2006 BMW 750 Li
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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Home, James.

In this world, there are those who drive, and those who are driven. And while my immediate response to any vehicle is a desire to slip behind the wheel, the inviting rear seats of BMW’s 7 Series made me give some serious thought to handing over the keys and just being chauffeured.

This is the company’s largest sedan, and rear-seat passengers enjoy superb legroom, along with a list of options that can include an entertainment system and a two-bottle refrigerator hidden between the seats. But this being a BMW, there’s a certain sportiness even to their limousine-style sedans, and so I put the proximity key in my pocket and pressed the Engine Start button to get things under way.

The V12-powered 760 remains essentially unchanged for 2006. The 745 of 2005 loses its 4.4-litre V8 in favour of a new 4.8-litre V8, and is renamed the 750. Two wheelbase lengths are available: the 750i at 2990 mm (117.7 in.) and my tester, the long-wheelbase 750Li at 3128 mm (123.1 in.). Moving up to the 760 in Canada means long-wheelbase only; a V12 model with short wheelbase is available in several markets, including the U.S., but isn’t sold here.

2006 BMW 750 Li
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The 750’s new engine makes 360 hp, up from the 745’s 325 hp, and 360 lb-ft of torque, up from 330. That still puts it well below the 760’s 438 hp, but if “practicality” can be used without irony at this level, there’s only so much you can do in a country that lacks an Autobahn. (A household member can attest that a 760Li will accelerate from zero to a $348 fine in 5.7 seconds; according to BMW’s figures, the 750Li would require 6.2 seconds to do the same.)

My tester started with a base price of $106,900 and added three option packages, which piled on such extras as an electrically-operated trunk lid, “soft-close” doors (you push them in until they’re just touching, and they screw themselves shut), electric trunk lid, sport suspension, front ventilated seats, 20-inch light alloy wheels and “Comfort Access”, which uses a proximity sensor to lock and unlock the doors and start the engine without using the key.

2006 BMW 750 Li
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The 7 Series comes standard with Dynamic Drive, which uses rotating hydraulic actuators in the front and rear anti-roll bars to minimize body roll on turns. My tester’s optional Adaptive Drive combines this with electronic damper control, which reduces vibration. Throw in my optional self-levelling rear air suspension and the sport suspension’s firmer springs, and the 750Li has an incredible ride. It’s smooth but not floaty, it’s exceptionally quiet, and it really shines in the turns. A car this big and heavy simply shouldn’t corner as flat and as accurately as the 7 does. Credit BMW’s emphasis on driver orientation, where everything from its entry-level 3 Series to its biggest limousine is made to be nimble. Despite its length and width, the 750Li drives much smaller than it is; it simply doesn’t feel like you’re piloting a big sedan. In combined driving, I averaged 14.9 L/100 km (19 mpg Imp).

The 750’s V8 is smooth and powerful and does everything right, as would be expected at this level; it leaves the line sharply, and its broad band gives it considerable acceleration at highway speeds when it’s needed for passing. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be left in regular mode, switched to Sport mode to run out the gears a little longer, or put into manual mode, to be shifted sequentially using buttons on the back of the steering wheel. They all work well, but it has an annoying habit: if you have it set in Sport mode and put the transmission in Park, it defaults back to regular mode when the shifter is returned to Drive, and must be switched back into Sport if you wish to continue in that mode. It would make much more sense to have it return to Sport, and only default to regular mode once the ignition is shut off.

2006 BMW 750 Li
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The 7 Series is all about luxury, and nothing in the 750’s interior disappoints. Leather surfaces are soft and padded, fit-and-finish is exemplary, and carefully diffused theatre lighting gives a luscious glow to everything. The 750’s dash contains considerably more buttons and dials than on most other models but it comes in just short of cluttered, and two covered cupholders are in the centre console, unlike those of the 3 and 5 Series which slide out of the dash and dangle drinks above the passenger’s knees.

2006 BMW 750 Li
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The centre stack contains the iDrive screen, the computerized system BMW uses for accessing many of the vehicle’s functions, using a round flat knob in the centre console as a joystick. I made my peace with the simpler, four-direction version found in the 5 Series, but I’m still no fan of the 7 Series’ eight-direction model, which is more complicated and far less intuitive. While many of the functions are infrequently used, you must page through computer screens in order to adjust the airflow if you want to override the automatic climate control system, for example.

2006 BMW 750 Li
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As with all iDrive systems, you must hit the controller each time the vehicle is started to “accept” the warning to look at the road and not at the screen, before the iDrive menu comes up; it’s standard cover-your-butt language, but I prefer the Mercedes version, which flashes the warning, realizes that you’ve read it a hundred times, and after a few seconds, goes automatically to the menu.

In all fairness, though, drivers who actually plunk down cash for their 750s will receive a thorough how-to lesson on iDrive when they take delivery, and many of the screen’s functions can be accessed through a series of standard voice commands; simply hitting a button on the wheel and saying “CD on” will start the disc playing. The system even includes a “notepad” feature, so you can record your brainstorming sessions without pen or paper, for playing back later.

2006 BMW 750 Li
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The 750Li’s front seats are 20-way (yes, really) power adjustable, and my tester’s upgrade meant not just heated and cooled, but a massaging driver’s seat: push a button, and the cushion undulates. It feels weird at first, but it’s a nice touch on a long drive. The steering wheel is also heated, with power tilt and telescopic.

In behind, the rear seats can be optioned with 14-way power adjustment, heat and ventilation; all long-wheelbase models get removable foot wedges. The optional Multimedia Package includes a simplified iDrive system with a screen that flips up from the rear of the centre console;

2006 BMW 750 Li
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along with climate and other functions, it controls the stereo and the DVD system, which plays one of up to six discs loaded into a trunk-mounted magazine. Turn on a movie, instruct the chauffeur, and then just sit back and enjoy.

Pricey to buy, heavy on premium fuel and an insurance broker’s dream, the 750Li is for those who breathe a different level of air than most of us. Still, even in this low-volume field, it’s nice to see that an automaker can consider everyone in the vehicle, turning out a car with creature comforts that will have passengers calling shotgun for the rear seats, but with handling characteristics and engine performance to satisfy enthusiasts. On second thought, James, slide over. I think I’ll drive.

Technical Data: 2006 BMW 750Li

Base price $106,900
Options $18,400 (Executive Package of air suspension, Adaptive Drive, automatic trunk, Comfort Access, soft-close doors, electric rear and side sunshades, driver’s active seat, front ventilated seats, rear heated seats, Logic7 Hi-Fi system $9,500; Sport Package of 20-inch light alloy wheels, sport suspension, body-colour roof mouldings, high-gloss shadow line $3,900; Multimedia Package of rear screen and iDrive, six-DVD changer $5,000)
Freight $1,300
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $126,700 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 4-passenger full-size sedan
Layout Longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel drive
Engine 4.8-litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves
Horsepower 360 @ 6300 rpm
Torque 360 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Tires front R245/40R20 summer performance
Tires rear R275/35R20 summer performance
Curb weight 2065 kg (4552 lbs)
Wheelbase 3128 mm (123.1 in.)
Length 5179 mm (203.8 in.)
Width 1902 mm (74.8 in.)
Height 1484 mm (58.4 in.)
Cargo capacity 500 litres (17.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.8 L/100 km (20 mpg Imp)
  Hwy: 8.7 L/100 km (32 mpg Imp)
Fuel type Premium
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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