2006 BMW 750Li
The 2006 BMW 750Li is chock-full of electronic vehicle systems for performance, safety, and convenience, and it constitutes an impressive blend of spirited driving and luxurious comfort. The crispness that makes the company's smaller cars worthy of their corporate motto isn't fully present in the 7 Series, but the negative dynamic effects of the car's size are offset by the space it affords inside.
BMW's much-maligned iDrive controller for the main dashboard functions rears its head twice in 750 models equipped with the Rear Entertainment Package, as our car was. Even with the 2006 BMW 750Li's revised submenus, iDrive is indeed difficult to master without a real investment of time. But in a vehicle with such a range of electronic adjustments and features to control and customize, BMW at least deserves points for homogenizing input to such a degree. A small army of knobs and buttons might be more direct and, we dare say, intuitive but would pull the driver's eyes off the road more often.
The L versions of the eight-cylinder 750i and the flagship V-12-equipped 760i sedans are stretched 5.5 inches in both the wheelbase and overall length. Both engines feature the full gamut of BMW's engine-control technologies for efficiency and smooth running, and an advanced chassis-control program lets the driver take full advantage of the power. These are long, heavy cars, but they don't feel that way from behind the wheel.
Second only to the howls over iDrive in the original version of this 7 Series was the reaction to the car's styling. Especially viewed from the rear, that design was ungainly at best and tested the normally steadfast loyalty of many of BMW's best customers. The current car's visual freshening should satisfy critics of flame-surface body panels and rakishly sculpted lens covers. The headlights put a less-dramatic face on things, and the taillights now wrap from the quarter panels into the trunk lid to soften the latter's impact. Our car's 19-inch wheels, a $1,300 option, filled out the wheel openings nicely, also contributing to better overall design cohesion.
The styling improvements increase the desirability of an already top-notch car. With an MSRP of $74,500 and options pushing our as-tested price to $89,840, the 2006 BMW 750Li is not for the faint of checkbook. Prestige and perception are as important in this class of car as performance or comfort, and the biggest BMW now delivers on all fronts.
In terms of sheer passenger comfort, the 2006 BMW 750Li has few rivals among less-than-$100,000 vehicles. Rear Comfort Seats (a $3,500 option) mean that the driver and all three passengers are coddled to the same degree, although only the driver has the heated, power-tilting, and power-telescoping steering wheel automatically moved out of his way when exiting the vehicle. Upon entry, it moves back into position or to one of the programmed memory positions. Sixteen-way power adjustment on the front seats includes four-way lumbar support, an articulated backrest, adjustable side and thigh support, and active head restraints. The optional Comfort Rear Seats offer only fourteen-way power adjustments but include the same heating and cooling offered up front, as well as recline through a range not often seen for rear seats. All four seats offer memory settings, and the available interior wood and leather combinations are varied and of high quality.
The rear-seat armrest on the 750Li includes the reviled iDrive controller, plus seat-adjustment controls.
The rear-seat passengers' good fortune doesn't stop with the seats, as the stretched 2006 BMW 750Li makes huge gains in rear legroom. Carpeted, movable footrests are even included to enhance the limousine effect. Electrically operated shades cover all five rear windows, especially welcome when making use of another of the 750Li's whiz-bang features: the Rear Entertainment Package. This $2,200 option includes a 16:9-format LCD screen playing from a six-DVD changer mounted in the trunk. At 6.5 inches, the screen is sized to fit between the front seats when tilted up into viewing position, and the picture appears sharp. Headphone jacks are part of this system; without headphones, however, the DVD audio plays throughout the car.
This can be intrusive, given the 2006 BMW 750Li's stereo's power and a movie with some explosions or, ahem, car chases. Our car's optional Premium Sound Package ($1,800) came with 13 speakers driven by Logic7 and Digital Signal Processing, with a six-CD changer in the glove box to augment the standard single-disc slot in the dashboard. The system did not display track or album-title information, so it pays to remember which discs are in which slot. Sirius Satellite Radio preparation was a somewhat obscene $595.
That brings us to iDrive. As stated earlier, it represents an elegant approach to the sticky problem of allowing a driver to control any of a massive array of features while still driving the car safely. That said, other manufacturers' systems offer a few more buttons that might not be as easy to find as the iDrive knob but ultimately allow for quicker access and action, as well as a return to full road concentration. In the 2006 BMW 750Li's backseats, the iDrive again proves clunky in controlling DVD playback, where buttons for searching and menu navigation on the center armrest would be a big improvement upon clicking and twisting one's way through such frequently used features.
