Along with our car's single-CD slot in the dashboard, it went old-school with an optional six-CD/DVD changer in the glovebox. Either of these players could handle MP3 CDs. The single-CD slot also served as a ripper, letting us load 12GB of music in MP3 format to the car's internal hard drive, suitably tagged by an internal Gracenote database. Broadcast music sources in the 750i included HD and satellite radio, both standard features from BMW.
Both the six-disc changer and the iPod integration came as part of the Premium Sound package. That package also means a 600-watt 16-speaker audio system, with subwoofers under each front seat. Even with those impressive specs, the audio system is restrained. We didn't hear big thumps from the subwoofers and the interior panels remained unrattled by high volume. The sound quality is very good, with clear reproduction and solid staging, making a delight to drive around listening to music.
We are used to BMWs affording an excellent degree of driving pleasure, and the 750i delivered when it came to cruising. The car is rock solid. But it didn't seem quite as interested in our jabs at performance driving. With a twin turbocharged 4.4-liter direct injection V-8 under the hood, it doesn't want for power, but we found its straightline launch unsatisfying.
From the first moment we stomped the gas pedal, the car hesitated, as if assessing whether we were serious about wanting to go forward fast. After starting to roll, the car took off, getting beyond 40 mph in very little time. But then in an apparent crisis of conscious, the acceleration slacked off in a palpable dip. Checking to see if we were still serious about speed, we guess. Satisfied that the gas pedal was still on the floor, it picked up speed again, roaring past 60 mph.
As this engine pumps out 407 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, we would expect better behavior than that. Ultimately, we laid blame on the six-speed automatic transmission. Six speeds work fine for most cars these days, and is generally considered average. But the 550i Gran Turismo we tested recently had eight gears, so we know BMW has the capability to take the 750i further.
That lack of any gears beyond six also affects fuel economy, forcing the engine to run at nonoptimal speeds. The big engine and turbos don't help, either, conspiring to saddle the 750i with a gas guzzler tax for 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. We never got close to that 20 mpg mark, turning in an average of 16.3 mpg for mixed city and freeway driving.
The transmission comes with sport and manual modes, although our car was not equipped with paddle shifters. Driving over mountain roads, sport mode seemed anemic at first, but soon we found the sweet spot on the accelerator, the modulation zone that told the transmission to keep the engine running above 3,500rpm. With the engine unafraid to rev, we could put the 750i's power down in the turns.
Except that the 750i isn't a great cornering car. It does have a dynamic drive selector that let us choose sport settings for suspension and power train, but the car is more than 16 feet long and weighs close to 5,000 pounds. Even in full sport mode it leaned in the corners, with no sign of any flat rotation.
During these cornering exercises, we didn't notice much effect from the all-wheel drive, a new feature for the 7-series. BMW's xDrive splits torque 40 percent to the front and 60 percent to the rear by default, but shifts up to 80 percent torque to the rear wheels when needed. The system is programmed to also shift torque to the rear while cornering, but we could not feel the difference. It may show more effect on slippery roads.
Though it's no canyon carver, the 750i felt very comfortable for a lengthy drive. With the suspension in comfort mode, it only conveyed a hint of rough asphalt to the cabin, keeping us well-insulated from the outside world. BMW's sport reputation is well-burnished, but this 7-series more clearly shines for luxury.
We were generally well-pleased with the 2010 BMW 750i xDrive, at least until we had to fill it up. It didn't exactly offer the sporting performance we would expect from a BMW, but it made up for it with an extremely nice ride. We primarily docked it points for the transmission and lousy gas mileage.
The car really shines for its cabin tech, which includes the navigation, phone, and stereo systems. And although our car wasn't equipped with them, we give it credit for the array of driver aid features available, which include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and night vision.
For design, BMW still needs to work on its onscreen interface. We mentioned the difficulty with iPhone music selection, and we're not all that keen on the address-entry screen, either. But it earns back our respect with the clean exterior and the well-crafted cabin materials.
|Model||2010 BMW 750i xDrive|
|Power train||Twin turbo, direct injection 4.4-liter V-8|
|EPA fuel economy||14 mpg city/20 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||16.3|
|Navigation||Standard hard drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single-CD in-dash, six-disc CD/DVD player in glove compartment|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, USB flash drive, satellite radio, HD radio|
|Audio system||600-watt 16-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, night vision, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$99,825|
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