The 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series is the latest iteration of the luxury brand's flagship sedan. Though roughly the same dimensions as the previous generation 7 Series, the latest 7 is visually less polarizing than the car it replaces, with a more streamlined rear end and a lowered, stealthy stance. The current design isn't as striking as that of the Mercedes S-Class or Jaguar XJ, but it certainly is in keeping with cars such as the Audi A8 and Lexus LS. And, while the 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series is chock-full of all manner of electronic assistants, it is now thankfully equipped with a much improved iDrive control system, a major grudge point with former owners and journalists alike.

Why You Want It

Big, high-end luxury sedans generally appeal to people looking for performance, craftsmanship or an expressive rolling status symbol. In the 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series, owners get all three. The 7 Series may not have the kind of head turning looks found on a Porsche Panamera or Mercedes-Benz S Class, but what it lacks in eye-popping appeal, it more than makes up for in performance and perks. The 750's twin turbocharged V8 engine is simply brilliant, and the long list of electronic driver assists (systems such as Electronic Dampening Control, Dynamic Drive Control and Integral Active Steering), make this one of the most enjoyable full-size luxury sedans from a driver's point of view hands down. As mentioned above, the BMW's much improved iDrive system graces the 2009-12 7 Series, with a much more user-friendly menu and fewer functions, such as the climate control, integrated into the joystick-controlled interface. Lastly, this generation offers the most diverse group of cars to wear the 7 Series badge, including a twin turbocharged V12, limited production Alpina B7, an all-wheel drive model and a hybrid.

Notable Features & Options

Needless to say the 7 Series flagship status means it comes well equipped with such luxuries as power seats, automatic air conditioning and leather interior. The more notable features offered on the 7 Series include voice activated navigation with a 10-inch split viewscreen, climate controlled front and rear seats and the Logic 7 premium audio system. The impressive list of optional equipment is equally as long. Adaptive Cruise Control uses radar to maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicles ahead, while the Night Vision system can help you spot any living creature that gives off a heat signature as far ahead as 1500 feet. Lane Departure and Active Blind Spot Detection help to avoid obstacles hidden from view, while the available bumper-mounted side view cameras spot vehicles approaching from the side before they come into the driver's field of view. An available head-up display projects vital information onto the lower edge of windshield where it is easily viewed from the driver's seat.

In the performance department, BMW's Integral Active Steering can turn the rear wheels in the same directions as the front at high speed, or move them in the opposite direction when traveling at low speeds (such as when parking or performing a U-turn). The optional Sport Package includes Dynamic Drive Control that permits the driver to select suspension, throttle, transmission settings and steering sensitivity. And of course, the 7 Series comes with a long list of standard safety features such as electronic traction and stability control, front and rear side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and front and rear side airbags.

Model Milestones

2010 - The 760Li rejoins the 7 Series fleet, equipped with a twin turbocharged V12 pumping out 535 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Other additions to the 7 Series include the availability of all-wheel drive (xDrive in BMW parlance), and an M Sport package.

2011 - A new entry level 740 model is introduced featuring a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. Also new is a hybrid model. The 750Li ActiveHybrid pairs a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 with an electric motor for a combined output of 455 horsepower. 2011 also sees the return of the Alpina B7 limited edition performance sedan.

2012 - Changes for 2012 are mostly limited to more standard equipment added, including a USB/iPod adapter and a rear-view camera.

Engines and Performance

All the 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series come equipped with ample horsepower and torque; they also come with twin turbochargers strapped to their engine. On 740i and 740Li models, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six cylinder makes an impressive 315 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Rated at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, the 740 is the most affordable 7 Series. The 750 models use a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 good for 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway, while the all-wheel drive xDrive model earns a slightly lower 14/20 mpg. The model that offers the best combination of power and fuel efficiency is the 750Li ActiveHybrid, which couples a small but powerful electric motor with the 4.4-liter V8 for a total of 450 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque. EPA ratings for this model are 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway. Finally, the most potent engine available to 7 Series buyers is the twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 in the 760Li. With 535 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque, the V12 is clearly the best performer of the bunch, but it's also the most thirsty, with and EPA fuel economy rating of just 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway. The 740 and 750 use a six-speed automatic transmission while the 760 and ActiveHybrid are outfitted with an eight-speed automatic.

Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series.

2009-10 - A recall was issued regarding possible improper tire pressure labels that state the vehicle as a five passenger model when it's actually a four passenger car (when equipped with optional rear bucket seats).

2009-2012 - A recall was issued regarding a possible faulty circuit board for the electric auxiliary water pump. The board can overheat leading to an engine fire. The recall affects all V8 and V12 turbocharged engines.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, neither NHTSA nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performed crash tests on the 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series. However, seeing as the smaller BMW 5 and 3 Series cars do well in their crash tests, it's a pretty safe bet that the 7 Series' solid build, long list of airbag and occupant protection devices, and engineering excellence would more than likely see it do equally well. If you wish to see a crash test, BMW's in house tests are available for viewing on YouTube, such as this one that shows roof strength and front end results.

BMW offers a 4-year/50,000 mile comprehensive warranty on the 7 Series, fully transferable from the original owner. BMW also offers a Certified Pre-Owned program for late model vehicles with less than 60,000 miles. To qualify, the car in question must first pass a rigorous inspection program by a trained BMW mechanic. Once cleared, the vehicle receives a CARFAX vehicle report and is given a 2-year/50,000 limited warranty once the factory 4-year/50,000 expires. With the two warranties combined, you'll be covered for up to 6-years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. As with any warranty, standard wear and tear items such as brakes, wiper blades, suspension parts and regular engine maintenance items (belts, hoses, spark plugs, etc.) are not covered by the warranty. For a complete list of what is and is not covered, visit BMW's website.

Word on the Web

Given the 2009-2012 BMW 7 Series relative newness, there isn't a great deal of long term test data from the major consumer rating agencies. Consumer Reports seems to like this generation better than the last, with the 2011 model earning excellent marks in almost every category save for the areas of body hardware and power equipment, which earn a less than average rating. Owners seem to love their cars, with many commenting on the improved styling, the impressive handling and the long list of electronic features. We haven't read too many complaints about the turbochargers, at least not to the magnitude of the fuel pump problems that plagued the early 3 Series turbo cars. In all, it appears that the 2009-2012 7 Series is a fairly reliable luxury sedan with strong following and a penchant for pleasing.

Competitive Set

Audi A8 - The A8 places luxury before performance and will likely appeal to those who prefer a more opulent interior and a less complicated options list.

Jaguar XJ - The XJ doesn't have the best reliability record, but its styling both inside and out is clearly more daring than the 7 Series and its limited numbers make it a bit more exclusive.

Mercedes Benz S-Class - Still the leader of the luxury sedan pack, the S-Class combines grace, power, prestige and comfort into a wide range of sedans including a diesel and a hybrid model, as well as two high-performance AMG variants.

Auto Trader Recommendations

For the money, we'd have to go with 740i. Its twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine is a great performer, and the money you'll save by avoiding the more costly V8 and V12s allows for more options to be added on. We also think highly of the ActiveHybrid model that offers the same performance as the 750 with better fuel economy than the 740.

author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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