A DVD changer hidden in the 750Li's trunk feeds movies to the rear-seat LCD.
In iDrive's favor is a tactile feedback system that clicks at each option while twisting through the submenus, with greater resistance at the first and last choices in each menu. The four main iDrive menus--climate, navigation, entertainment, and communications--are at the four compass points and always one push away. The 2006 BMW 750Li's main screen is split so that maps can remain in view on a smaller section, while options are changed in the larger one. Navigation programming is straightforward, with the usual view and routing options.
Bluetooth integration was smooth, albeit with a somewhat short list of recommended compatible phones. Similar to our experience with the , the car downloaded the address book from our Motorola V551 phone, so placing calls was very easy. For placing calls to people not in the address book, a slide-out phone keypad is designed and positioned well for the driver to use without having to look, disappearing fully into the dash when not in use. Buttons on the steering wheel control the basic audio and phone-activation controls, and voice control can be used from there.
Improved engine output and updated chassis-control technology keep the 2006 BMW 750Li near the top of its rarefied class in terms of performance. Utilizing a two-stage intake manifold and double-VANOS variable valve timing, the 4.8-liter, all-aluminum DOHC V-8 churns out 360 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque without ever seeming strained. The six-speed transmission with adaptive transmission control for manual gear selection via steering wheel-mounted buttons puts power to the ground effectively, scooting the 750Li to 60mph in 5.8 seconds. The 2006 BMW 750Li's transmission-selection lever is fully electronic, requiring a soft push up, down, or toward the column for selecting reverse, drive, or park, respectively. The electromechanical parking brake is also a push-button affair, making for a very civilized feel from behind the wheel. The key fob is inserted into the dash with a touch-latch feel, enabling the start/stop engine button.
Metal switches set into the steering wheel allow for manual control of the 750Li's six-speed automatic transmission.
Underway, the 2006 BMW 750Li's mass is tangible, but with very effective use of aluminum chassis and braking components to reduce unsprung weight, the car feels sprightlier than expected. Variable-assist, variable-ratio speed-sensitive steering is seamless and useful, tightening up nicely as speeds rise. Switching the transmission into manual mode allows more control but seems to contradict the car's mission, although it was nice to discover that the buttons on the front and back of each side of the steering wheel shifted up and down, rather than the more conventional left-is-up, right-is-down setup. This means you can shift up and down while steering with your left hand and still program the passenger's side mirror to point curbward when in reverse with your right, should the need arise.
Near 50-50 weight distribution on the 2006 BMW 750Li provides excellent balance, and a host of chassis-control technologies team up to keep the driving entertaining. Active roll stabilization applies opposing torsion to the front and rear antiroll bars for near-flat cornering. Dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control, and dynamic brake control are mostly invisible in normal conditions but would quickly become necessary for such a large and powerful rear-wheel-drive car on less-grippy surfaces.
The 2006 BMW 750Li's drag coefficient is a low 0.29, helping keep the cabin especially quiet while cruising. Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 17mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, respectable numbers given how much mass is made to move so quickly. Efficiency is helped with an adaptive knock control system. Braking is aided by ABS and electronic brake proportioning to the 13.7-inch front discs and 13.6-inch rear discs.
As with conveniences and performance, technology drives the safety systems of the 2006 BMW 750Li. Beyond the full complement of air bags--including active knee protection for front passengers, certainly a selling point among pro athletes--and warning systems, computerized information about component wear and vehicle malfunctions is broad, including brake wear and flat-tire warnings. All safety systems are deployed by the Intelligent Safety and Information System (ISIS), which reacts differently to certain types of collisions, also shutting off the fuel pump following a severe enough impact. Adaptive brake lights increase the brake-light area and intensity under sudden hard braking, also including the taillights in extreme situations.
Autoleveling and adaptive (pivoting) headlights with Xenon low and high beams are standard, and they are complemented by halogen fog lamps in the front bumper. A high-pressure system cleans the headlights. The windshield wipers are rain sensing and alter their at-rest positions to reduce blade wear. Parallel parking and close-quarters driving are aided by a park-distance control feature that shows a bird's-eye view of the car with green-, yellow-, and red-colored images representing objects nearing the bumpers, augmented with a beep that speeds up as objects get closer and turns to a solid tone when they're within a foot.
BMW Assist customer service and roadside assistance are part of the standard four-year/50,000-mile warranty and Full Maintenance Program, which covers all factory-recommended maintenance during this period, as determined by the car's onboard service interval indicator.