This latest version is better than before but still bewildering, and it consumes enormous amounts of concentration while you're trying to focus on the road in front of you. V-8 models gain 19-inch wheels with all-season tires and a premium stereo. Also beautiful are the standard double-spoke alloy wheels. That last 10 percent is a gray area and in that zone the driving can get a little annoying. But when the driver applies power more aggressively, especially through bends, the xDrive 7 adjusts torque distribution to maintain the sporty handling dynamics of rear-wheel drive. We can't say enough good things about the 4.
It offers impressive performance from its brilliant engines. Some option packages have changed. Having the Alpina B7 means they don't have to play that card. The 6-speed automatic seems over-engineered, or at least over-programmed. In a cost-cutting move, the ActiveHybrid 750 loses its standard leather dashboard, head-up display, and active and ventilated front seats. The fenders are chiseled upward, nicely. The back end looks like any other car on the highway, with big taillights and a horizontal chrome strip.
Just as suited for those who like to be driven as it is for those who prefer to drive themselves, the 7 Series offers a spacious and luxurious backseat along with unexpected driving pleasure. Just about every safety, comfort or convenience feature invented for the automobile is available on the 7 Series. In addition, models equipped with the twin-turbo V-8 get 19-inch wheels and a premium stereo system as standard. Even with such a long list of standard equipment, the 7 Series models offer more options and packages than we have room to list. The ActiveHybrid 7 has some special exterior characteristics. About 90 percent of the time, any 2012 7 Series model is a truly satisfying machine to operate: both amazingly comfortable and quiet, and impressively quick and agile for a sedan of its size and weight. The gray area of 7 Series satisfaction and performance sits largely in the transmission.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is just about perfect, and some drivers will find its audio controls close to salvation. The Li wheelbase is five and a half inches longer, translating to an equal increase in rear-seat legroom. The hood is long but front overhang is short. First, the good: Great interior lighting, and the world's best rearview video camera, including those that incorporate top and side views. The long-wheelbase version also gets a power rear sunshade, manual side sunshades, illuminated rear visor mirrors, and the load-leveling suspension. It's only poking around town that the 7 Series can be unwilling to glide smoothly. After all that, changes are limited for 2012.
Whether the good outweighs the bad depends on personal taste and predilection. They can be used as presets or to program commonly used functions, such as favorite phone numbers and important navigation destinations. The 7 Series xDrive more thoroughly integrates all-wheel-drive management with other electronic systems, like stability control and the 7's optional Active Roll Stabilization anti-sway bars. For performance, it adds a 500-horsepower version of the 4. On top of that, the right-side rear passenger gets the ability to adjust the positioning of the front passenger seat. Not counting the spacious glove compartment, there are so few storage places for basic things that you have to use the cupholders.
Maybe we didn't program it correctly. The long-wheelbase L models have their own roofline, creating a different profile from the shorter wheelbase models. The V12-powered 760Li raises the acceleration bar even further. Prepared by tuner Alpina, the B7 is essentially an M version of the 7. Normal seems like an inappropriate word to apply to this very special car anyhow. Acceleration and handling are both surprisingly strong with the 7 Series, and are especially noteworthy in the 760Li.
There are loads of options we never knew we needed or wanted, all with strange names that didn't describe any function we know of. Active safety features include Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Brake Control, featuring Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by, Brake Assist, and Active Brake Lights. Out on the highway, this annoyance goes away. While that may be exactly what enthusiast drivers want for track day, it's not the preferred set-up in a blizzard. Distinctions are easier to find on a closed course, or in sloppy road conditions. Maybe it's good not to attract attention by those behind. The standard climate control system offers up to four separate temperature zones, but we drove the 750Li during a heat wave, and the air conditioning on max couldn't make the cabin cool enough.
We sometimes find it overwhelming. Handling is sharper than that of the other 7 Series models. Despite the turbochargers, there is no appreciable turbo lag. It's as if the engineers and designers have attempted to raise the bar in virtually every respect, and in doing so have made simple things, like the gimmicky gear selector and even the electronic turn signals, way more cumbersome or complicated than they need to be. All-wheel drive adds all-weather capability to the 750xi and 750Lxi and, in our opinion, does so without ruining the sporty handling characteristics found in the rear-wheel-drive models. Furthermore, it reset itself at 70 degrees each time the engine was shut off. With such an excellent base engine, the larger engine is harder to justify.
When the 7 is accelerating or cruising, the alternator freewheels, so it draws no power from the engine, thus saving fuel over a traditional alternator. Aerodynamic 10-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels are an exclusive option. The 760Li's side gills, located where the doors meet the front fenders, have a chrome finish and V12 badges. A small lip on the trunk lid only adds accent to the car's lines when viewed from the side. The dash is low, thin and lovely, with a great instrument cluster featuring a clean, crisp speedometer, tach, temp and gas gauges.
Back off the throttle, and some program says: The driver wants to slow down. It gets unique badging and an exclusive paint color, Blue Water Metallic. We give iDrive the big thumbs down. Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. Total output is 455 horsepower and 515 pound-feet of torque.