When BMW designer Chris Bangle first unleashed his version of venerable 7-Series in 02, the oddly angular flame-surfacing inflicted upon the plutocrats pride and joy was roundly criticized for not being round enough. At the same time, the overly-complex iDrive mouse controller iDrove customers nuts. Although Bimmer s brand cachet helped maintain the 7-Series showroom momentum, the new, refreshed 7-Series was designed to right those wrongs and restore the natural order.
And so the 750 s sheet metal has returned to slab-sided safety. Gone too are the peculiar Dame Edna wraparound headlights and the gi-normous, protruding bustle butt. Otherwise, Bangle s art school influence has been replaced by, of all things, blingery. Xzibit A, B and C: the larger kidney grill at the front, the re-contoured hood and the tucked-in rear bumper at the back (designed to show off the 7 s wider rear track and its wikkid new seven-spokes). The overall effect is a bit schizo: Bad Boyz meets Bavarian burghers.
While the 7 s looks are a noticeable improvement (which would be further improved by presidential window tinting), the iDrive debacle continues unabated. BMW s boffins have de-contented and simplified the software, but the basics are still far from basic. When you have to pull over to find a way to tune-in your favorite AM radio station, you know you ve been stranded deep in RTFM territory. The little adhesive sticker next to the [now leather topped] iDrive controller remains, pointing the way towards the HVAC screen. It s the ultimate ergonomic indictment.
Fortunately, the 750 is still the ultimate driving machine — for people who like to drive big comfy cars like they stole them. The 7 s six-speed autobox isn t terribly good at wafting; the acceleration provided by the 360hp V8 increases arithmetically. WooooOOOOSH! In sport mode, forward progress is even more manic. Button shifting is the best way to keep things smooth and reliable, but who can be bothered? Best to just set the radar detector for stun and go with the flow — or is that torrent? As always, the 7 (with the optional, $3,200 Sports Package) has the handling chops to cope with high-class hooliganism.
What s needed here is for BMW to recognize what the Hell it s supposed to be and build a Club Sport 7-Series. Lower the suspension, fatten-up the wheels, slot in a six-speed manual, lose the iDrive, ditch the sound deadening, amp-up the exhaust and away we go. Did I hear someone say M7? Yes please. Meanwhile, if you re looking for a thrashable luxury car, well, you could do worse, and it s hard to know where you could do better— at least until the new Mercedes S500 hits the scene. [by Robert Farago]