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BMW’s Best: 2009 750Li sedan

2009_bmw_750li1When evaluating a car as crammed with technology as the 750Li, it is tempting to describe it by simply listing the features.

There are the shock absorbers that automatically adjust themselves to the ride setting and road speed. And there is the side view camera, whose fender-mounted lenses allow the driver to see both ways when pulling out of a narrow passageway. Then there is the driver assistance package that combines blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and automatic high beam dimming.

But any car, especially a BMW, has to be more than the sum of its parts, and with an as-tested price of $100,320, it has to be a tidy sum as well.

The last generation 7-series wasn’t. All the gadgets and gizmos didn’t add up, and the clumsy driver interface, with the dash-mounted shift lever and notorious i-drive instrument controller, added to the feeling of technology overload. The driver felt like he was fighting the car, not steering it.

BMW has refined that experience in the new 7, putting the driver back in control. The shift lever has returned to its rightful place on the center tunnel, and the i-drive has matured into a rational, learnable piece of equipment. The driver feels comfortable, not confused.

Overcoming those obstacles made driving the 7 an enormously satisfying experience. So it was with anticipation rather than dread that I settled into the 7’s infinitely cosseting driver’s seat (unlike most makers, BMW makes its own seats and considers them a core competence). I hit the stop-start button, squeezed the shift lever and ignited the 4.4 liter, 32-valve turbocharged V-8. The combination of immense torque and dampened silence was intoxicating. The V-8 was both quiet and powerful, capable of launching the 4,700 lb. car to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds, according to BMW.

I didn’t verify those 0 to 60 numbers but was constantly having to ease off the accelerator to keep my speed within reasonably legal limits. I kept myself entertained navigating the screens on the audio system, changing the look of the heads-up display and experimenting with various comfort and safety settings.

I’m still not sold on lane departure warning, since I tend to stray out of my lane with some frequency, and like other cars, the BMW tends to lock the passenger doors more often than seems strictly necessary. But those are minor quibbles.

The 750Li feels like too much car for the running of daily errands. But for that occasional business trip between cities or on a vacation jaunt, I can’t imagine anything more enjoyable. Even when it was not in motion, it looked great sitting in my driveway, its titanium silver metallic paint glimmering in the sunlight.