Thursday, April 27, 2006

Behind the Wheel Review: BMW 760Li

If you’ve got a spare $127,590 lying around and it’s time to update the machinery in the space marked “Ultimate Luxury Sedans Only” in your garage, you should check out the 2006 BMW 760Li.

This is a, if not the, leading candidate for such a renowned title, even with the explosion of new models at Mercedes Benz, the latest offerings of Lexus and Infiniti, and renewed energy in places like Bentley.

Long-time readers may be a bit puzzled by that last statement, as I have not been kind to the big Bimmer in recent years, thanks almost entirely to the iDrive computer nonsense in the passenger cabin and Chris Bangle styling on the outside, especially at the back end with its pronounced “bustle.”

I was far from being alone in my disenchantment with BMW over these matters, and we see with the 2006 model some healthy changes that almost certainly are the direct result of the widespread criticism.

Most notable in this regard are the revised exterior panels, beginning up front where the Seven Series gets a more sharply sloped hood and a new fascia that looks both more aggressive and simpler.

The mid-section of the Seven Series seems ever so slightly longer, thanks to revised rocker panels, and that makes the whole car look less bulky from several angles. The mid-section appearance is also aided somewhat by the more sharply creased-inward angle of the rear fenders behind the wheels.

There are changes to the tail as well, with the tail lamps being wider and now stretching across into the trunk lid. That bustle butt is still there at the rear end, however, the changes make for a less pronounced Banglization.

My Kalahari Beige Metallic 760Li was powered by the ultimate Bimmer motor, the 6.0 liter DOHC V-12 that produces a rousing 438 horsepower and flings the big sedan from zero to 60 mph in a touch over five seconds.

Inside the Bimmer is a passenger cabin that could easily be mistaken for a super-exclusive English club, thanks to the lavish appointments and the incredible quietness, even on the road.

I still think the iDrive is a plague on western civilization and ought to be tossed out in the middle of the North Sea, but the rest of the Seven Series cabin is simply, unquestionably, totally wonderful.

Dynamically, it’s all here, too, as BMW endows its biggest sedan with every possible technological feature aimed at keeping you safe, swift and serene. Yes, yes, it is awfully expensive, but if I had that kind of money, I’d think it over about two nanoseconds before signing on the dotted line.

After all, don’t want to keep that parking space vacant too long, right!