2012 BMW 7-Series Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 5, 2011

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2012 BMW 7-Series Buying Advice

The 2012 BMW 7-Series is the best car for you if you seek a prestige sedan with a sophisticated sense of style and outstanding road manners.

The 2012 BMW 7-Series sits atop BMW’s model line and should remain little changed after adding three new variants for model-year 2012. The 7-Series was last redesigned for model-year 2009 and the 2012 continues to deliver the visual panache and expansive, well-appointed interior required of this class. But being a BMW, it also furnishes an element of sportiness seldom found in such a large and posh four-door car. The 2012 BMW 7-Series will return in standard-length and long-wheelbase versions, offer rear- or all-wheel drive, and be available with six-, eight, and 12-cylinder engines, plus a gas-electric hybrid V-8 version.  

Should you wait for the 2012 BMW 7-Series or buy the 2011 BMW 7-Series? Get the 2011 7-Series. The 2012 7-Series isn’t likely to get any substantive changes -- other than the inevitable annual price increase. And with minor styling changes expected for model-year 2013 or 2014, buying a 2012 will shave a year or so off the time you’re 7-Series will look its freshest.

2012 BMW 7-Series Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 BMW 7-Series is highly unlikely to get any cosmetic alterations, save perhaps a new paint color or two. BMW’s flagship sedan will remain cleanly and elegantly styled inside and out, with an athletic-looking exterior that eschews much of the visual excesses that drew criticism to the previous-generation 2002-2008 7-Series.

The 2012 BMW 7-Series will continue in standard- and extended-length “Li” models, both among the largest cars on the road. Their overall lengths should remain 199.8 and 205.3 inches, respectively, with the Li versions riding a correspondingly longer wheelbase. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and BMW applies the Li’s extra inches almost entirely to expanding rear-seat legroom. In Europe, cars like this are called “executive saloons” and are often used as limousines. Even the U.S.-market  7-Series rear compartment  can be ordered with a center-console refrigerator, dual-screen DVD system, and individual bucket seats that recline, are heated and cooled, and include a massaging function that sends wavelike motions up and down the cushions.

The 2012 BMW 7-Series standard-length models will again be badged 740i, 750i, and ActiveHybrid 7. Long-wheelbase versions will continue as the 2012 740Li, 750Li, ActiveHybrid 7L, and 760Li.

Also likely to return in standard- and long-wheelbase form is the limited production 2012 Alpina B7 and B7Li. These are higher-performance renditions of the 750i/750Li tweaked by a longtime BMW aftermarket tuner located in Bavaria, Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen. Cosmetically, the Alpina B7s feature special aerodynamic exterior trim, polished tailpipes, specific 21-inch wheels and tires, and unique interior appointments.

What is essentially a four-door hatchback version of the 2012 BMW 740i/750i will again be available as the 5-Series Gran Turismo. It’s officially part of the 5-Series range, but in fact shares the regular-length 7-Series sedan’s wheelbase and has rear legroom comparable to the 7-Series “Li” models. The Gran Turismo is distinguished by a sloping rear roofline that integrates a trunk lid within the larger hatch panel.   

Mechanical: The 2012 BMW 7-Series should again offer a choice of six-cylinder, V-8, and V-12 engines in addition to a gas/electric hybrid V-8 powertrain. All engines are turbocharged to generate maximum muscle. Note that BMW’s six-cylinder engines aren’t the typical V-6 configuration but rather an in-line design in which the cylinders are aligned along the crankcase. The German automaker favors the in-line design for its mechanical smoothness.

The 2012 BMW 740i and 740Li models should continue with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six and likely remain rated at 315 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. (Torque is essentially the force that propels a car forward, horsepower the energy that keeps it going. Generally, the higher the torque, the quicker a car launches and the more power on demand for brisk highway passing.)

For model-year 2012, BMW was the only premium brand to offer a six-cylinder gas powertrain in its flagship model; every rival came at least with a V-8. BMW succeeded in it goal of offering a less expensive alternative to the more powerful 7-Series models, but a better fit for a sedan of the 7-Series’ size and stature is the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 in the 750i and 750Li models. It should return in the 2012 models rated at 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque.

In the Alpina B7 versions, this V-8 is modified to produce 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. The B7s also get specific suspension tuning for added cornering prowess.

For the ultimate in smooth thrust, the 2012 BMW 760Li will again come with a 6.0-liter V-12 and it’ll probably sustain ratings of 535 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque.

As for transmissions, all the six- and eight-cylinder 2011 BMW 7-Series models used a six-speed automatic transmission (the B7s’ was specially sport calibrated). Most 7-Series competitors use seven- and eight-speed automatics, which employ their extra gear ratios to more efficiently interact with the engine, to the benefit of performance and fuel economy. BMW might take that cue and upgrade the 2012 740i/740Li and 750i/750Li to the eight-speed automatic found in the V-12-powered 760Li.

