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BMW tweaks the 750i

THE BASICS
Base price/as tested: $71,800/$80,190
Fuel economy: 19.6 miles per gallon in Globe testing (91 octane).
Annual fuel cost: $2,142 (at $3.23 per gallon, premium, 13,000 miles per year)

THE EARLY LINE
Subtle but important tweaking that should quiet at least some critics of BMW's new look.

THE SPECIFICS
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
Seating: Five
Horsepower: 360
Torque: 360 lb.-ft.
Length: 198.4 inches
Wheelbase: 117.7 inches
Height: 58.7 inches
Width: 74.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,486 pounds

THE SKINNY
Nice touch: The extra bit of rake to the windshield, gained by making the roofline a bit higher up front.
Annoyance: Push button start/key fob combo. Why is it necessary to insert a key if you are then going to push a button? Most of these combos sense the key in the car and let you keep it in your pocket.
Watch for: More subtle tweaks of BMW's line, getting smoother and likely a bit rounder.

Has it already been four years since BMW designers sent many of the car's enthusiasts into a deep funk with a redesign that added futuristic edges, but also a rump that looked like it should be wrapped in lots of polyester?

Bummer, Bimmers.

Not that the edgy design wasn't applauded by some. In fact, parts of it -- including razor-sharp body lines and defining creases -- are still incorporated in today's test car, the redesigned 2006 BMW 750i, as well as other models.

For these new versions, BMW has made some relatively subtle but key tweaks. It has blended the headlights with the grille instead of leaving them hanging out front like lanterns dangling from the corners of a horse-drawn carriage. It's also moved and redefined the tail lights, rounded certain lines, and defined the rear end's still bulbous presence with a strip of chrome.

The confounding `twixt-the-seats iDrive operating system remains. Even though BMW says it's now simpler to use what it calls a ``computer mouse," the system will still prove too complicated and distracting for many drivers. I've always wondered if the folks who go out looking for 2-ton-plus, $80,000 luxury cruisers are not of a certain age -- an age that did not grow up surrounded by electronic gadgets.

But enough.

Once rolling -- and once the navigation, sound, climate, shift points, and other transport details have been set -- the 750i is a delight to drive.

It has a bigger engine than its predecessor, the 745i, up from 4.4 to 4.8 liters of V-8 high technology. That translates into 360 horsepower and a trailer-tugging 360 lb.-ft of torque.

It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually, though it is so good in automatic mode, seemingly sensing what style of driver is behind the wheel, that manual seems almost unnecessary. And this from a guy who prefers manual shifting in powerful cars. Flipped into sport mode, which gives stiffer handling and computer-calculated shift points, I'm not sure any driver could outperform the automatic, even on a race track.

With 4,486 pounds rolling down the highway, or into sharp corners, the standard stability- and traction-control systems are a necessity. Like the non shuddering antilock brake system, which is silent and keeps the car straight even when stopped at high speed, the stability/traction package remains invisible, fixing errors you probably will never know you made.

The big, four-wheel vented disc brakes stop all that weight as though the car was a thousand pounds lighter. Particularly in sport mode, there was virtually no sense of body roll in highway passing or even on descending, sharp corners.

Inside, it was hard not to speculate that much of the car's 2-tons-plus avoirdupois could be attributed to leather on the seats, touch points, and trim. Glistening wood appointments made the interior feel like a richly paneled library rather than what is under the skin: a full-blown muscle car.

Standard safety gear, besides the electronics, include front air bags, knee protection, front side impact bags, and front and rear head protection.

The $72,000 base price of the test car was bumped up by three packages: a $1,450 luxury seating package (standard 20-way adjustable seats apparently aren't enough for some buyers) that added ventilation to the front seats, driver-seat active support, and heated front and rear seats.

An $1,800 upgrade added a Logic 7 sound system (superb) and a six-disc, in-dash CD player.

The $3,200 sport package added 19-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, sport steering wheel, and sport suspension, among other goodies.

So now we were dancing in an $80,000 7 Series BMW with more power and grace than the previous version. And looking even better than ever behind the wheel.

Royal Ford can be reached at ford@globe.com.


(Bmwgroup.Com Photos)
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