Fewer odd Bangles
IntroductionWhen it came time for the North American launch of BMW's updated flagship model, one phrase immediately came to mind: "Actions speak louder than words." Quietly rotating on a turntable at the 2005 New York International Auto Show was the 2006 BMW 7 Series, which debuted at the Geneva Auto Salon a month earlier. Because New York was the 7 Series' North American debut, BMW made no fanfare, produced no spotlight, uttered no mention of the car during its press conference. The limelight that day focused on the 7's little brother, the redesigned 3-Series. One interpretation of the scene may be that this is BMW's way of saying "Fine. You were right. The last 7-Series could have been better." But, of course they won't say that - they'll put a freshened 7-Series in the corner and let you find it yourself.
It's worth finding. The lineup has been changed a bit - 745 models are now 750 models, but the 760 model names are carried over. Powering the 2006 BMW 750i and 750Li is a new 4.8-liter V8 that has 35 more horsepower than the outgoing 4.4-liter, with a max output of 360 horses. All models have more conservative styling, though the changes are very subtle - a little reshaped headlight here, a reshaped trunk lid there. Most significant is the improved iDrive system, which BMW promises is more user-friendly, features an all-new climate control interface, and has some nifty new graphic colors.
Largest of the BMW sedans, the 2006 7-Series quietly made its North American debut at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. Pricing has not been announced.
Performance-oriented, luxury automaker BMW displayed its freshened 2006 7-Series sedan at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. When the radically redesigned 7 hit the scene in 2002, many enthusiasts unloaded with derogatory comments about the car itself, and even more so for the designer who they believed ruined their beloved Bimmer. Be that as it may, the 7-Series has enjoyed some of its best sales years ever, and the once maligned styling cues can now be found on every BMW product made today. For 2006, the once edgy design has been softened a bit and is less drastic.
Why it matters
BMW executives put themselves in a tricky spot with the release of the current-generation 7-Series. They had put all of their confidence in their chief designer, Chris Bangle, but what he created turned off, or in most cases angered, much of the buying public. But, the 7-Series has sold well and, ultimately, BMW sided with Bangle and supported his decisions on subsequent redesigns. With the 2006 7-Series it appears that BMW is offering an olive branch of sorts - Bangle's design stays, but in a concession to consumers and complainers it now more closely resembles the more traditional, conservative 7-Series of the past.
When you can buy it
Production of the 2006 BMW 7 Series started in March of 2005 and models should be arriving at dealers shortly. The freshened 7-Series made its North American debut at the 2005 New York International Auto Show.
How much it costs
Pricing has not yet been announced, but all indications are that any price increase will be modest. With a new engine and more power, the BMW 750 models will likely see a more significant price increase compared to the 760 models, which have upgrades limited to the exterior design and interior design and functionality.
How quick it is
Since engine modifications are limited to the 2006 BMW 7-Series 750 models, they are the only versions that will likely see any performance changes. Initial figures released by BMW suggest that the extra 35 horsepower provided by the new 4.8-liter V8 cut 0.1 second from 0-60 mph acceleration times, allowing the 750 to hit that magic number in 5.8 seconds - impressive for a full-size luxury flagship. The V12 in the 760 models motors continues unchanged.BMW officials claim that a few suspension adjustments will aid in the 7 Series' handling at high speeds. Front and rear suspension bushings have been revised, as have spring rates and shock absorbers. In addition to the standard suspension setup, there are optional suspension settings that include BMW's Active Roll Stabilization system and a new sport suspension.
What it looks like
Exterior changes to the 2006 BMW 7-Series are subtle, but as a whole they result in a more attractive vehicle. Forward of the windshield, the design has been tweaked, with a new hood, more linear headlight housings, and reworked front and rear bumpers. Whereas the 2005 7-Series featured different grilles for the V8 and V12 models, the 2006 model offers one grille for all models. The side sills and rocker panels have also received some massaging. In the rear, the track has been widened by 0.6 inches and the taillights now wrap into the trunk lid. A new standard feature on the 2006 7-Series is BMW's Brake Force Display, which effectively makes the brake lights appear brighter as more pressure is placed on the brake pedal. New exterior colors include Monaco Blue, Deep Green, Michigan Blue, and Barbera Red.
Inside, updates are relatively minor, with a revised steering wheel and instrument panel. The iDrive interface features new color schemes.
What it does best
While the styling changes are noteworthy, we're betting that more shoppers will be impressed (and relieved) by a simplified iDrive system. The sound system is easier to access through the menus, the graphics are easier to read, users can scroll through simpler lists of options, and the secondary climate control operation has been completely revamped. Within the navigation screen destinations can be entered by spelling the name of the location.
What we think
We like what BMW has done with the 2006 7-Series. The styling changes are subtle enough to keep the vehicle's unique character while simultaneously bringing it more into the conservative line that high-end luxury sedan shoppers desire. We've never complained about an engine being punched out for more power, and we're not starting with the 750's new 4.8-liter V8. Finally, they've addressed the stress-inducing iDrive, though traditional controls (knobs and buttons) are still preferable. But, if we must deal with iDrive, at least it's a bit easier to use.
Among the long list of standard features on the 2006 BMW 7-Series 750i are the following highlighted items:
-- 360-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 engine with 360 lb.-ft. of torque
-- 18-inch wheels
-- Power driver and passenger seats
-- American Walnut interior trim
-- 10-speaker sound system
-- Flat tire warning system
-- Bluetooth cell phone interface (a cell phone is no longer standard)
The long-wheelbase (123.2 inches vs. the 750i's 117.7 inches) 750Li adds:
-- Chrome roof moldings
-- 20-way comfort seats
760i models add:
-- 438-horsepower 6.0-liter V12 with 444 lb.-ft. of torque
-- Electronic damping control suspension
-- Self-leveling rear suspension
-- 20-inch wheels with performance tires
-- Driver's seat with massage feature and both front seats can be cooled
-- Dark Ash interior trim
-- 13-speaker Logic 7 sound system with six-disc CD changer
The long-wheelbase 2006 BMW 7-Series 760Li features 19-inch wheels and uses a unique ash wood interior trim.
Photos courtesy of BMW