By on January 11, 2010


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?

bmw750i4Yes, 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. bmw750i2

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.

bmw750i3Overall, 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.

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46 Comments on “Review: BMW 750i...”

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    In paragraph 3, one presumes you are referring to the Sinatra version of Ocean’s 11?

  • avatar

    Excellent review…

    But should we all be bummed that BMW offers a car with muddy steering? I think so. The 7-series’ steering feel is due to the “active steering” system that’s standard on the new model. It was optional on the old one, and I sampled the car with and without it. The standard system made the car feel like a proper BMW; the one with the optional active steering felt inaccurate and overly light.

    Ah, progress…

    Personally, I always thought the outgoing 7-series was a dramatically underrated car (if you could see past the weird styling and IDrive). The good news is that three-year-old examples are coming off lease for forty grand or so. That’s an EPIC bargain.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend of a friend bought out the lease on their outgoing 750i about a year ago, after this new 7 was announced but before it went on sale. They were able to buy it out for…drumroll…~$26,000.

    • 0 avatar

      Or you could pick up an E38 Sport for 12-18k depending on how low miles you want and the condition it’s in.  There are a bunch much cheaper, but they look like hell.

    • 0 avatar

      I was saying to my wife the other day (this is no joke) “You know, that 535ix is a really nice car [in a manual]” – but I’ll settle for a Legacy GT . . .
      jkross22 — you’re a sick man, you just compare a 750i to a GTI? :D
      You HAD to outdo me!

      — crap, hit the wrong reply link (points down) that one!

  • avatar

    Hi Sajeev, I see your review jibes nicely with my own (3/18/09). Despite my own mediocre review, I picked up a 750 when BMW subvented the leases this past summer. My brief ownership experience was worse than expected. The driving experience is remote and anesthetized, too close to Lexus for my taste. Yes, the interior is quite an improvement over the last generation, but I-drive gremlins still drove me nuts. BMW is losing the plot or trying to cover too many bases or both.  My hands down pick for the strangest BMW ever invented is the X6 hybrid- check it out.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for checking in, Jay. Not too surprised that you got one, as it still seems like the best big sedan for blasting through the Wine Country. Then again, if the 750 felt that disconnected in the city, I see your point.  Time for a CPO S65?

    • 0 avatar

      Jay, It’s probably more the recognition that there are fewer people interested in dynamic vehicles than those with the right hood ornament that drive easily.  In my recent car search, I drove the big Lexus just to see what it’s like.  I understand the appeal, but couldn’t imagine ever wanting one.  Just too dull.  If the new 750i is even somewhat similar to that, that’s a bummer.
      By contrast, the new GTI was a hoot, even with DSG.

  • avatar

    The car in the photo has Munich plates, but that sure doesn’t look like Bavaria in the background to me.

  • avatar

    “never letting go until 407 horses reach redline in any of six gears”
    Redline in 6th at 250 km/h.  No wonder it only get 15 MPG.

  • avatar

    The snout looks like that of a pig…without lipstick…the E38 was still the classiest one by far. Even the E66 was better looking than this giant piggy…

    • 0 avatar

      I just saw one the other day.  I actually thought it looked damned decent in person.  Still no E38, but damned decent.  And I didn’t really like it in the photos.
      And since I got on such a bender about the last Sajeev review, I have to say this was a great one.  Well balanced, insightful, useful, and entertaining.  Looking forward to the next one…

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you mentioned it…the last review took maybe 2 hrs to write, this one took weeks.  It was excruciating, but one car is a joke and the other is damn serious. And I’m really happy how my point(s) came across with this review, even if it took forever to make it happen.  

    • 0 avatar

      The extra work shows… thanks for taking the time.

  • avatar

    This car is just as ugly as the one it replaces. No Bangles were harmed in the making of this 750.

  • avatar

    This is in a unique price region where performance isnt really that important other than for brochures.  When you are spending 100k on a sedan you can also afford a nice sports car.  So really at some (price) point for a sedan its more about legroom and the snob appeal.  I mean, the rare few that I see driving big 7’s are older execs or their wives just puttering around town.  Kind of a waste.

    • 0 avatar

      You buy the latest  S, 7 or A8  so everyone knows exactly how much money you’ve got…or, because in order to keep sales up, the compnay trades you out of the old lease towards a newer lease.

      Mercedes benz loves doing this. They’d take my car and put me in a new car under the same terms as the old one right now if they could. At $100,000 not too many people are buying this thing.

