Review: 2016 BMW 750i combines power and elegance in a plush package

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We spent a week in the 2016 BMW 750i to assess the many changes and luxuriate in opulence(Credit: Aaron Turpen / New Atlas)

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Attention on the BMW's flagship 7 Series this year has largely been on the plug-in hybrid iPerformance models – and for good reason. They are as innovative as they are beautiful. Yet the bread-and-butter for the big executive class sedan from BMW is in the gasoline-powered models. We spent a week in the 2016 BMW 750i to assess the many changes and luxuriate in opulence. The desire to summon a driver named Jeeves was palpable.

The most obvious changes to the 2016 7 Series are the now-standard long wheelbase of 126.4 in (321 cm), the standard adaptive air suspension, and a totally revamped interior with enough bells and whistles to make Captain Picard jealous. At the heart of it all is a very well-tuned chassis and, in the 750i model, a throaty V8 powering all four wheels.

That big V8 is a turbocharged 4.4-liter that outputs an impressive 445 hp (332 kW) and 480 lb-ft (651 Nm) of torque, with all-wheel drive supplied via an eight-speed automatic transmission. That transmission is a smooth-shifter with some excellent programming for RPM optimization and road-eating.

The EPA estimates fuel economy in the 2016 750i to be 19 mpg (12.3 L/100km) combined, with 16 mpg (14.7 L/100km) in the city and 25 mpg (9.4 L/100km) on the highway. In our week with the big sedan, we saw very close to those numbers at 17.5 mpg (13.4 L/100km) overall. That's with several "test runs" doing 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) sprints in under five seconds to make sure this big Bimmer lived up to expectations.

On the outside, the 2016 BMW 7 Series sees only subtle changes. Aside from the now-standard long wheelbase, which makes the BMW 7 Series the longest in the class, changes to the exterior are found in the front fascia and window framing. The fascia sees some narrowing to bring it in line with the current BMW look, with the hood curving down a bit more and the grille and headlamps becoming slightly narrower. Along the bodywork, the curves in the beltline and rear pillar are a bit more accented to aid the overall look of a sport coupe gone sedan that is the common theme throughout the German automaker's lineup. Nineteen-inch wheels and LED exterior lighting are standard on the 750i.

Inside, the 2016 BMW 750i sports a different look to its predecessors, with the driver and front passenger greeted to multi-contour seating as standard. These give adjustable and well-considered support clad in beautiful leather that matches the uplifted dashboard and its array of technology.

Behind the fully-adjustable steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that provides a multitude of options for the driver. Instrumentation can be switched between several layouts and information displayed can be customized to the driver's needs or interest. This is all augmented by a standard heads-up display that appears in the lower windscreen ahead of the driver. Setting these things to one's taste can take a little time and experimentation, but the menu system is fairly straightforward and once the sweet spot is found, the instrumentation approaches perfection.

Also seen as standard in the 2016 BMW 750i is a 10.2-inch infotainment screen in the center of the dash. This is controlled by a touchpad-enhanced control knob using the iDrive system that includes several added options from the BMW ConnectedDrive connectivity suite, such as MyInfo and BMW Apps. On-board internet and Wi-Fi are also standard in the 750i.

Those familiar with the BMW command system for infotainment will immediately be at home, while a short learning curve ensures those new to it will become old hats in quick fashion. The only downside to iDrive is the plethora of options that can be paged through when all upgrades are present. BMW has yet to really create an integrated smartphone app to help with this, but the included instructions in the system can be a boon to those who feel overwhelmed.

New this year, and much-touted, is Gesture Control, which allows the driver to use finger and hand movements to control the infotainment system. Once the novelty wore off, however, we found this to be less than useful in everyday use. It is fun to impress your friends with a simple finger movement to raise the radio volume or a "kill it" hand movement in front of the screen to hang up the phone, but it's generally easier to use voice commands and steering-mounted buttons for most things.

Along with all of this tech up front, the BMW 750i also has a bevy of safety technologies included or available. We highly recommend the Autobahn package if you plan to drive the 750i yourself, as it includes driver aids such as variable-ratio steering and Comfort Drive. The former changes steering assistance according to driver settings to stiffen or loosen its feel, while Active Comfort Drive uses a camera system to sense road conditions and adjust suspension dampers to absorb expected bumps. That system is an excellent upgrade when the big Bimmer is taken on rough roads in town or on the highway. After driving with the system off, we quickly appreciated how responsive it makes the suspension to cushion harsher blows from the road.

Meanwhile, the Driver Assistance Plus package adds several upgrades, such as lane-departure warning, semi-automated parking (parallel), blind-spot monitoring, front collision mitigation, a surround-view camera, and more. Upgrading that to the Driver Assistance Plus II package adds adaptive cruise control, lane-departure prevention, and more. We especially like the Traffic Jam Assistant added with the second upgrade, which takes the stop-and-go capability of the adaptive cruise to a new level, adding minute steering adjustments when in slow-moving traffic. The driver is required to keep a hand on the wheel, but that can be a soft touch without much input as the car adjusts itself to the lane in stop-and-go.

The 2016 750i xDrive also has an exclusive upgrade option called Rear Executive Lounge Seating, which sees the passenger-side seat in the rear become a lounge chair with a power-adjustable footrest and a fold-away table that articulates to the passenger's lap. It also adds dual rear entertainment screens and a removable Touch Command Tablet (a basic 8-inch Android tablet) to the rear seats' center console.

This tablet, which automatically charges when stowed in its console-integrated storage spot, can control many of the car's climate, entertainment, navigation, and other functions and can connect to Google Play and the internet to download apps and games. The Tablet is functionally the same as any similar Android device with an app suite for the car and we found it to be the best way to control the entertainment screens in the back, as the included remote for that purpose is clunky to operate.

Few things can compare to sitting in the back of a big luxury sedan like the BMW 750i, reclined and comfortable as the chair's massage function does its thing and your favorite show plays on the entertainment monitor.

As with most executive-class sedans, of course, if you must ask what the price tag is for these upgrades, you probably can't afford them. The base price for the 2016 BMW 750i xDrive is US$97,400, and our test model, which contained most available options, rang in at US$129,245 delivered.

But you get what what you pay for here. This is a thoroughly enjoyable sedan to both drive and be driven in. From the massaging seats to the fast-paced acceleration and understated opulence, this is a beautiful car for everyone who's in it. This is what the executive class is all about.

The 7 Series has long served as BMW's flagship, setting a benchmark in the executive sedan class. For 2016, several changes have been made, once again proving that when it comes to top-level luxury, the German automaker knows how to do it right.

Product Page: BMW 7 Series

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