BMW 750Li Long Term: High Tech Mastery

Written by Brian Armstead

Be forewarned: If you get behind the wheel of the 2009 BMW 750Li, you better have a grip on what you are doing. It’s not that the silky smooth Bimmer is hard to drive, because it’s not. This car is chocked with so much technology, it requires a bit of study to effectively operate it, even for a seasoned automotive writer who’s used to pushing buttons on every car available for sale in the U.S. And even once you read the owner’s manual and master all of the bells and whistles, you’ll need a Rosetta Stone to decipher all of the acronyms associated with the high-tech toys. HBA, LDW, DTC, and ABSD are just a few letters in the alphabet soup. But then again, it is the Ultimate Driving Machine, right?

My first experience with our Long Term 750 was the drive from AR headquarters in suburban Maryland to the New York Auto Show in the Big Apple. Armed with my road warriors, AR CEO Kimatni Rawlins and ARtv co-host Gina Washington, we loaded the Bimmer with the requisite fly gear to tape various segments for ARtv. The trunk was packed! But the heavy tail load did nothing to disrupt the deft handling and prodigious accelerative capabilities of our 4641 pound rocket sled.

So on to some of the technology that made our travel so enjoyable. First up is Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, a $2400 option and worth every penny. With the system, front mounted radar sensors permanently scan the road ahead. As you approach a slower vehicle, Active Cruise Control automatically reduces power output from the engine and gently applies the brakes, keeping you at a pre-determined distance to the vehicle ahead. When the lane ahead becomes clear, the system automatically increases your vehicle's speed to your preferred cruising speed. Up to four different cruising speeds can be pre-programmed. A touch on the accelerator or brake pedal deactivates the system. If a crash is determined to be imminent, a red flashing and audible warning reminds you to get on the brakes hard. On curves, Active Cruise Control uses data from the Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC) and navigation systems to calculate whether the cruise speed needs to be adjusted, and to determine whether vehicles in the radar's field are in the same or an adjacent lane. The sensor is heated in cold weather, ensuring year-round operation. The system is not intended to serve as an autopilot, and if sudden deceleration is required, you are alerted by a warning sound and visual message. The system works very well and helped keep me alert during the long drive.

Next up are the components of the $1350 “Driver Assistance Package.” The Package includes the High Beam Assistant, Lane Departure Warning, and Active Blind Spot Detection. The High Beam Assistant simply switches between HID high and low beams depending on traffic and road conditions. It’s a great companion on dark, country roads as it constantly monitors approaching traffic and ambient lighting conditions. Lane Departure Warning is one of my favorites, providing a haptic warning when you stray from your intended lane. A mild vibration in the steering wheel to keep an “as tested” $110,170 car in its lane is appreciated! With Active Blind Spot Detection, if you activate the turn signal, and there is another vehicle in your blind spot or is approaching you rapidly, an amber warning light appears in the side mirror.

Another optional feature on our car is the $2600 Night Vision System with Pedestrian Detection. The system uses an infrared camera that allows you to see heat signatures up to 980 feet in front of you. Pedestrian movement is tracked in the same fashion up to 300 feet in front of you. I found the system blurry and relatively useless, especially when compared to the crystal clear system on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The Head Up Display is an option that’s extremely useful, but needs some updating. The $1300 system projects your speed on the windshield, and also works with the Night Vision to display a pedestrian figure if one is detected in front of you. Unlike Cadillac’s crisp system, the BMW system looks like it came out of a vintage movie. The numbers displayed are just not crisp at all.

When you are driving, all of the on-off buttons for the aforementioned systems are arrayed to the left of the steering wheel. Figuring out which is which is where the studying comes in. Once you master what switch does what, it’s a great driving experience.

And there’s a ton of standard equipment with the 750Li as well. HD radio, leather seating, tasteful wood and metal accents and a killer audio system are among interior highlights. Standard safety gear is also impressive. Anti lock brakes with Brake Drying feature and Brake Fade Compensation bring you to a safe stop in a hurry. A full complement of airbags protects you in a collision, and adaptive headlights allow you to see your way clearly through turns.

And for 2009, BMW’s infamous iDrive system is much improved! No longer do you have to swear loudly when trying to adjust vehicle parameters or find your favorite radio station.

Our tester has a list price of $84,200. Options, destination charges ($825) and a $1,000 “Gas Guzzler” tax bring the tally up to the aforementioned $110,170. The most expensive option is the $4,900 “Sport Package,” which includes 19” sport wheels/tires, Integrated Active Steering, leather steering wheel, body color roof trim, and “Shadowline” trim. As with any BMW purchase, you can save big money by choosing your options wisely, if saving money is a priority for you.

But for many, load it up to the gills! Except for the minor dislikes I mentioned earlier, I like the fact that our Bimmer is loaded and is the state-of-the-art of what BMW offers. It embodies the best of the brand, and executes it with precision, comfort, and high style.

Oh, and we found the gas mileage in this big car to be excellent, as we exceeded the EPA estimated 22 highway mpg by 4 mpg – 26 mpg in a big luxury car!