2011 BMW 7-Series Review and Prices
Past and Future Reviews
The 2011 BMW 7-Series is the best car for you if you want an ultra-premium sedan that looks and acts like the flagship of a proud German automaker.
The 2011 BMW 7-Series brings a sense of sporty brio to the performance, prestige, and advanced engineering expected of cars costing upwards of $70,000. Last redesigned for model-year 2009, the 2011 BMW 7-Series stretches its lineup to become the only car in the class to offer a six-cylinder model and adds a hybrid – named the ActiveHybrid 7 – that BMW claims is the world’s fastest gas/electric automobile.
Should you buy the 2011 BMW 7-Series or wait for the 2012 BMW 7-Series? Buy the 2011 7-Series. Model-year 2011’s additions cement the lineup for the next few years and any alternations to the 2012 7-Series won’t be major enough to warrant the wait. Buying a 2011 7-Series gives you more time to enjoy the current-spec car before its next freshening, which probably will occur for model-year 2013 or 2014.
2011 BMW 7-Series Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 BMW 7-Series is party to the bitterest automotive styling controversy of the past few decades. Its model-year 2002-2008 predecessor bore the mark of BMW chief designer Chris Bangle. He transformed what had been a smooth, stately sedan into an adventurous shape that horrified legions of BMW loyalists. That fourth-generation 7-Series had flamboyant “flame surfaced” body creases and a bustled trunklid that critics derided as the “Bangle butt.” It sold well, however, and its bustle bum influenced luxury-car styling worldwide. Bangle left BMW in 2009, and today’s fifth-generation 7-Series sheds some of his eccentric styling elements.
With its taut body swept back and hunkered over large wheels, the 2011 BMW 7-Series features an inarguably athletic shape for a premium sedan. It continues in two body lengths, both among the largest cars on the road.
The regular-length models are labeled the 2011 BMW 740i, 750i, and ActiveHybrid 7. Adding 5.5 inches to their wheelbase and 5.5 inches to their overall length are the 2011 BMW 740Li, 750Li, ActiveHybrid 7L, and the 760Li. The wheelbase stretch given these longer “Li” versions increases the distance between the front and rear axles. That expands the length of the passenger compartment, which BMW uses to provide an additional 5.4 inches of rear legroom. Only purpose-built limousines have more rear-seat stretch-out space than the BMW 7-Series “Li” models.
The new-to-the line 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is a limited-edition version of the 750i/750Li modified by a Bavarian performance tuner long associated with BMW. Alpina B7s carry special aerodynamic body trim, polished tailpipes, unique 21-inch wheels and tires, and exclusive interior details.
Mechanical: The 2011 BMW 7-Series offers engines with six, eight, and 12 cylinders, plus the electric-motor-assisted V-8 hybrid. All engines have two turbochargers. The sixes are not V-6s but instead employ BMW’s traditional inline arrangement of cylinders, a design noted for its smoothness.
The 2011 BMW 740i and 740Li are the first six-cylinder 7-Series models since the 1990s. They use a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six rated at 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that propels you forward and horsepower as the energy that keeps you going.)
The 2011 BMW 750i and 750Li use a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 rated at 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. The 4.4-liter V-8 in the 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is modified for 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet; B7s also get special suspension tuning.
The 750i and 750iL and Alpina B7 models are available with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive (AWD) system as an alternative to the rear-wheel drive standard on all other 7-Series models.
The 2011 BMW 760Li drives the rear wheels via a 6.0-liter V-12 rated at 535 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque.
Six-cylinder and V-8 7-Series models have a six-speed automatic transmission and the V-12 models have an eight-speed automatic. In this class, an automatic with six speeds is behind the times; top rivals have seven- and eight-speed automatics. The additional gear ratios allow engineers to more precisely match engine output with power demands to improve acceleration and fuel efficiency.
The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 combines the twin-turbo V-8 with an electric motor embedded in the housing of its special eight-speed automatic transmission. Combined output is 440 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. BMW says the ActiveHybrid 7 accelerates from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, making it the quickest hybrid in the world (the gas-only 750i does 0-60 in 5.1 seconds).
The ActiveHybrid 7 is a “mild” hybrid, meaning it cannot be driven on electrical power alone. Instead, BMW’s system saves fuel by automatically stopping and starting the gas engine when the car is stationary and by using the electric motor to assist in acceleration. No plug-in charging is necessary; the system self-charges an on-board lithium-ion battery, itself an advance over the bulkier nickel-metal-hydride batteries used in older hybrid cars. BMW and Mercedes-Benz developed this system jointly and Mercedes uses a version in its S400 Hybrid model.
