The latest edition of BMW’s 750Li sedan may be the perfect car for effortless and entertaining long-distance touring.
The German automaker continues to improve and refine its four-door flagship. Best of all, the big 7 Series receives a rear-end restyling midway through its life cycle, dramatically improving the continuity and look. We tested a well-equipped 2006 750Li with more than $14,000 worth of options and a bottom line of $89,840.
HE: We’ve been driving an awful lot of expensive hardware lately, and it’s easy to get a little too dazzled by some of these wheels. But for some reason, I keep coming back to the 750Li, which I have criticized heavily and frequently in the past. Thank goodness, BMW has listened to some of the critics, including its own customers, and updated the sheet metal, especially that dreadful and disjointed tail. The design department made only modest tweaks to the rear end, but the difference is truly amazing. Now the 7 Series actually looks appealing from most angles — and, of course, the driving dynamics are still as superb as ever.
SHE: You sound like a little boy, gushing over a new BB gun at Christmas. I’m still actually torn when I drive any vehicle that costs more than $40,000 or $50,000 — it’s hard to justify some of those ridiculous price tags. But if you can afford to spend this kind of money, the 750Li is very impressive. Not necessarily warm and fuzzy, like some of my favorite cars, but still a pleasure to drive, especially if you have a long way to travel. And I don’t feel that way about many of the really pricey vehicles we’ve driven lately.
HE: Yes, dear, I can imagine how that troubles your conscience to have to climb behind the wheel of a $90,000 German luxury sport sedan.
SHE: I’ll tell you what doesn’t bother my conscience is BMW’s commitment to safety, a virtue that didn’t get overlooked in the company’s quest to create a great performance car. The standard safety equipment on the 750Li is outstanding — dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control and dynamic brake control, for starters, plus a full complement of air bags and curtains to protect occupants from head to knees. You also get adaptive headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and park distance. I’m not sure there is much else, in the way of active or passive safety hardware, that you could add to this car to improve occupant protection.
HE: Oh, there you go again, talking nuts and bolts. So while we’re on the subject, we might as well point out once again the virtues of BMW’s powerful DOHC 4.8-liter V-8, which makes 360 horsepower and feels like a true thoroughbred — always ready to gallop flat-out at the slightest touch. I’m so glad, too, that BMW fitted its six-speed Steptronic transmission, which is silky smooth, easy to use in either manual or automatic mode and nowhere near as annoying and herky-jerky as the goofy SMG transmission in the M5.
SHE: I’m impressed that a big car with this kind of performance and sports-car handling also rides like a true European luxury car — supple without feeling floaty, firm without feeling harsh. And the 750Li does all these amazing things at about half the price of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur we recently tested. I supposed I’d consider this an even better value, if that’s the right word, if our test car hadn’t been loaded up with more than $14,000 worth of options. I mean, a heated steering wheel for $150 is a nice touch, especially if you have to endure Michigan winters, but do I really need a $2,200 rear entertainment package that comes bundled with a separate iDrive controller for the rear passengers? One iDrive in the front seat is bad enough.
HE: I would agree with you that the BMW is not without its flaws. But this car is so good, it’s easy to overlook most of those shortcomings. For the money, I still think the 750Li is the world’s finest luxury/performance sedan.
2006 BMW 750Li
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan
Price: Base, $75,195 (incl. $695 shipping charge); as tested, $89,840
Engine: 4.8-liter V-8; 360-hp; 360 lb-ft torque
EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Where built: Germany
Estimated 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $2,642
Likes: One of the roomiest cabins available in the luxury segment. World-class safety features. Outstanding assembly quality. Extremely comfortable ride. Powerful 4.8L V-8 engine.
Dislikes: Odd shift mechanism requires learning curve. More than $14,000 worth of options pushed the sticker on our test car to nearly $90,000.
Likes: World’s finest luxury/performance sedan. Amazing rear-seat controls, including a second iDrive. Gorgeous matte wood and metal trim. Superb seats with lots of adjustments. Smooth six-speed automatic. Precise steering and excellent ride control.
Dislikes: Rear armrest needs a pull-down strap — a strange oversight. Rear deck and parcel shelf cut visibility. IDrive requires too many operations for simple functions.
Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.