The 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 should continue to combine the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with an electric motor/generator incorporated into the housing of its unique eight-speed automatic transmission. Both power sources should again create a net 440 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, which BMW says is good for a 4.7-second sprint to 60 mph. That’s about a half second quicker than the 750i and for model-year 2011 made the ActiveHybrid7 the fastest gas-electric hybrid on the road. As a bonus, the ActiveHybrid 7 should again return fuel economy roughly equivalent to the 315-horsepower six-cylinder 740i.

Note, however, that the 2012 ActiveHybrid 7 will remain a “mild” hybrid. That means its electric motor is used only to augment the gasoline engine – the car never actually runs on electric power alone, as would a “full” hybrid. Most of its fuel-economy gains come from automatically de-powering the engine during deceleration and while at idle. There’s no plug-in charging. A compact lithium-ion battery pack self-charges with power reclaimed from braking and deceleration. This hybrid system was developed in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz and shows up in that brand’s flagship S-Class line in the S400 BlueHybrid.

The 2012 BMW 7-Series will again offer all models with rear-wheel drive and certain ones with all-wheel drive. Rear-wheel drive spreads the powertrain weight along the length of the vehicle and is traditionally favored over front-wheel drive in the premium segment for its superior ride and handling characteristics. Expect the 2012 BMW 750i/750Li and the 2012 Alpina B7 and B7L models to also be available with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. This delivers added traction on wet or snowy roads by shuffling power to the front tires but retains its rear-drive feel under normal driving conditions.

Features: The 2012 BMW 7-Series should continue to offer nearly every comfort, convenience, and performance-enhancing feature the automotive world has to offer, either as standard or optional equipment. All models will likely again include as standard such features as xenon headlamps, a keyless-entry/pushbutton-start system, leather upholstery, a 5-square-foot panoramic moonroof, and a voice-activated GPS navigation system with a wide 9.5-inch dashboard-mounted color LCD screen.

Beyond that the sky is the proverbial limit, with a long list of options expected to continue for 2012. For example, the front seats can be both heated and cooled, and can incorporate optional "active" bottom cushions that inflate and deflate selectively to help prevent lower back pain. The car can be fitted with small video cameras at the front bumpers that provide a left-right view of what's coming from the side of the car to make pulling into traffic from a sight-obstructed alley or driveway safer.

An optional head-up display projects the car's speed, navigation instructions and other information onto the windshield in the driver's line of sight to help keep his or her eyes on the road, while an available Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection system uses an infrared camera to display an otherworldly negative-image view of what’s beyond the car’s headlamps.

Performance-wise, the 2012 BMW 7-Series should again allow a driver to manipulate the steering and suspension stiffness, engine throttle response, and transmission shift points according to selectable modes that range from “Comfort” to the full-tilt “Sport Plus.” BMW’s optional Integral Active Steering will further sharpen handling by turning the rear wheels slightly. Engaging the windshield wipers activates a system that pre-dries the brakes improved stopping abilities on wet roads.

Expected to return is the available Active Roll Stabilization system, which minimizes body roll and helps the car maintain a level ride through sharp curves. On the safety front, an optional lane-departure warning system will vibrate the steering wheel to signal that one of the wheels is inadvertently crossing the lane markers. An available blind-spot detection system will return to alert the driver to vehicles or other obstructions to the side and rear that might not be visible in the side-view mirrors.

For better or worse, the 2012 BMW 7-Series will again include BMW’s menu-driven “iDrive” system that consolidates various systems and settings into a single interface to reduce button clutter, with most operations governed by a knob-like joystick. The latest generation works far better than past iterations, in large part because BMW added a series of buttons as shortcuts. It’s still more difficult to operate than would be a conventional configuration of buttons and dials, however, particularly when one is otherwise engaged in the act of driving. And for those needing help operating any of the 7-Series high-tech frippery, the car comes with an electronic version of the owner’s manual built into the control system; this can come in handy -- provided you’re not consulting it to learn how to use iDrive in the first place.

2012 BMW 7-Series Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 BMW 7-Series weren’t available in time for this review, but they’re not expected to increase dramatically over model-year 2011 levels. This means the entry-level 2012 BMW 740i should start around $72,000, with the long-wheelbase 740Li model priced from around $76,500. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; BMW’s fee for the 2011 7-Series was $875.)

Estimated base price for the 2012 BMW 750i is $83,750. Expect  the 2012 750i xDrive to start around $86,750. The 2012 750Li likely will start around $87,750, with the xDrive version priced from $90,750. Estimated base price for the 2012 BMW 760Li is $138,500.