  • avatar

    I think it looks old already.  Too much like the 5 series that is out there right now, and been there since 2003.  The photo of the interior you took, looks just like my friends 2005 5 series.  I would be looking for more here.

  • avatar

    Not so much like an older 5-series in real life. This isn’t a PR shot of a Chrysler interior, the details you can’t see in a 7-series are the ones you need to see to appreciate.

  • avatar

    The new 7 is not as good a car as the S550.  Notice how much space there is for the driver and compare that to the passenger rear space.  There’s too much space in back and not enough up front. The S-class offers perfect space Front and Back no matter how tall you are (Unless you are bigger than 7 Feet)

    I downranked it.

  • avatar

    Buy a 2010 S-class instead

    or an E class

  • avatar

    The 7 series, S class, A8, et al, are really an interesting segment of cars.  They market themselves as sports sedans to a degree, but they are too big to be truly sporty, and those that buy them don’t really want a sports sedan, or most often, even a sport sedan, as much as they want comfort, isolation, and the image of being sporty.
    Although the ‘bang for the buck’ argument could be made for any car, I think the question of ‘what is it that you are really getting for your money’ becomes especially salient in regards to these $100K plus super sedans.  After all, these are approaching serious supercar money (not to mention pretty damn nice house money in many areas of the country).
    I’ve driven a number of BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis (mostly trade ins, and mostly pre 2005 models) and I will say that BMW makes a very well put together interior.  I agree with Sajeev that pictures don’t do it justice, a lot of the quality is tactile, you really have to sit in the drivers seat and drive the car to appreciate it.  Mercedes and Audi obviously also do a great job, and for those whose after-tax annual income is still well in the six figures, and can afford the very best without having to worry about frugality, I suppose these cars can make a certain degree of sense, after all, whether they’ve worked hard for their money, been the beneficiaries of nepotism, or just gotten lucky, there is no reason for them not to take advantage of the situation.
    For the rest of us however, is the huge increase in price vs something such as a Lincoln MKS, Hyundai Genesis, or even a pre-owned Cadillac STS worth it?  You can buy a late model off-lease or ‘vacation home’ STS for well under $20K.  Invest maybe $5K for a top of the line aftermarket stereo (which will of course come with navigation, bluetooth, and all the other bells and whistles) and you have technology comparable with what these german luxo-barges offer.  It won’t have the presence, all of the refinement, or the feel of quality that a S550 or 750i will have, but after those first few weeks go by and that initial euphoria wears off, I bet it would be just as enjoyable for a vast majority of drivers.
    That being said, if I hit the powerball tomorrow I’d probably go buy a Panamera Turbo, a 760li, or a S63 AMG, because, after all, since I’ve never had it, it would feel good to claim one as my own to announce ‘I’ve made it’.  However, the number of millionaires who come into my showroom and buy Fords, Lincolns, Mercurys or various used cars all for well less than $50K (and oftentimes less than half of that) makes me think that after you’ve arrived for a while, you get past the need for such ostentatious vehicles and just buy something that’s comfortable, sensible, and cost-effective.

    • 0 avatar

      Neither the MKS, Genesis or STS are attractive inside as the S550. I don’t even think they would be if you took the leather and chrome switches from the S class and put it in any of those cars.
      What I will say is that the MKS, STS and Genesis offer alot of the feel  of the older S500, BMW740 and LS430 – but that’s about it.  The Germans continue to stay multiple steps ahead either in interior or exterior design.
      I love the CTS-V coupe but the interior doesn’t feel as nice as the new E-coupe, despite the CTS is a better value.

    • 0 avatar

      NM: Agreed.  My only comment is that the production (post economic collapse) of these exclusive cars probably matches the upper crust clientele who’d consider them.  Those who have houses 10-20x more than the cost of a 750i don’t exactly care about it being 2x more than an MKS EcoBoost.

      That’s the beauty of the automobile, at least in America.  We have a vehicle for anyone’s needs or desires.  The sad part is that GM (and Ford/Chrysler, to a much lesser extent) is no longer a player in many of these markets.

  • avatar

    Say, that’s a nice car.  But after seeing this add for previously owned BMWs, I’m going CPO for now on.

  • avatar

                    BMW is paying more and more attention to China, the Middle East and other emerging markets, particularly as pertains to the top end cars. Meaning, those are being designed as much around the rear seat as the front. Less than hyperactive steering is a plus for the guy sipping tea in the back. As is, supposedly, 4 wheel steering, which can, per BMW, lower rear seat acceleration in turns. I’m surprised about the abruptness of the brakes, unless it’s something s driver can easily get used to.
                    For those who drive themselves, there are always these ones,

    • 0 avatar

      I’m surprised about the abruptness of the brakes, unless it’s something s driver can easily get used to.
      I did it twice, then I learned. Once I figured it out my foot could compensate to save my passengers, it was okay. But I always felt the pedal had a mind of its own. Not impressed at all.

