When the 2002 BMW 745i sedan hit our shores, its unusual styling and complex I-Drive control system quickly made it the most controversial car in BMW history. Now one year later, the newest addition to the 7-Series lineup is the 12-cylinder 760Li. But will more cylinders and a longer wheel base really help quiet the storm?
I-Drive or not, the 2003 BMW 760Li promises and delivers the performance and poise of a true top-line luxury sedan. Set over 5 inches more wheelbase than the 745i we tested last year, and almost as composed as the ride, are the 760Li’s controversial creases and curves. Shying away from the last 7’s softer body-style, the 760Li and 745i share a more blunted nose, and a rather elegant and seamless transition from the chrome dressed twin kidney grill and Bi- Xenon headlights, to a broad, stretched hood.
From roof line to rear, the unique Chris Bangle-penned lines result in a love-it-or-hate-it proposition that have indeed split Bimmer ‘‘die-hards’‘. But it’s the rear that’s most controversial. Feathered slopes define each side of the tail, and meet the protruding mid-portion of the trunk. The thick-backed, swept end seems a statement of its grandeur. Which is completed by standard 19 inch wheels wearing low-profile Bridgestone touring tires, 245/45s up front, and 275/45s in the rear.
Of course, the heart and soul of every BMW lies beneath the hood. With half again more lightweight cylinders than the 745i, the new 6-liter twin-cam, all-aluminum V-12 engine, with BMW’s latest Double VANOS variable valve timing plus Valvetronic variable valve lift, is borne to rev. Chasing 438 horsepower out of the gate, it delivers a vigorous 444 pound-feet of torque. But with all this power coursing through its veins, the transmission never misses a beat. Automatic shifts from the 6-speed Steptronic gearbox are seamless and consistent. The manual shift mode, while smooth, yields little extra speed.
So how does this purebred fare on track? Well, it galloped from 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds, 6 tenths faster than the 745i, and clawed its way up the 1/4 mile in 14 seconds flat at 103 miles per-hour. This V-12, 17-foot long sedan really leaps off the line and runs strongly all the way to the redline. But with all this vigor, also comes grace. The chassis is tight and solid. Its sophisticated electronically controlled systems include Dynamic Stability Control, Electronic Damping Control, Active Roll Stabilization, and self-leveling rear air springs.
Add in the responsive, vehicle speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, and the end result is extremely agile, yet forgiving, handling. But if you think you don’t need electronic Band-Aids, be warned. With DSC switched off, the combination of big mass and unrestrained power can result in the 7-Series trying to oversteer when exiting corners. Fortunately the steering provides commendable smoothness and more feel that the previous 7-Series.
Huge ABS-equipped discs with Dynamic Brake Control bring this 4,872 pound mass of speed to a halt. Yet performance was a little disappointing: 60 to 0 took 129 feet, 11 feet longer than the V-8. But, while there is significant weight transfer to the front, it doesn’t affect the 7’s rock-solid stability.
All this power and handling is manipulated from inside the 760’s inviting interior. An abundance of room makes this a supremely comfortable command post, and a virtual sea of leather, wood and ambiance lighting awaits occupants. Among the cornucopia of bells and whistles are the somewhat fiddly 20-way adjustable front seats with individual climate controls, and the standard Logic 7 audio system, that offers Surround Sound, a 6-disc CD changer and 13 speakers.
Then there is the mother of all controls, the I-Drive system! This large dial is the command center for everything from the radio to the navigation system. But its overly complex design makes it more trick than functional. BMW will deliver a more streamlined version in the new 5-Series, and we like it much better.
Virtually all of the 760Li’s extra wheelbase went into rear seat leg room for a true executive sedan experience. Available ceiling mounted controls adjust the rear climate, and if you decide not to drive yourself, fully-adjustable power seats cushion the ride. Fold the rear armrest and an available cool box offers space for two bottles and some snacks.
To ensure passenger and driver safety, airbag protection abounds. Dual front and knee air bags, front side airbags, and front and rear head protection curtains. Also available are rear seat side impact airbags. One advantage of the trunk lid hump is the class-leading cargo room. The power-operated deck lid opens to a full 18.0 cubic feet of space.
So what’s all this power and comfort worth? How about a base price of $116,495? Throw in all the options, and spend a mere $123,780. Makes you forget about I-Drive, doesn’t it?
The 2003 BMW 760Li is a true top of the line car, that is truly unique among its peers. Yes, it is overly complex, the styling is controversial, and the price takes your breath away. But user-friendly or not, it’s a remarkable car. You just have to look past the glitz to find the pure BMW inside.
Engine: 6-Liter Twin-cam, All-aluminum V-12
Torque: 444 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.0 Seconds @ 103 MPH
60-0 MPH: 129 Feet
EPA Mileage: 15 MPG City 22 MPG Highway