Expect the 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 to be priced from around $103,750 in standard length and from about $107,750 in the extended-length version. The high-performance Alpina B7 should start about $123,500 with rear drive and around $125,500 with xDrive. Long-wheelbase B7L models should come with base prices of around $127,500 with rear-drive and $130,500 with xDrive.

Based on 2011 option prices, expect to pay around $2,000 for Active Roll Stabilization, $1,750 for Integral Active Steering, and $6,500 for the M Sport Package that includes assorted performance-oriented upgrades. Choosing Night Vision with Pedestrian Detection will likely set 2012 7-Series buyers back an additional $2,600, with the head-up display priced around $1,300, and the rear, and the side, and top-view cameras costing about $1,200.

All but the 2012 BMW 740i/740Li and ActiveHybrid 7/7L models should be subject to the federal gas-guzzler tax levied on passenger cars that exceed certain fuel-economy limits. Payable as a one-time charge at the time of purchase, this tax should again be $1,000 on the rear-drive 750i/750Li models, $1,300 on xDrive 750s and Alpina B7 models, and $2,100 on the 760Li.

2012 BMW 7-Series Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage estimates for the 2012 BMW 7-Series weren’t available in time for this review, but they should remain close to the model-year 2011 ratings.

This suggests fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 740i and 740Li of 17/25 mpg city/highway. The 2012 750i should rate 15/22 mpg with rear-drive and 14/20 with xDrive AWD. The long-wheelbase 750Li should again come in at 14/22 mpg with rear-drive and 14/20 with xDrive.

Expect the 2012 760Li to retain its 13/19-mpg rating. The 2012 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 should retain at 17/24 mpg in both standard- and long-wheelbase form. And both body lengths of the 2012 Alpina B7 should repeat at 14/22 with rear-wheel drive and 14/20 with xDrive.

BMW will likely again require premium-octane gasoline for all 7-Series models.

2012 BMW 7-Series Release Date back to top

The 2012 7-Series models should reach dealers’ showrooms by autumn 2011.

What's next for the 2012 BMW 7-Series back to top

With the lineup fleshed-out for model year 2011 with addition of the 740i/740Li, Alpina B7, and ActiveHybrid 7 models, this fifth-generation 7-Series should stand pat for the next several years. The next notably alterations would likely come in the form of minor cosmetic revisions and other upgrades for a midcycle refresh, perhaps for model-year 2013 or 2014. Don’t expect a full redesign until model-year 2015 or 2016.

With higher fuel-economy and emissions requirements phasing in by mid-decade, the next-generation BMW 7-Series would likely be re-engineered to consume less gas across the entire line. We’ll probably see extensive use of lighter-weight materials throughout the vehicle, the hybrid’s stop-start function included in all models, and perhaps bid farewell to the V-12 engine.

2012 BMW 7-Series Competition back to top

Audi A8: Sleek and trendy, the Audi A8 was redesigned for model-year 2011. Available in standard- and long-wheelbase L models, it’s built with an aluminum space-frame and other weight-saving measures that aid agility and help its relatively modest 372-horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 to propel the car nicely. More muscle is available with the 500-horsepower V-12 version. Audi’s excellent quattro AWD system and a sophisticated eight-speed automatic transmission come standard, with a wide array of cutting edge high-tech amenities optional. Expect a 2012 A8 base-price range of $79,500-$85,000 for the V-8 models with the 12-cylinder priced around $125,000.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The flagship of the Mercedes line is difficult to beat for its sense of style, performance, and opulence. The S-Class isn’t sporty as the A8 or 7-Series, but is surely among the world’s best-engineered cars. A broad model range includes the S400 “mild” hybrid that delivers decent power and ratings around 19/25 mpg. The S500 packs a potent V-8 and can be fitted with Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD as an alternative to the standard rear-wheel drive. AMG-tuned models include a V-8 and a V-12, with some 500 and 600 horsepower, respectively, and fuel economy as an afterthought. Expect 2012 S-Class base prices range from around $92,000 to a whopping $210,000.

Lexus LS: The most conservative choice among large premium sedans in both design and driving dynamics, the LS delivers on its promise of a comfortable and sedate driving experience. It’s also a sterling example of good design and quality, a model for cabin quiet and comfort, and very competitive for standard and optional luxury amenities. The 2012 LS will again offer standard- and long-wheelbase models with a choice of rear- or all-wheel-drive. All get along quite nicely on a 4.6-liter V-8 that, at some 380 horsepower, isn’t the most powerful engine in this class. But it’s smooth and works in admirably harmony with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid gas/electric-powered LS 600h L can run on gas, battery power, or a combination of both and delivers added acceleration with modestly improved fuel economy. Expect the 2012 Lexus LS460 to start at around $68,000, with the hybrid LS600h L priced from around $113,000.

2012 BMW 7-Series Next Steps