  • avatar

    Surprise, yet another new BMW that can’t manage something as simple as linear braking response or feel, or throttle response. For me that’s an instant deal breaker. I’m tired of luxury cars where the focus is pretty much entirely on the NAV system and all of the electronic toys. What about the pedals on the floor, and that round thing that makes the car go around corners? Can the engineers maybe spare a minute or two between developing laser guided parking systems to work on those?

  • avatar

    Slightly off topic, but can anyone comment on the reliability of 7 series over the past few years? Some low-mileage, off-lease 2007s seem to be in the low 40s. Also, why are BMW leases so much cheaper than comparable M-B leases? A 2010 528xi is about $200/month cheaper than an E-class with a similar MSRP.

  • avatar

    Also, why are BMW leases so much cheaper than comparable M-B leases? A 2010 528xi is about $200/month cheaper than an E-class with a similar MSRP.
    Factory is subsidising the deal, they want to move the metal badly.
    Leasing co. are there to make mulla, dont give a rat’s a*s who is leasing what.

  • avatar

    I take the V12 5 litre are not being built?

  • avatar

    The plain slab sided stark look is now getting old and it hardly looks any different than the outgoing model save larger snouts and slightly changed taillights. I blame BMW and Bangle for the blandness/austere look of most of todays generic copycats.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, thanks for the insight regarding 7 series [un]reliability. I wish there was a Lexus between the boring Camry/ES350 and the $85k LS. In terms of looks, I’d much prefer an Audi A6 or BMW 5 series (or used Porsche Cayman) but I don’t feel like having to bring my luxury car into the repair shop every year.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish there was a Lexus between the boring Camry/ES350 and the $85k LS.
      Lexus GS 460, anyone? Not to mention these middle children aren’t holding their value very well, selling for not much more than a comparable IS350 in the used car market. Something I found surprising, given what we all know about Lexus’ reputation and popularity.

  • avatar

    I currently have an S63 that I like but do not love.  MB insists on the stretched wheelbase even for a purported “sports sedan” and aesthetically the thing is just too darn long.  The legroom is great for the kids, but for all the bells, whistles and AMG tweaks, I still feel like an old man driving a wannabe limo.  Point is…I wanted to be back in a BMW, specifically a short wheel base 7, and was eagerly waiting for the update.  Sadly, I find the new 7’s exterior styling to be blandly derivative.  From several angles the rear evokes LS460 to me…until saw I it up close and from the front I actually thought it was a Lexus.  Dynamically it was a big disappointment.  Granted I am comparing the AMG to a vanilla 7, but the latter’s steering felt so disconnected that it affirmed my thought that it was a Lexus.  The brakes, simply put, are a fiasco.  It makes no sense that BMW would screw with something that interferes with the driving experience every time you interact with the car.  The brakes reminded me of the awful setup on early decade E-series M-Bs…only far worse.  At this price point, technology needs to enhance the vehicle not contaminate it…the iDrive and braking system are examples of BMW telling me to eat fiber and more vegetables instead of serving me the best steak dinner that they can cook.  While rambling on, I would add that the M-B iDrive equivalent is also an answer to a question nobody should have ever asked.  The user interface on our Odyssey, or for that matter, the old style M-B Command system, is far more intuitive.

    • 0 avatar

      At this price point, technology needs to enhance the vehicle not contaminate it…the iDrive and braking system are examples of BMW telling me to eat fiber and more vegetables instead of serving me the best steak dinner that they can cook.
      If I had a prize for the best comment on here, you’d get it. But if you didn’t drive a 750i Sport, you probably should. Though I suspect the S63 is still a more entertaining sedan.
      The funny thing is that both Lincoln and Cadillac do the best job of infusing technology without making your commute a complete pain in the arse. Touch screens with no i-drive, for one thing. Too bad they don’t have the “bones” of a top drawer, super big German sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you compare apples to oranges? Want something sporty and more exclusive then AMG Benz? Enter Alpina B7. Coming shortly to the BMW dealership near you.

      P.S. Funny thing BMW 760Li is not even listed at Canadian BMW site, also no mention of 2011 Alpina B7 that will make it’s debut at Chicago auto show next month and will go on sale (at least in the States) in the Spring.

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