The verdict: Redesigned on a new carbon-fiber-intensive platform, the 2016 BMW 750i full-size sedan drives like a smaller car, accelerates like a sports car and surrounds its occupants in uncompromising luxury.
Versus the competition: Full-size flagship sedans like the Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8 emphasize a comfortable — if mostly unengaging — driving experience, but the redesigned 750i aims for the Jaguar XJ with its sporty, enthusiast-oriented driving manners.
Flagship luxury sedans are technological showcases for a brand, and that's certainly what the redesigned 7 Series is for BMW. From the things you can't see (like its weight-saving construction) to high-tech safety features (and dubious technology like gesture-based controls), the 7 Series shows BMW's latest thinking and gives us a peek at what might be in store for future versions of its other cars.
The 2016 7 Series is offered only in long-wheelbase form, and its overall length stretches to nearly 207 inches. The 740i is powered by a 320-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, while the 750i features a 445-hp, turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8. Rear-wheel drive is standard on both models, and BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system is a $3,000 option. The all-wheel-drive 750i we tested had a starting price of $98,395, including a $995 destination charge, but optional features pushed its as-tested price to a heady $128,445.
Exterior & Styling
The 7 Series looks the part of a flagship luxury sedan, with its imposing size and low-slung proportions. The car has serious street presence. That said, its updated styling doesn't stray far from the design direction established by its predecessor. The most significant differences are in front; the headlights are narrower and BMW's signature twin-kidney grille is wider. Thinner taillights complement the restyled front end.
How It Drives
As BMWs have become more refined and luxurious in recent years, they've lost some of the qualities that made them favorites of driving enthusiasts, but the 750i reverses that trend for the brand's largest car. The 750i is about the same size as its predecessor, but the all-wheel-drive version's 4,610-pound curb weight is 190 pounds less than before. The lower curb weight comes through in the driving experience; the 750i feels nimble and not as big as its substantial dimensions. In this way, it's reminiscent of the Jaguar XJ, which is more engaging to drive than most full-size luxury sedans.
Our test car benefited from a $4,100 Autobahn package, which adds an active suspension and active steering. The active suspension includes adjustable anti-roll bars that allow additional suspension travel while driving straight and less travel when cornering to reduce body roll. Meanwhile, active steering can turn the rear wheels in the opposite or same direction as the front wheels depending on speed, to improve cornering performance and high-speed stability, respectively.
The all-wheel-drive 750i is also quick; BMW cites a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.3 seconds. Pressing the gas pedal part of the way down while cruising on the highway brings a quick downshift from the eight-speed automatic transmission and a surge of power for passing slower-moving traffic. Pushing the pedal all the way to the floor makes the hood rise as the car crouches over the rear wheels and lunges forward. It's impressive.
The sedan's size becomes more evident if you drive it hard through a corner, where body roll materializes, but I like how BMW has tuned the steering; it's direct and precise, and the wheel turns with a light touch. Steering feedback, however, is mostly absent, and I'd welcome some when the car is in Sport mode.
Besides Sport, there are also two Comfort modes, Comfort and Comfort Plus, as well as an Eco Pro mode. In Comfort, gas pedal response is gradual and the air suspension is more forgiving, allowing more body movement, while the engine stop-start system is at the ready. Sport increases gas pedal responsiveness, lowers ride height by 10 millimeters at high speeds, firms the suspension and adopts a more aggressive shift program. The drivetrain feels more eager in Sport, but BMW didn't go overboard with the mode's suspension tuning; you feel bumps a little more, but the ride isn't harsh, even with optional 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires.
The 750i takes premium gas, and its EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and 16/25/19 mpg with all-wheel drive. The car's engine stop-start system is one of the more seamless I've tested. The engine starts quickly and smoothly when it's time to go again, and the feature was pretty active during my testing – even when stopped briefly at a stop sign. (If you prefer, you can deactivate the system by pressing a button below the push-button ignition.)
The 750i's cabin is finely crafted. The interior blends traditional luxury cues, like an optional stitched leather dashboard, with tech features, like a digital instrument panel and BMW's iDrive multimedia system with a 10.2-inch widescreen display.
It's also a comfortable place to let the miles pass by. The 20-way power front seats are big, comfortable and finished in leather, and they can be fitted with an optional massager.
