Say ahoy to BMW's fifth-generation 750Li, a 17.1-foot-long technological battleship that fits the moniker of flagship.
Introduced this spring with a less controversial shape than before and new V-8, this luxury sedan offers technology, plus size-shrinking performance and handling for the cost of premium unleaded. Moreover, I enjoyed its commodious back seat with video playing almost as much as driving it.
When then-BMW designer Chris Bangle introduced the last major restyle of the 7 in 2002, its confusing design lines at the aft end had people calling it a "Bangle Butt." BMW smoothed that tail out in 2006, and sales went well.
Now BMW has smoothed out the basic shape, starting with a more prominent grill and glaring headlights with corona rings as daytime running lights. A wide lower intake carries chrome accent and fogs.
A sloped rear window and design lines nicely join a flattened vertical tail with subtle spoiler. The result -- a sleek, ground-hugging large car that caught lots of attention.
The interior is clothed in stitched leather and dark wood, with real alloy. The dash has a cleaner shape, a single optional ($1,200) stitched leather cowl over silver-ringed instruments with digital displays for the engine/suspension/shift settings in the tach and trip computer in the speedometer; readouts for cruise control, blind spot and lane drifting systems top center; odometer/trip meter/navigation bottom center.
The heated power tilt/ telescope steering wheel has easy controls for stereo, Bluetooth and cruise control. The dash center gets a high-resolution, wide-screen display of almost every function controlled by a much-improved fourth- generation iDrive.
Its black chrome turn/push/tilt knob offers more intuitive operation, with an all-important "back" button and direct- select keys (CD, Radio, Telephone, Navigation and main menu) next to it It accesses the great AM-FMHD-CD/DVD/Sirius Satellite audio system (with iPod/USB inputs) with 13-gigabyte hard drive to record music.
Traffic reports and car functions are accessible via iDrive, or eight programmable "Favorites" keys. The dual-zone climate control system offers heated/cooled front seats, the driver getting two memory presets, massage and ability to move the front passenger seat remotely. The 14-way seats were supportive and comfortable.
Almost all functions can be controlled via voice command too, while the E-Shift shifter moved from dash to center console is a joystick that engages gears electronically. The remote key fob allows door lock/unlocked with a touch (LEDs light the handles), and "Start" in addition to remote window and sunroof opening.
With 5.5 inches more rear leg room than the base 7 Series, folks in back get more head and leg room, foot rests, heated seats, rear air conditioning and a superb DVD player with dual monitors and wireless headphones, a luxury ride complete with window shades for privacy. The trunk is huge.
Active Cruise Control maintains speed and distance with the car ahead, stops when it stops, then resumes cruising when the car ahead moves on. Night Vision shows light-enhanced images of dark roads, pedestrians glowing white.
Cameras on the front fenders show what's coming left and right at a blind intersection. The back-up camera (with sonar sensors front and rear) helps park the yacht.
Glowing triangles in the side mirrors let you know a car is in your blind spot, but are dim in daytime. That system vibrates the steering wheel if you change lanes without signals or drift over a line.
There's more, but you can check out the "online" owners manual, displayed on-screen -- cooler.
Our 9,400-mile-old 4,640-pound uberluxury sedan was a quiet cruiser bar some wind noise around the windshield pillars, yet it was nicest big sports sedan I've driven in a while.
The twin-turbo V-8 has 400 horsepower, up 40 from 2009, and a subtle snarl. You can tailor shocks, throttle response, steering feel and stability control from Comfort (too floaty ride) up to Sport Plus (firm but well-buffered).
Instant throttle response meant 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, faster than a Camaro SS, but mileage is a dismal 14 mpg city.
Bumps never unsettled the chassis, the ride comfortably controlled, stitching turn to turn with only a slight feeling of size, a touch of power oversteer available to neutralize understeer and make turns fun. Speed-sensitive front- and rear-wheel steering resulted in superb control.
If you have to ask, you can't afford it. ($84,200 base; $108,870 with options such as cameras, power trunk, lane and blind spot detection, heated steering wheel, power sunshades, cooled front seats, rear DVD, NightVision and a $1,000 gas guzzler fee.)
Reach Morris News Service automotive writer Dan Scanlan at email@example.com.
THE VEHICLE: 2010 BMW 750Li, a rear-wheel-drive, five-passenger, full-size luxury sports sedan
BASE PRICE: $84,200
PRICE AS TESTED: $108,870
ENGINE: Twin-turbo-charged, 32-valve, 4.4-liter V-8 producing 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
EPA MILEAGE: 14 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
WHEELBASE: 126.4 inches
LENGTH: 205.3 inches
WIDTH: 74.9 inches
HEIGHT: 58.3 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 4,640 pounds
FRONT HEADROOM: 40.8 inches
FRONT LEGROOM: 41.2 inches
REAR HEADROOM: 38.9 inches
REAR LEGROOM: 44.3 inches
TRUNK: 17.7 cubic feet
FUEL CAPACITY: 21.7 gallons of premium