2009 to Present: BMW 7 Series
Even though the BMW 7 Series is considered one of the finest flagship sedans on sale, competitors have overshadowed the current model with flashier looks and more luxury features. But that doesn't mean the 7 Series is down and out. It is still very much worth a look if you're considering a large sedan that offers a premium interior and an engaging driving experience.
In terms of looks, the 7 Series is an evolution of the last-generation model. BMW designers smoothed out the polarizing design that was a key trademark of the previous 7 Series. The result is a more handsome luxury sedan, though it also doesn't stand out as much as the previous model. The 7 Series is available in regular- and extended-wheelbase body styles. The standard wheelbase measures around 200 inches in overall length, while the long-wheelbase model is about 5 1/2 inches longer. The interior follows BMW's methodology of luxury appointments with restraint. Leather comes wrapped around the seats and dash, while a range of wood or aluminum trim choices are used on the dash and door panels.
Five engines are available on the 7 Series. The base 740i and the extended-wheelbase 740Li get a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The ActiveHybrid 7 takes the 740i's engine and pairs it with an electric motor to produce a combined output of 350 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque. Next is the 740Ld, which has a turbodiesel 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. The 750i and 750Li feature a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine with 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. Wrapping up the 7 Series powertrain lineup is the 760Li, which comes with a turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 with 535 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque.
The 7 Series launched with a standard six-speed automatic transmission when it was introduced, though newer models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available, depending on the model year.
If you want your 7 Series to standout from other models, there is the Alpina B7. This exclusive 7 Series starts life as a standard 7 Series on the assembly line. Then, German performance specialist Alpina makes a number of changes. The exterior gets a new body kit to make the B7 look more aggressive, while the interior gets unique wood trim and subtle details to make it stand out. Power comes from a tuned version of the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with up to 540 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. A six- or eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard, depending on the model year.
No matter which version of the 7 Series you pick, all models get keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth, navigation, four-zone automatic climate control, BMW's iDrive system and power front seats with memory settings.
Earlier BMW 7 Series Models
The first-generation BMW 7 Series was introduced in 1978 to compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The overall look can be described as a larger 5 Series. Two inline six-cylinder engines were on offer throughout its life, along with the choice of either a manual or automatic transmission.
1988 would see the second-generation 7 Series introduced. Again, the designed followed in the footsteps of the smaller 5 Series. This generation would see the introduction of a long-wheelbase model with the "L" designation and the introduction of BMW's first V12 engine. A six-cylinder engine served as the base engine until a V8 took its place in 1993. This would also be the first BMW to come with a stability and traction control system.
The third-generation 7 Series came out in 1995 and was an evolution of the previous model. Again there a V8 and V12 were offered, as well as regular and long-wheelbase models. This generation offers a Sport package that includes such items as a stiffer suspension, larger 18-inch wheels and a new, five-speed automatic transmission.
2002 saw the introduction of the fourth-generation 7 Series. This model garnered a lot of controversy for its unconventional exterior design, which clashed with other designs in the BMW family. Not helping matters was the introduction of iDrive, an infotainment system that governed a number of vehicle functions. The system was criticized for being very confusing to use, but became more intuitive over time. Powertrains options include a V8 and a V12.