As comfortable as the big front bucket seats are, the backseat is just as appealing. With 44.4 inches of rear legroom, there's plenty of space to stretch your legs and good thigh support for taller passengers. Options like power-adjustable seat cushions, a massaging function, power window shades and a dual-screen entertainment system make it one of the most comfortable and luxurious rear seats I've sat in that wasn't from Rolls-Royce or Bentley.
I'm not a fan, however, of the 7 Series' new silver-colored and glass-like buttons on the dashboard, center console and elsewhere. BMW has used black dashboard buttons with white lettering for years, and even though the new ones have an upscale appearance, it's harder to tell what they do. The lettering on the silver buttons is hard to read in the daytime, and reflections can make the console's glass-like buttons difficult to read.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The 750i gets the latest version of BMW's iDrive multimedia system. iDrive's primary interface remains a console knob controller surrounded by shortcut buttons, but the dashboard display is now also a touch-screen, providing another way to make selections.
The 7 Series also features gesture recognition, which BMW calls a world-first for a production car. With the feature, making various hand gestures in the air in front of the dashboard lets you accept or decline incoming calls, adjust stereo volume and, in models with the optional surround-view camera system, rotate a virtual image of the car on the dashboard screen to get a better view of your immediate surroundings.
It was hard for me to get the system to recognize some gestures, but while that could improve with more practice, the larger issue is that gesturing doesn't necessarily make your life in the car any easier. To turn up the stereo volume, for instance, there are already easy-to-use controls on the steering wheel and dashboard. It may be a good way to impress your friends, but it's not something I'd want to deal with day in and day out.
As of publication, iDrive doesn't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring. It wasn't hard to pair my iPhone using Bluetooth, and the system recognized my phone when connected via the USB port. Wireless charging (of phones that support it) is standard, but we found the vertical pocket under the center armrest to be one of the least convenient places for the feature, frustrating any attempt to grab the phone for quick use (though that could be a safety advantage).
The optional surround-view camera system lets you see different views in the dashboard screen, including one that lets you rotate around a virtual image of the 7 Series from a perspective of a few feet away rather than the common top-down view, which is the default. The images from the various cameras have been stitched together relatively seamlessly to create this virtual view, but just like the car's gesture controls, it feels a little superfluous; most of the time, the most important thing when maneuvering is how close your bumpers are to another car or object, and there are other camera views that better relay that info.
BMW offers an optional 7-inch Android tablet that stores in a holder in the rear center armrest. The tablet has controls for the seats, cabin lights, air conditioning, and navigation and multimedia systems. You can also browse the internet.
Cargo & Storage
The 18.2-cubic-foot trunk includes a standard pass-through to the cabin for carrying long, skinny items. The trunk lid is powered and includes foot-activated, hands-free operation.
Expensive luxury sedans like the 750i aren't normally crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, IIHS has never published test results for the 7 Series.
A backup camera is standard. There are a lot of active-safety and autonomous driving features available for the 2016 750i. They include blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and prevention, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, cross-traffic warning and traffic jam assistant.
With traffic jam assistant, you can press a button on the steering wheel and the 750i will steer itself to stay in its lane. The system had no trouble following highway lane markings on an overcast day, and another editor was impressed with its lane recognition when driving into sunlight, a situation that has a tendency to trip up these kinds of systems. You have to keep at least one hand on the wheel, however, or the steering assistance will cease after about 10 seconds.
Night vision with pedestrian and animal detection costs $2,300. The system projects a black-and-white video image on the dashboard screen and highlights pedestrians and large animals in yellow when they're present.
For a full list of safety features, see the Features & Specs page.
Value in Its Class
The 750i's starting price is similar to the S-Class, and while the A8 and XJ have lower starting prices, all four cars can cost well above $100,000 in certain configurations. Cadillac's new CT6 is even less expensive, but its driving manners and interior space make it feel more like a BMW 5 Series challenger than a 7 Series competitor.
Overall, the 2016 750i is the rare full-size luxury sedan that rewards both the driver and passengers in equal measure. It's nimble and quick, and its expansive and luxuriously appointed backseat is downright rejuvenating. Perhaps that's what you'd expect from this corner of the car market, but really this BMW is more of an exception than the rule.