Everything but a de-icer

2009, BMW, 7-Series

San Diego, CA - It's hard to believe that a trip to San Diego, CA would take me to the snow, but it is February. BMW has brought us to San Diego, CA to drive the 2009 BMW 760 and 760 Li. The official worldwide debut took place in October in Paris, France, and the United States debut took place in Los Angeles in November, 2008. Now, it's time to drive through the snowy mountains outside San Diego.

BMW has had a litany of issues with the 7-series. Chris Bangle, former head designer of BMW, got hate mail when he changed the design of the 7-series. It was so bad the terms "banged, bargained, or bangle butt" started showing up in reviews to describe a bad design. The critics don't have Bangle to kick around anymore. Adrian van Hoyden is the new chief designer for BMW.

Technology has been a focus of the 7-series. Jack Pine, Vice President, BMW marketing and product development told us that it was on the 7-series that we saw the first anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, other technologies that are now standard on other cars. It must have stung when BMW brought the i-drive out.

The i-drive has been a source of bad jokes. As much as people have written about the design they have written about the i-drive. I wrote about the i-drive back in 2002: I was changing the ventilation on a different car and manipulated it seven times before I was satisfied with the airflow. I would have had to drill down into the i-drive to change back then. BMW has made the i-drive simpler, and safer. It also has six pre-program memory buttons, so I don't have to drive down to find the program I want.

One can talk bad about the design and some of it's technology, but the BMW drivability has never been a point of contention. It is a true driver's car. The performance of the 7-series is what has kept this car the flagship of BMW. Both the 750i and 750Li are powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 rated at 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual control is the only available transmission. The 7- Series gets 22 mpg highway.

I was a bit leery of going into fresh snow in the beemer, but soon realized that feeling was unwarranted. There's a predictability, a sure-footedness that comes through. Perhaps it's because of BMW's new mechanical four-wheel steering system. If you drive up to 38 mph the system can turn the wheels in opposite direction.

BMW also has something called flexray on their vehicle. Flexray is a technology made up of auto companies and technology companies including Bosch, NSX Semiconductor and Freescale. It adjusts shock valving on the rear wheels based on what the front wheels sees on the road.

Innovation is a big part of BMW's hallmark. BMW has an aluminum roof panel that can't be put next to steel because of corrosion, so BMW has a patented process to adhere the two together.

The hybrid version of the 7-series active hybrid is a mild hybrid and will be brought to market in 2010. Tom Plucinsky, Manager BMW Public Relations, said the decision making process of what type of hybrid to put in the 7-series was dependent on how much room the battery pack would take up, hence only a mild hybrid. BMW has said there will be a fifteen percent increase in fuel economy.

BMW already has diesels in the United States, but they are not saying whether they will bring a 7-series diesel to the U.S. market. They didn't say no, though. Alanna Bahri, 7-series product manager, says BMW has also not ruled out bringing a twelve cylinder to the U.S. market.

MSRP starting price for the 750i is $80,350, an increase of $3,500 over the previous generation. The starting price for the 750Li is $84,200, an increase of $4,300. Add another $825 for destination charge. Competitors for this vehicle are, Audi A8, Lexus LS, Maserati , Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

We headed back down the hill to the sunny sands of San Diego leaving the snow behind, and the need for a de-icer.

By Lou Ann Hammond

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Images of the 2009, BMW 7-Series

2009 BMW 7-Series front shot
2009 BMW 7-Series front shot
2009 BMW 7-Series i-drive
2009 BMW 7-Series i-drive