(Clifford Atiyeh/Globe Photo)
Part 1Eight years. That’s how long it’s been since I enjoyed staring at a 7 Series. Two generations ago, the squarish 740i Sport looked like the genuine flagship sedan it was in 2001: wide, hunkered-down, and imposing, what with that model’s 18-inch wheels and piercing xenon headlamps. It still looked fantastic four years earlier, when Pierce Brosnan manhandled the 12-cylinder 750iL with his cell phone – from the backseat – in the 1997 Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
The 2002 7 Series brought the movie theatrics to life with iDrive, the computer system that controlled radio, climate, navigation, and vehicle settings via a multi-directional console dial. Among automotive electronics, it was unprecedented in its technical sophistication. In the press, iDrive was hated for its needless complexity. Simple tasks, such as switching a radio station, became multi-step processes with steep learning curves. BMW didn’t care, and apparently, neither did its customers.
That model, which cracked the company’s conservative design language on its skull, was the best-selling 7 Series in BMW history. It was startling and unmistakable, but never handsome, even after the 2006 refresh when the bloated rear was slightly trimmed.
Save for the upright, flared kidney grills on the 2009 750Li - appropriate for the 7's big shot persona - each line on this new car kisses the next gracefully, instead of ending abruptly or getting interrupted by stray "surface flames," as the previous model's flared body creases were known. It's simple and elegant - more conservative, perhaps - yet not as staid as the Audi A8.
This is 17 feet, 4,640 pounds, and $107,320 of car. So underneath its refined exterior is a not-so-simple, tech-laden feast of excess, customization, and incredible performance. Luxury car buyers expect this treatment. Undeserving peons like myself are taken aback.
Open the vault-like driver's door, sink into the perforated, buttery-smooth leather on the 16-way massaging chair, and start searching for the door handle. It takes a few seconds to notice that bowing stretch of walnut does most of the trick. Most, that is, because electric motors seal the door shut even tighter, and should you close any of the Bimmer's four doors too softly, they'll tuck them in for you. No hip-checking required.
Check back on Boston.com/overdrive for more updates on our 2009 BMW 750Li.
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