Auto Review: 2016 BMW 750i Overflows with Innovation

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BMW 7 SeriesWhen the driver of a 2016 BMW 750i does a finger gesture in your direction, don’t be offended. It’s nothing personal.

He’s just relaying commands via BMW’s intriguing and new Gesture Control system, the world’s first such feature in a car. Spin a finger in a circular motion and up goes the radio volume. A two-finger gesture can change the station or return to the previous screen. In all, five midair gestures are available to control the infotainment system.

Is this really any easier than turning a knob or pushing a button? Ah, probably not, but it will impress the neighbors.

Fact is, the new 7 Series is loaded with new technologies, including a built-in wireless phone charger in the center bin. Also, a new key fob that is more like a mini smartphone shows range, fuel status and other car-service data. And a removable tablet with a 7-inch screen lets rear passengers adjust light, audio and massaging seats.

One more innovative feature brings us to the drive — after all, isn’t that what Beemers are really all about? It is BMW’s new adaptive air suspension system (part of the optional Autobahn package) and it refines the ride by surveying the road conditions ahead and then making adjustments accordingly. That means flatter corners and better handling overall.

The all-wheel-drive 750i’s powerplant is a carryover of last year, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 that punches out 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a silky smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.

Step on the accelerator and the 750i will sprint to 60 mph in a jarring 4.3 seconds, and do the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds as it hits 111.9 mph. Helping that happen is its carbon “core,” which BMW says is 50-percent lighter than steel and gives the car a lower center of gravity and improved agility.

Better behavior will be needed, of course, if you’re interested in keeping mileage near the Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 16 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.

Last year there were four drive modes, ranging from Eco Pro for economy-minded to Sport Plus. BMW added a fifth this year and it may be the best of the set. Adaptive mode automatically adjusts the suspension, steering and tranny responses to your particular driving style.

Steering feel is less sharp than with some of its foes, especially performance machines like the Porsche Panamera, but the 750i remains a dynamic personality on the road.

Equally impressive is what’s on the inside: BMW paid special attention this year to comfort, high-tech goodies and too many luxuries to mention. Would you believe wood-trimmed seatbelt covers?

A digital gauge cluster and the latest version of the iDrive system with touchpad control are good for starters. Upgraded-leather front seats get 20-way power with four-way power lumbar and heated armrests — if you can’t find comfort here, please see a physician.

Rear passengers have it even better. The 750i’s standard stretched platform (you can’t get the short version anymore) translates to limo-style legroom of 44.4 inches. That’s complemented by power foot rests, power side and rear window shades and folding tables. A Wi-Fi hotspot lets you stream content from your smartphone or tablet to the entertainment screen.

Concert music will sound like a live performance with an available 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system. And there’s even a cabin fragrance system — just press a button for a spray of flowery freshener.

Cargo space is a roomy 18.2 cubic feet and includes a pass-through into the rear seat for the skis.

High-tech safety features come in two packages. The first has lane-departure warning, parking assistance, front-collision warning and mitigation, and Surround View camera, which offers top and 3-D panoramic views. A second package offers adaptive cruise control plus a new feature, Traffic Jam Assistant, which makes automatic steering adjustments in sluggish traffic situations.

BMW calls the new 7 Series “luxury’s newest evolution.” No wonder one woman, a self-avowed Beemer enthusiast, said in an online forum: “I am beyond impressed and don’t want to get out of the car.”

BMW 750i xDrive: $98,345

AS TESTED: $124,045

POWERTRAIN: 4.4-liter, 445-horsepower twin-turbo engine mated to eight-speed automatic transmission

ZERO-TO-60 mph: 4.3 seconds

EPA MILEAGE: 16 mpg city, 25 mpg highway

(Source: TCA)