Make us your home page
Instagram
Review | 2009 BMW 750Li

Review: 2009 BMW 750Li marries luxury and technology, but will the union last?

I'm quite certain that somewhere right now, emotionally shattered BMW technicians are gathering in a church basement for a support group, huddled around the cookies and the coffee urn, their hands fairly vibrating with frustration. For as well deserved as is the title Ultimate Driving Machine, BMWs also have earned the reputation as the Ultimate Hangar Queen, taking up residence in dealership service bays.

Yes, BMWs have middling initial quality and distinctly less-than-middling reliability — so sayeth J.D. Power — but people still buy them and adore them, because they are inarguably spectacular cars. Even the BMWs I loathe are great cars. The new 135i is uglier than a Radcliffe glee club, but it's also fierce, fervid, a bottle of Bollinger that's lost its cork.

And then there's this car, the 2009 BMW 750Li, the flagship of BMW's starfleet, which might be the best luxury sedan in the world. As a synthesis of power and grace and ease and prestige, the new 7-Series demands that we raise our ceilings and throw out our measuring sticks. There is now a new standard.

And yet, the 750Li boldly/daringly/foolishly leverages its greatness on the fulcrum of one of the company's perennial weaknesses: electronics. This car comprises a blazing amour fou of control modules, sensors, microcontrollers, solenoids and mechatronic actuators.

Our fully optioned $110,170 test car provides an acute example. Among the systems: high-resolution cameras and night vision display with enhanced pedestrian detection.

Of course, there's an 80-gigabyte, hard-drive-based navigation system, satellite radio and premium audio system; and a completely redesigned version of the iDrive controller.

My favorite? The integral active steering system, or rear-wheel steering. Below 40 mph, the rear wheels can turn as much as 3 degrees opposite the direction of the front wheels, thereby reducing the big car's turning radius. Great for parking and tight city traffic. Above 40 mph, the wheels turn in phase with the front wheels to increase handling responsiveness, cornering and agility.

Does integral active steering perform as advertised? Has Hasselhoff had work? This car carves mountain roads and dices switchbacks as if it were an M3 with a pituitary problem. No big car has ever had so much rail-to-rail slaloming agility. It's uncanny.

And so we arrive at the truest portrait of the 750Li: half machine, half machine code; a kinetic sculpture, partly aluminum and steel. Wonderful, epic, historic.

But can you trust it?

I really don't know.

There are moments on the interstate at night — when the thermal-imaging night-vision display is on, the head-up display is reading out navigation messages, the lane-departure warning system is gently reminding me to use my turn signals — that the 750Li really feels like something that comes after the Automobile.

Still, I'm nagged by doubt. All of these exotic systems, such as the head-up display (Nippon Seiki), lane-change warning (Hella) and night vision (Autoliv) come from suppliers in Japan, Germany and Sweden, respectively. The 750Li is practically the U.N. of Tier 1 suppliers. But can they all get along?

Bear in mind, all of this gear is overlaid on the car's, the brand's already fraught electronics: the e-throttle-equipped 4.4-liter, 400-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V-8 with variable valve timing on intake and exhaust cams; the adaptive six-speed ZF transmission; the adaptive dynamics system, which itself has four distinct modes that ratchet up performance thresholds. The braking module governs antilock, traction and stability control, brake "drying," brake-fade compensation. It just goes on and on.

For the BMW 750Li to work, every system and subsystem has to mind-meld with the others in a cold chatter of instant, endless algorithms, faultlessly, every time, forever and ever, amen. No wonder they go buggy.

So when I say the 750Li is the best luxury sedan in the world, imagine a weather-balloon-size asterisk. I guess, as long as it starts, it is.

2009 BMW 750Li

Base price: $84,200

Price as tested: $110,170

Powertrain: Twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter, 32-valve V-8 with variable valve timing; six-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive.

Horsepower: 400 at 5,500-6,400 rpm

Torque: 450 pound-feet at 1,800-4,500 rpm

Curb weight: 4,640 pounds

Wheelbase: 126.4 inches

Overall length: 205.3 inches

0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds

EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city, 22 highway

Review: 2009 BMW 750Li marries luxury and technology, but will the union last? 04/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 10, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Los Angeles Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.