2008 BMW 750Li, Part TwoExterior Design: *** Toned down since 2006, the 2008 BMW 750Li nevertheless remains polarizing. It is distinctive, it is strangely attractive and it does look sophisticated. It isn't what you'd call traditionally good looking. Here, in extended wheelbase form, there's an added degree of awkwardness that does the already challenging lines no favors.
Interior Design: ** Some people will be impressed with the amount of leather and wood in the 750Li, but once you start using it, it can become rather infuriating. As I've already griped about in part one, the gear selector and seat adjustment buttons are both in absolutely the wrong place, with clunky controls to remind you of the fact. But the bigger problem is the overall design seems to have forgotten about ergonomics altogether. Whereas BMWs of the past were designed around the driver, this generation of the 7-Series ushered in the current trend of convex dashboards with hard-to-reach knobs and buttons. Though I will admit the enormous back seats combined with the power-operated slide-out shades make you feel more important than you actually are.
Acceleration: *** The 360 HP from the 4.8-liter V8 certainly isn't disappointing, but you won't be wowed by it either. That's not to say anything bad about the engine, it's just the car it's been fitted to — weighing in at 4552 lb — is massive. Of course, this is all relatively speaking, because you still have more straight-line punch than any limo this side of a Presidential motorcade has a right to. Braking: *** Nothing you wouldn't expect here. The brakes work well, but then this is a huge car, so they'd better. Though our car had developed a bit of a squeal, it was probably from flipping so many tricks during its life as a press car. Ride: *** Compromising the ride for the sake of more involved handling would have been excusable in a standard-length 750i. But in the limoized 750Li, ride should take a bit more precedence. Perhaps my gripes would have been addressed if the car simply had thicker rubber on smaller wheels, but the suspension itself felt like it should have been more compliant. Handling: *** There's no doubt BMW knows how to make a car handle well. That said, trying to give it extra sporting credentials by fitting huge rims and low-profile tires seems rather silly. This is no sports sedan. It's a massive car from every angle, and you're really not going to be pitching its extended wheelbase sideways going around corners. That weight that you're constantly reminded of on tighter turns translates to a very planted sensation on high-speed expressway ramps. Just don't mention low-speed corners — the gimmicky variable-ratio steering and long wheelbase combine to ruin those for the big 7-series. Gearbox: ** The six-speed automatic transmission operates smoothly in normal mode, perfect for normal driving. Switch it to sport mode and it holds gears a bit longer and becomes a tad bit annoying. But whatever you do, please do not put the gearbox in manual mode unless you're in a completely confined area where nobody can see you make a fool out of yourself. Even after a week with the car, I was constantly upshifting when I wanted to downshift and downshifting when I wanted to upshift. Of course, that was after spending an entire afternoon looking for the downshift buttons on the back of the wheel in the first place...or were those the upshift buttons? Audio: **** As you'd expect from an optional $1800 "premium sound package," the audio system sounds quite nice. However, the price doesn't include the extra $600 you'll pay for Sirius, and the $350 for the HD radio tuner. There's also an auxiliary jack for your MP3 player. But despite all this, the car shows its age by having an obsession with CDs. There's an in-dash disc player, an additional pop-out CD changer, and a complicated disc holder that wastes space in the center console. Toys: ***** Luxury used to be about keeping the occupants as calm as possible. Now, luxury has become synonymous with keeping everyone in the car as busy as possible. The 7-Series excels here. Obviously, there's the iDrive system, which by itself will keep you plenty busy. Then there's the $2200 night vision system, which is useless since it doesn't use a heads-up projection, instead displaying in the dash on the main screen. Combined with the $2400 active cruise control radar, which brakes for you in emergencies, you might be able to get away with just driving around with your HID lights turned off. The best toys on this car are the five power-operated sunshades for the back seat passengers. You get one for each side, a tiny one for each quarter window, and a big one for the rear. Of course, you've got your standard heated seats front and rear too. Value: * Cars like this suffer massive depreciation, so next to used examples just a year or two old, new ones simply don't represent good value. With the all-new 2009 7-series just around the corner, if you really must have a new one, it probably makes sense to wait for that. Overall: ** The 2008 7-series isn't a bad car; you just know that BMW knows how to build something better. The range-topping model for the entire company, it should be the ultimate expression of everything BMW is capable of. Instead it represents everything that's wrong in Bavaria. The company wanted to challenge its customers with this car, and it has, but it's failed to offer them a reward for the effort they put in. The Ultimate Driving Machine should be all about reward, but here, it's all about frustration. Also See:2008 BMW 750Li, Part One2008 BMW 750Li, Part Three