BMW is rapidly becoming the Swiss Army Knife of automobile brands. Elegant and well-trained coupes, estates and sedans? Check. Interested in CUVs of both respectable and questionable utility? They got you covered. Though the X6 and 5-series Gran Tourismo are answers to a question nobody asked, the smaller, racier 750i Sport treads dangerously into well established 5-series territory. And while the 5-er and 7-er’s pasts are more than a little intertwined, should history repeat itself?
Yes, if the sheet metal changes to the latest 7 are any indication. The latest 750i is a more refined piece than it’s E65-bodied predecessor. Yesteryear’s Bangle Butt is thankfully, mercifully absent from the posterior, replaced with the boxy butt and conservatively sculpted taillights that signify the refined styling of a proper luxury saloon. Even the outgoing model’s po-faced nose of is replaced with brash BMW kidney grilles, flowing fenders and a muscular hood bulge. But this isn’t an ostentatious S-class Benz, as tight wheel arches, the classic Hofmeister kink and 19” M-spec wheels make the 750i a performance oriented luxury sedan. Lose the garish fender vents and call it done.
And the leather-wrapped interior makes it work. The latest 7-series sports a cabin worthy of its lofty asking price and Teutonic design heritage. The chrome accents are from a metal-like substance, and a gifted artist is responsible for the inside door releases. There’s plenty of brilliantly grained wood trim that, unlike the S-class and LS460, is arranged in a manner that doesn’t draw attention to itself. And the heavenly seats are contoured for maximum comfort and modest lateral support. If an automotive ambiance ever mirrored a Hollywood movie, this one’s an Oceans Eleven.
Then again, this is a BMW: in lieu of a real shift knob and intuitive ancillary controls, the 750i sports a new-ish iDrive system and a gear selector resembling a melted Nintendo Wii remote control. Then again, the iDrive’s user interface and screen size is far superior to older versions. Which is like saying Windows 7 can’t be any worse than Vista at first glance. At this rate, BMW will come full circle to the E38’s moderate buttonage by 2020. One can hope.
But even the most Bangled of Bimmers from the current millennia was a genuine pleasure to drive on the most challenging road, with room for plenty of cargo and passengers. So raising the bar for latest tuned, tweaked and twin turbocharged 750i Sport is logical.
The 750i Sport is the most driver-involving sedan in its class: there’s nothing like a beefy V8, especially one with torque-rich turbochargers keeping the power down low, never letting go until 407 horses reach redline in any of six gears. Aside from zee Germans (seemingly) mandatory throttle delay at tip in, the 750i Sport is a rewarding powertrain that’s both sublime and brutal. If this is a harbinger for the forthcoming M5’s motor, the best is yet to come.
But the 750i’s demeanor feels inferior to previous generations of BMW’s flagship. Thanks to steering feel with the consistency of mashed potatoes, turn-in is muted to the point of delayed reaction. Which is apparent while the sound of the sandpaper textured, leather wrapped tiller rotates in your hands, doing it’s damnedest to replicate the kicks of a chorus line in nylon running suits.
Overall, that’s just a minor quibble: the 750i Sport corners BMW-flat and true on any urban road, with endless grip and seating that both coddles and cuddles its occupants in that sporting luxury known by every generation of Bavaria’s biggest sedan. With pavement joints transmitting muted bangs and bumps throughout the cabin, the ride isn’t as effortless as an S-class. Not pleased? Give the long wheelbase, conservatively sprung, 7-series a spin before leaving for the Lexus dealer.
But there’s still a fly in the ointment: BMW’s marketing ploy called EfficientDynamics. One trick up their sleeve, the “Brake Energy Regeneration” system, relieves stress associated with hyper-complex automotive electronic systems: like Toyota’s Hybrids, the big Bimmer uses energy from the brakes to recharge the battery, unloading the alternator and the engine bolted to it. And that (marginal) improvement on fuel economy nets an artificial, non-linear brake pedal in parking lot maneuvers. Which launches everyone in the passenger compartment forward with a touch of the stoppers. That might be worth the trouble, if this whip netted impressive fuel economy figures.
But 15 MPG on premium fuel is the opposite of efficient. While the Marketing Science behind BMW’s EfficientDynamics begs to differ, this car is a remarkably well-crafted, twin-turbocharged pavement pounder that straddles the line between a sporty 5-series and a decadent 7-series. And nothing more. Which works: buy a Cobalt XFE if you want to save the world from unabashed consumerism, and tell Bavaria to keep the tree huggers away from the flagship 7-series.