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2006 BMW 7 Series

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Story by  Trevor Hofmann

Just ask Madonna. Controversy breeds success. BMW had never created a vehicle as controversial as its previous 7 Series, and simultaneously had never experienced car sales volumes anywhere near as large.

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Another thing that can be said for the outgoing 7 is that not a single copycat designer ever attempted to steal styling cues from this BMW for its own entry-level product, a problem German luxury carmaker rivals have suffered at the hands of their Japanese competitors. Just the same, BMW smoothed out some of the 7’s sharper angles with its 2006 mid-cycle upgrade. Of special note are the car’s new headlamp clusters, more fluid in design and classically proportioned.

The trademark twin-kidney grille is especially well executed: large, upright and unmistakably BMW. Modifications to the rear are more obvious, with a horizontal chrome accent replacing the upper light strip, new tail lights and a reshaped trunk lid. The new 4.8-litre V8, which now makes 360-hp and 360 lb/ft of torque, is as smooth as the car’s new sheet metal.

Still, in typical BMW fashion, a dip into the throttle will expose a raucous side of this luxury cruiser, opening up a throaty exhaust note that speaks volumes about the 7’s overall performance. Out on a winding highway, such as the curvy stretch between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler, is where the big sedan truly shines. Surefooted stability no matter the speed means a fully loaded 7, complete with driver, four passengers and a trunk full of luggage, can take on the Sea-to-Sky faster and with greater control than any full-size sedan I’ve ever driven on this road. Slow to 30? Whatever.

And is there a better-made cabin for any money? Well, BMW might argue that its own Rolls-Royce Phantom tops its flagship namesake sedan, but on this side of the ultra-premiums the 750Li delivers superb quality, plus some of the coolest gadgets and craftiest storage compartments ever devised.

Just below the 007-like pop-out phone keypad and minimalist audio head unit, a full set of push-actuated, soft-opening drawers adds convenient storage. The centre console is finished off with BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment user interface, now updated with buttons next to the mouse-like control knob for easier use.

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My tester included a duplicate iDrive system for rear passengers, and with that a flip-up monitor capable of displaying all of the information available on the screen up front, as well as DVD-sourced video and satellite-fed television, no less. As is the case seemingly everywhere in Canada, the CBC’s signal was strong, causing me to pull over, climb into the back with my boy and take in the last period of a Canucks versus Calgary game. The price of the Multimedia Package? $5,000.

The memory of watching the game in the back of a 750Li with my son? Priceless. There are a number of additional option groups available, my favourite being the Executive Package due to its superb LOGIC7 audio system, although its power rear and side sunshades, automatic powered trunk and soft close doors are wonderfully convenient,

its ventilated front and heated rear seats even more comfortable than stock, its active driver seat ultimately cool, and the Adaptive Drive electronic damper control plus self-leveling rear air suspension much appreciated during fast cruising. Still, even in “base” trim, the 750i is amongst the most satisfying vehicles to drive or be driven in, besting most of its competitors. Move up to the 750Li long-wheelbase version and those in the latter category will thank you. And the 760Li? If you’re in the market for one you don’t need me to tell you how fabulous it is.

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