Where to start? This car has it all! Starting with the much improved and previously maligned iDrive system. Surprisingly, the menus and information screens were easy to navigate and view on a larger, 10.25-inch, high-resolution display. Four direct-entry buttons gave quick access to radio, CD, telephone, and navigational features. The direct-entry buttons make the new system a breeze to customize your settings as you scan through the menus and toggle back and forth.
The 16-speaker surround sound system is fantastic and offers HD AM and FM (I hate to admit it, but I like talk radio; the HD AM is excellent and sounds like FM stereo). It also features MP3 compatibility with a nice iPod adapter conveniently located in the console. 194 channels of Sirius Satellite Radio give you plenty of choice though it’s a bit hard to scroll through. You also get 3 DVD/CD players (Front/rear single and jukebox in dash). In the rear, the two lucky passengers can watch DVDs on exceptionally clear and sharp LCD screens with their own headphones. The movie experience is phenomenal. While parked, my two kids and a friend were in back while I was in front, watching “Bolt”. The sound and screen clarity were amazing -as immersive as a good home theater set up with even better surround sound!
The seats were fantastic with buttery perforated Nappa leather throughout the cabin. The driver’s seat was exceptionally comfortable and had adjustments for lumbar, head restraint height, head restraint bolstering, side bolstering, extended-thigh support, and even a massage function! The driver can also adjust the passenger’s seat. The seats are also heated and cooled. The heating worked well but the cooling feature wasn’t as effective as it should have been while the fan noise was surprisingly loud. Rear seat passengers enjoy limo-class legroom; they even have FOOTRESTS for those “long journeys”.
Syncing a Bluetooth enabled cell phone was relatively easy – and once paired, the BMW then asks if you want to upload your address book, which it does extremely quickly. Very impressive.
Other features included the Head Up display which was refreshingly unobtrusive and handy for keeping speed in check, especially on the freeway where it’s so easy to blow past the legal limit. It also offers warnings if you are too close to the car in front of you or if you are drifting out of your lane with a thrumming vibration in the wheel that really gets your attention. I wasn’t able to test out the night vision which alerts you if pedestrians (or deer) are crossing your path, but it seems like a useful feature as well.
With all of this technology and features, what could be wrong? Well, a few things. None of them glaring but surprising considering the incredible attention to detail and engineering that went in to this car.
Gear selector. At a stoplight, I rested my hand on the top of the gear shifter. This inadvertently depressed the top button. Which selected “Park”. Oops! In a panic, I tried to recall the correct pattern to get it in to drive (left button, pull back).
Rear DVD player. My 7- and 2-year old daughters were ecstatic at the prospect of watching a movie in “the new car”. A full 30 minutes later, I finally figured out how to play the DVD in the back. The next time I did it took only 20 minutes…
Mirrors. The side-view mirrors are mini cooper small. How could such a stately sedan have such small side-view mirrors?
Door handles. When you climb in, you search for the door handle. 100% of the lucky occupants (myself included) unsuccessfully reached for the wrong “handle”. The interior handle is too high and camouflaged with the black wood interior strip.
Automatic seatbelt pretensioner. Unlike many cars these days, which offer height-adjustable shoulder strap levels, the BMW 750Li front safety belts are fixed. Upon turning the engine on, the tensioners pull the seat belts back on you, pulling you back against your will. Because of the fixed angle, it isn’t comfortable for people of all sizes. And I’d suggest that BMW modify the feature to pull back once at 5mph or more, when driver and passenger are sitting back in their seats.
Fan noise. With the A/C on full tilt and the seat coolers maxed, because of the silent ride, the fans sound, well, LOUD. It’s unfortunate that these creature comforts make themselves so announced. Frankly, I am surprised.
Front cameras. There are four cameras outside of the car; one facing forward located near the rear view mirror, one in back and two underneath the side view mirrors. The two in front provide excellent viewing for what’s immediately beside you but you can’t tell what is exactly in front; this is a big oversight because gauging distance to obstacles directly in front, like parking berms, is especially important in this very large car for parking. It’s odd that the cameras aren’t tuned better to see what is directly in front.
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