2007 BMW 7 Series
At the top of the luxury sedan food chain you'll find cars like the 2007 BMW 7 Series, which represent the peak of engineering, elegance and hospitality available in a five-passenger automobile. Last redesigned for 2002, the 7 Series remains one of the most technologically advanced sedans in its class -- so much so that potential buyers often experience technology overload during their initial encounter. If you can get past the bewildering cockpit interface, though, you'll be able to enjoy the most involving full-size sedan on the market. Whether in V8-equipped 750 or V12-powered 760Li form, the BMW 7 Series has the personality and reflexes of a much smaller car.
Those reflexes are a product of the 7's expertly tuned suspension and steering. To keep the big sedan steady around corners, all models come with Active Roll Stabilization, which stiffens the suspension's antiroll bars to reduce body roll. Additionally, 750i and 705Li models can be equipped with either the Sport Package, which provides firmer suspension tuning, or the Adaptive Ride Package, which uses self-leveling air springs and adaptive shock damping to strike a compromise between ride comfort and handling acuity. This latter setup is standard on the 760Li. The "Li" models ride on a 5-inch-longer wheelbase and are 5.5 inches longer overall than the standard 750i. This stretch opens up 6 extra inches of legroom in the backseat, but doesn't make them unwieldy to handle.
We wish we could say the same about the standard iDrive vehicle management system. The 7 Series was the first BMW model to get this revolutionary bit of technology, and while iDrive corrals a lot of functions, including the audio, climate, navigation, Bluetooth and BMW Assist systems, it has a steep learning curve and, based on our experience, increases driver distraction. On the plus side, iDrive minimizes cabin clutter, as it's operated via a console-mounted dial that interacts with a central LCD screen.
In the five years since the debut of BMW's iDrive, such all-in-one control systems have become the standard of the super luxury sedan segment. However, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have come up with more user-friendly setups, and for consumers who just want to get in and drive, either the A8 or S-Class may prove to be a more appealing choice. Both are just as luxurious as the 7, and the Mercedes is just as agile, if slightly less engaging from behind the wheel. Also worth consideration are the Lexus LS 460 and Jaguar XJ8/XJR, which buck the trend and use a traditional control layout. The Lexus, in particular, is an amazingly sophisticated and opulent sedan, though its driving experience is somewhat antiseptic. The Jag is a touch less refined than the others, but its sleek, classical styling goes a long way in a vehicle class where appearance counts for plenty. The truth is that none of these high-dollar sedans is likely to disappoint, but for buyers who crave an engaging driving experience above all else, the 2007 BMW 7 Series remains the definitive choice. Just make sure you have a high tolerance for technology before you sign the deal.
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