Redesigned BMW 750i Muddles Line Between Driver and Driven

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BMWBMW wants you to have it all: massaging seats, removable tablets to control comfort levels from the rear seats, a twin-turbo V-8 to help blast off, a quiet cabin as comforting as a lullaby and cutting-edge (if not superfluous) technology that lets you control audio and climate by waving your hand like a wand.

Oh, and you need to be willing to spend $128,000 on a full-size luxury sedan that in offering everything stands out more as a technology showcase than anything else.

?There is so much (stuff) that is just ridiculous,? said one passenger, who had grown weary of everything it can do.

One example of the ridiculous is the first-of-its-kind gesture control software that is unique to BMW. Approach the 10.2-inch screen on the new 7 Series and swirl your finger to make the volume go up; point two fingers to switch modes; swipe the air like Tinder to reject an incoming phone call. Then there are customizable gesture controls but we, like our passenger, had enough.

Why not use the center stack buttons, redundant steering wheel controls or exceptional voice commands? Why bother?

In offering everything, the 750i and its $30,000 in upgrades blurs the line between driving and being driven ? a line with a clear and deliberate demarcation, especially by a brand that says it makes the ultimate driving machine.

Anyone considering the 750i to drive has other luxury performance sedans (Audi RS7, Tesla Model S P90D) that spike the adrenaline more. For anyone buying the 750i as someone who wants to be driven, the Mercedes S-Class feels more regal, stately and no more unassuming.

The sixth-generation flagship is gorgeous and sophisticated, and a handful of strangers admired the car, rather than the wealth it confers. It doesn?t look much different from the outgoing model except for a silver strip running from the front wheels down the rocker to the rear wheels. The nose doesn?t appear as long, and the mineral-white metallic coat of our tester looked like purity refined.

Inside is a dream of comfort and soft, streamlined contours, even overhead with the suedelike Alcantara headliner. On a winter road trip, my back-seat passenger kicked off his shoes, set his six-way massaging seat to low and was dreaming before we hit the highway. He would?ve stayed that way for hours had I not woken him while filling the 750i?s massive, 20-gallon tank that returned a remarkable 27 mpg at an average of 70 mph in Eco Pro mode. Other fuel-saving technology includes active grille shutters, start-stop where the engine shuts off at stoplights and a coasting function that ?decouples the powertrain? when coasting between 31 and 100 mph.

The nine-year-old sultan in back was able to control climate, audio, massagers and everything else with the removable tablet in the rear seat divider, even though each seat back had its own tablet to do the same thing. Redundancies are the mark of true comfort, evidently.

Behind the wheel there?s no mistaking the car?s size, despite a lightweight carbon core that helped shave nearly 200 pounds, getting the 750i down to 4,610 pounds. Yet the direct injection 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 is always light on its 20-inch wheels (part of the $3,000 M Sport package), not hesitating to peel back the pavement and rocket ahead. Paired to the 8-speed automatic with manual override via paddle shifters, the all-wheel-drive system makes 480 pound-feet of torque at just 1,800 rpm.

The size is more noticeable in the handling. There are five drive modes to affect the responsiveness of the steering wheel on the road, but there?s as big a gap between driver and road as there is between driver and back seat passenger.

In the cockpit, the buttons and controls are neatly laid out but real estate is at such a premium that the heated steering wheel button is on the steering column.

While gesture controls are superfluous, the larger head-up display and its projection of directions and other vehicle info is the best on the market. It is technology that is as cool as it is safe.

As layered as the infotainment system is, the 10.2-inch screen with navigation is one of the clearest and most dynamic around. It?s far better than Mercedes?, and while Audi?s is more intuitive, BMW?s system has exceptional voice commands and mapping.

That?s a relief for the driver and the driven, regardless of who?s footing the bill. BMW is offering everything this price tag would suggest and that creates a slight disconnect between the driving experience and the wealth of creature comforts.

2016 BMW 750i xDrive at glance
Vehicle type: luxury full-size sedan
Base price: $97,400
As tested: $127,450 (excluding $995 delivery)
Mpg: 16 city, 25 highway
Engine: direct injection 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters

(Source: TCA)