Features: The 2011 BMW 7-Series meets – and probably exceeds – any reasonable expectation of creature comforts and technology, from a massaging rear seat and a choice of four genuine wood cabin trims to a heat-sensitive infrared camera that sees in the dark what you can’t: it displays ghostly images of people and animals on a dashboard screen. That Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection is a $2,600 option and is in addition to video cameras in the sides of the front bumper that help you see around corners. And you can fit 750Li models with a $3,700 package that transforms their three-passenger rear bench into opulent business-class seating for two.
Standard performance-enhancers include driver-selectable settings for suspension firmness, steering response, transmission shift characteristics, and throttle sensitivity. Optional is BMW’s Integral Active Steering, which sharpens handling by steering the rear wheels slightly. Crisis management is available via a steering wheel that vibrates as a warning if you unintentionally stray from your highway lane. Turning on the windshield wipers triggers a system that pre-dries the brakes for shorter stops in wet weather. Home-theater-quality audio-visual tech includes a dashboard navigation screen a full 9.5-inches wide.
Every 7-Series comes with xenon headlamps, leather upholstery, and a moonroof 2-feet wide by 3-feet long. Also standard is remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition and a voice-activated navigation system. ActiveHybrid 7 models supplement the standard instrumentation with a display that shows the real-time energy-flow between gas engine and electric motor.
Finally, bustle-butt styling isn’t the only contentious 7-Series legacy evident this fifth-generation edition. The 2002 7-Series introduced the world to iDrive, BMW’s controversial system by which myriad infotainment and vehicle functions are controlled by one knob on the center console and presented on the navigation screen. It’s gone through four revamps since, relinquishing some tasks – ironically -- to conventional buttons and simplifying its screen menus. But the version of iDrive that’s standard on every 7-Series (and most other BMW models) remains a challenge to master and distracting to use while driving. Like Chris Bangle’s trunklid design, however, iDrive inspired rival automakers to install similar control systems in their premium-class cars.
2011 BMW 7-Series Prices back to top
Base-price range for the 2011 BMW 7-Series is $71,525-$137,850. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; BMW’s fee for the 2011 7-Series is $875.)
Adding six-cylinder versions for model-year 2011 helps BMW lower the 7-Series price of entry by $11,850, undercutting the least-expensive Mercedes S-Class by some $19,500. It also allows BMW to start 2011 7-Series prices more in line with those of such rivals as the Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, and Lexus LS 460, though the comparable versions of those cars come with V-8 engines.
Base price for that six-cylinder 2011 BMW 740i is $71,525, with the long-wheelbase 2011 740Li starting at $75,925.
The V-8-powered 2011 BMW 750i carries a base price of $83,375. The 2011 BMW 750i xDrive starts at $86,375.
The extended-length 2011 BMW 750Li is priced from $87,275. The 2011 750Li xDrive’s base price is $90,275. The V-12 2011 BMW 760Li starts at $137,875.
The gas-electric hybrid 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 commands a base price of $103,175 in standard-length form and $107,075 for the extended-length ActiveHybrid 7L version.
The standard-length 2011 Alpina B7 starts at $122,875 with rear-wheel drive and at $125,875 with xDrive AWD. The extended-length 2011 Alpina B7Li is priced from $126,775 with rear-drive and from $129,775 with xDrive AWD.
Upgrading the 2011 BMW 7-Series via the options list doesn’t come cheap. For example, choosing the rear-, side- and top-view displays will set you back an additional $1,200. Power rear and side sunshades add $1,000, a head-up display that projects vehicle speed and other data onto the inside of the windshield costs $1,300, and the Night Vision system is $2,600.
Among performance upgrades for the 2011 7-Series, Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) that helps maintain a level ride through curves costs $2,000, Integral Active Steering $1,750, and an M Sport Package that includes ARS, 19-inch wheels and performance tires, and assorted upgrades is priced at $6,500.
What’s more, most 7-Series models also are charged the federal Gas Guzzler tax levied on cars that fall below certain fuel-economy thresholds. This tax is $1,000 on the rear-drive 750i and Li models, $1,300 on xDrive 750s and Alpina B7 models, and $2,100 on the 760Li. The tax is payable as a one-time charge at the time of purchase.
2011 BMW 7-Series Fuel Economy back to top
Great fuel economy isn’t necessary a top priority for owners in this segment, and although the primary reason BMW added six-cylinder 7s is to boost sales by putting the car within reach of more buyers, it also realizes some gas-mileage gains.
