Track: 62.1 inches on front; 62.8 inches on rear
Height: 58.7 inches
Length: 198.4 inches
Wheelbase: 117.7 inches
Width: 74.9 inches
Tires: P245/40R20 performance radials on front; P275/35R20 on rear
Final assembly point: Dingolfing, Germany