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You might not want to drive this car: the 2020 BMW 750Li

In most of my test drives, I look forward to getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. Sometimes, though, I dream of sliding into the back seat and letting somebody else do the driving for me. That was the case during my time with the 2020 BMW 750Li,. To understand what I mean, please read on.

First impressions

If you approach the updated 6th-generation 750 from the front, you could be forgiven for confusing this Bimmer for other cars. What is still a twin-kidney grill has grown much larger and lost separation between the two halves, so all you see at first is a gaping waterfall pattern between the Laserlight headlights.

image courtesy BMW

The grill’s active air flap control has adjustable vanes that only open when the need for cooling warrants. Otherwise, they stay closed, which is how I first saw them.

The sizeable and taller body, in Donington Grey Metallic, was understated yet stately. The BMW design language is toned down a little while still bearing a family resemblance. The back end is that of a grown-up muscle car, with four tailpipes finished in two sections at opposite ends of the car. A slim light strip stretches across the entire tailgate, connecting the main lighting clusters at each side.

Interior

Seats clad in amarone full Merino leather are embossed with the words “BMW Individual” and decorated with a diamond stitching pattern that matches what you see on the armrests, on the doors and the centre of the car. The luxury under your bottom is matched by that above your head, the anthracite Alcantara roofliner. No matter where you look or what you touch in this cabin, everything feels luxurious.

Ambient LED lighting can be set to one of six different colours, but red and copper best matched the amarone leather seats. (Lighting inside the Bowers & Wilkins metal speakers remains white.)

image courtesy BMW

All four seats recline to some extent and pamper occupants with heating (seats and armrests), cooling and massages. These features, among others, are part of the Executive Package and Executive Lounge Tier 1 options. Executives in the rear seats will also enjoy the side and rear sunshades, the separate rear-seat sunroof (non-opening) and 7” Samsung tablet (removeable) contained in the rear armrest. Passengers can use this tablet for most of the same features one accesses the front-seat touchscreen – entertainment, lighting, climte control and so forth. More pedestrian features include rear-seat climate controls, pop-down mirrors in the ceiling, and USB-C charging ports, plus an in-car Wi-Fi network. Less pedestrian are the acres of rear-seat legroom and the extra detachable cushion for each headrest.

BMW fit multiple options into this media review vehicle, and one I wasn’t expecting was a wine fridge (a “cooling box” in BMW parlance). Accessible via the space exposed by the fold-down rear seat armrest, the wine hodler slides out when you open the door. (Sadly, I could only make use of it once, to cart a bottle of wine home for dinner.)

image courtesy BMW

For those who take an interest in such things, the 750 also offers a driver’s seat. The leather-clad steering wheel now (logically) sports the steering wheel heater button. Two seat position memory settings, wireless phone charging tray ahead of the cupholders, USB-C ports under the centre armrest, USB 3 by the charging tray… this roomy driver’s seat will leave drivers wanting for nothing, except maybe for somebody else to drive so they can relax in the rear seat.

Hockey bag test

The bag fit properly but sideways. That isn’t because the trunk is small. The aforementioned wine fridge is affixed to the rear seat back and extends more than a foot into the trunk. It also prevents the rear seats from folding (well, that may have something to do with the heating and massage mechanisms) so sticks had to ride in the rear seats, keeping human beings from enjoying the creature comforts.

In-cabin technology

While not strictly “technology” the ambient air feature offers a choice of two fragrances (more cartridges are available from BMW) that you can mix into the in-car ventilation system. It’s a great option, but it does lead to one of the design drawbacks – a touch-enabled series of climate-control “buttons” for things like fan speed. Individual zone temperature settings are set using knobs, and certain features have physical buttons to the side of the “screen” I mention. This “screen” looks lovely, but BMW designers can certainly achieve the same level of elegance using mechanical buttons that don’t require as much attention as this touch interface does.

Perhaps it’s time to control the in-car climate using BMW’s accomplished control cluster, next to the gearshift lever. I still prefer using this set of buttons and the iDrive Controller (a dial/joystick/button/touchpad) over touching the control screen. Adding a button to the cluster that says “Climate” couldn’t be all that difficult, and if it’s executed as well as communications, media, navigation and all the other features incorporated here, it would prove more useable than the current cluster of climate controls.

BMW offers one of the few navigation systems I prefer to that of Apple Maps. Adding destinations is a breeze, whether by voice or using the touchpad, and the maps themselves are both useful and visually appealing. (For other features, I largely stuck to Apple CarPlay.)

The 750 supplements the fully digital instrument cluster with a heads-up display that’s clearly legible in any lighting conditions. My favourite feature: it provides sharply detailed images of upcoming instructions from the navigation system so you need not look at the control display.

Gesture using your hand in front of the touchscreen and you may find yourself performing operations like adjusting the volume and skipping music tracks. I had the 750 helpfully display popups of gesture controls when  I performed certain features that have gesture equivalents.

Driving

A 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine powers the 750. By power, I mean 523 hp, or 80 hp more than the previous generation motor. I also mean 553 lb-ft of torque, 74 lb ft more than the last 7-series engine. (If these numbers aren’t high enough for you, check out the 760 for another four cylinders. If you lean eco-friendly, consider the plug-in hybrid 7-series featuring an inline 6-cylinder engine.)

The right side of the digital instrument cluster includes gauges for both horsepower and torque. The car also features a Sport mode and paddle shifters on the steering wheel for taking over the 8 available gears.

However, I suspect 750i owners who occupy the rear seats (somehow, that’s the only place I can envision the owner of a car like this), would reprimand their drivers for taking the car out of Comfort or Eco Pro drive modes. The engine numbers may scream “hot rod” but this Bimmer is about the quiet, civilized application of all that power, abetted by excellent sound insulation and a ride smooth enough to enable enjoyment of refined liquid refreshment (in the back seat, of course). Long highway drives are positively relaxing, whether in smooth or stop-and-go traffic, and passengers probably buy the 750 for that relaxation.

Stop-and-go driving is easier to handle thanks to the active cruise control coupled with lane-keeping assist. Braking can sometimes be a little too sharp, especially when traffic in adjacent lanes slows more than that in one’s own lane, but the BMW system is stll among the smoothest available in a passenger vehicle. (To be fair, I kept the following distance set to its maximum. Different settings may result in smoother braking.)

The BMW parking assistant is as competent as ever. It beautifully handles parallel parking spot selection as well as the job itself, all without needing to touch accelerator, brake, wheel or gearshift lever until the car is immaculately parked. The 360-degree view around the car makes parking a breeze, so I didn’t feel compelled to use the feature when angle parking. Optional remote control parking can help drivers squeeze the 750’s bulk into tighter parking spaces.

Active safety features are second to none, included largely in the Active Driving Assistant package. Cameras and radar inform the Collision and Pedestrian (and cyclist) Warning with City Braking function and the Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning systems, among others.

Pricing

The 2020 BMW 750Li xDrive sedan retails for $126,400 MSRP. Price as tested: $155,800.

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