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2011 BMW 740i and 740Li models are 17/25 mpg city/highway. That trails only the 17/27-mpg rating of the 2011 Audi A8 for best mileage among direct rivals that are neither hybrids nor diesels.
The 2011 BMW 750i is rated 15/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 14/20 with xDrive AWD. The 2011 BMW 750Li rates 14/22 with rear-drive and 14/20 with xDrive AWD. The V-12 powered 2011 BMW 760Li is rated 13/19 mpg.
The 2011 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 is rated at 17/24 in either standard or long-wheelbase models, which is roughly on par with the $71,525 base six-cylinder gasoline 740i and 740Li. It’s clear the $103,175 ActiveHybrid 7’s appeal is not as a way to save money on gas but as a symbol of environmental awareness and technical appreciation.
The 2011 BMW Alpina B7 is rated 14/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive in either body length and 14/20 mpg for xDrive versions in both body lengths.
BMW requires premium-octane fuel for all 7-Series models.
2011 BMW 7-Series Release Date back to top
The 2011 7-Series models went on sale in autumn 2010.
What's next for the 2011 BMW 7-Series back to top
With the rollout of the 2011 740i and740Li, plus the Alpina B7 and ActiveHybrid 7, BMW has positioned the fifth-generation 7-Series well for the next several model years. This is still a fresh design, having launched for model-year 2009, so don’t expect near-term changes to go beyond some midcycle styling tweaks, probably for model-year 2013 or 2014. Look for the sixth-generation 7-Series around model-year 2015 or 2016.
Note, though, that BMW has created what is essentially a four-door hatchback version of the 740i/750i in the form of the 5-Series Gran Turismo. It’s positioned as a member of the 5-Series family but shares the 120.9-inch wheelbase of the regular-length 7-Series sedans. The Gran Turismo’s interior layout furnishes rear leg room comparable to that of the 7-Series “L” models, and it incorporates an innovative trunk lid situated within the rear hatch itself.
2011 BMW 7-Series Competition back to top
2011 Audi A8: If the BMW 7-Series is a reward for someone who made it on the strength of an ’80s MBA, the A8 might be the ride of choice for a ’90s dot-com prince. There’s an up-and-coming outsider feel to this svelte German sedan. Redesigned for 2011, regular-length A8 and extended A8 L versions are offered, and each is roomy and impeccably dressed. Audi’s quattro AWD is standard and all-aluminum construction helps save weight, so the base engine, a 4.2-liter V-8 rated at 17/27mpg, doesn’t feel overmatched despite a middling-for-the-class 372 horsepower. More juice is on tap with the 500-horsepower 12-cylinder A8 L. An eight-speed automatic is standard. Myriad high-tech amenities include a handwriting recognition function for the car’s navigation system, and an available Night Vision system that’s similar to the BMW 7-Series’ version. Base-prices range is $78,925-$84,875 for V-8 models, with the 12-cylinder starting around $125,000.
2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class: Dignified and hard to beat as a status statement, this is the choice of the chairman of the board. The S-Class comes in a single body length that rivals the BMW 7-Series “Li” for room and may beat it for opulence and isolation. Mercedes engineering is pretty much unassailable, and the S-Class offers a breadth of model choices, starting with the $91,875 S400 “mild” hybrid gas/electric with a V-6 engine and net 295 horsepower; it’s rated at 19/25 mpg. Priced from $94,525 are the mainstay 382-horsepower-V-8 S550 models at 15/23 mpg. They’re available with Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD as an alternative to the standard S-Class rear-wheel drive. Things get wild from there, with models packing turbocharged V-12s at 12/19 mpg and a hand-built 536-horsepower hot-rod V-8 at 15/22. The topper is the $209,875 V-12 S65 AMG with 604 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. Bombig!
2011 Lexus LS: The premium car for the successful individual who may have no particular passion for cars. That’s not to suggest this flagship of Toyota’s luxury brand doesn’t provide the world of the well-heeled a valuable service. It furnishes spectacular workmanship, superb refinement, and plenty of prestige at reasonable prices, all things considered. The 2011 LS 460 starts at $67,105, the longer-wheelbase LS 460 L at $72,650. Both use a silken 380-horsepower V-8 and are available with rear- or all-wheel drive at 16/24 and 16/23 mpg, respectively. Top of the line is the 2011 LS 600h L, which combines a gas V-8 with electric power for a net 438 horsepower. It’s priced at $112,225 and is a full hybrid, able to run on battery power alone at around-town speeds, a capability that contributes to its fuel-economy rating of 19/23 mpg.