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First Look: BMW 760Li

Twelve cylinders worth of power and luxury

Sherri Collins
Apr 8, 2003
Photographer: Courtesy of BMW AG

I've always found riding in limousines frustrating. One, I feel like a poseur, since I'm not rich, powerful and/or famous. Two, I get bored quickly just sitting in the back staring at the scenery. And three, I'm not the one driving, which would be even more exasperating if I was stuck in the back of the new BMW 760Li. Don't get me wrong, the rear passenger area of the new long-wheelbase 7 Series has all the comforts and amenities of a first-class airline seat--the only thing missing is an overly obsequious flight attendant. However, the new 6.0-liter V12 is such a marvelous machine that I want to be the one piloting it.

How anyone could be content to simply ride in a V12- powered vehicle is beyond me. Just the thought of a perfectly balanced 60-degree-vee 12-cylinder engine makes my eyes gleam. Being able to drive one has me glowing with delight.

The BMW-designated N73 is as powerful as expected--438 bhp and 444 lb-ft of torque--but the all-new V12 has more than 12 cylinders going for it. The N73 is the first direct-injected gasoline V12 offered in a production vehicle. And it is the first to meet current emissions control expectations. BMW's engineers chose common-rail direct injection as the best way to boost both power output and fuel efficiency from the new engine. The system operates a stoichiometrically optimum fuel/air ratio ( lambda = 1), allowing for the use of the standard three-way catalyst technology, which in turn does not require sulfur-free fuel.

The common-rail system uses one mechanical pump per cylinder bank to keep the fuel pressure at levels higher than conventional electric fuel pumps, between 30 and 100 bar. The result is finer fuel droplets and a better combustion process. An extra-high compression ratio--11.3:1 as compared to the 4.5-liter V8's 10.5:1--further adds to the V12's overall performance and fuel efficiency.

The new engine also takes advantage of the current state of BMW's advanced technologies. Valvetronic and the Double VANOS variable valve timing systems are employed, as is a liquid-cooled, fully encapsulated compact alternator. The cylinder block is made of Alusil--silicon-impregnated aluminum--which helps keep the engine's weight down to a mere 617 lb.

A new version of the 745i's six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission delivers the V12's power to the wheels. What's new is that now you can shift up as well as down. Gone is the Limit/Drive selector on the right side of the steering wheel; in its place is a Sport/Manual/Drive selector. The Sport mode bumps shift points up automatically; the manual mode lets you do the shifting; and Drive is obviously the normal mode. Two downshift buttons (the shiny silver ones) are located on the front of the steering wheel, and two upshift buttons are on the back side. The six-speed gearbox also has Automatic Hold, a hill holder or no-creep function. Engaged through iDrive's Configuration menu, Automatic Hold keeps the hydraulic pressure on all four wheel brakes whenever the vehicle comes to a stop, thus eliminating vehicle creep when the engine is idling and the transmission is engaged (a feature my grandmother, not to mention a co-worker or two, would greatly benefit from).

Grandma, as well as anyone else, would also benefit from the 760Li's chassis setup. The rigid body uses high-strength steels, new-age adhesives and BMW's renowned chassis engineering know-how for strength and vibration resistance. The aluminum hood and front fenders add to the vehicle's strength-to-weight ratio and weight distribution: 51.6/48.4, front/rear.

The suspension also utilizes aluminum components--struts, subframe, etc.--for weight savings (as does the setup on the V8 models), thus reducing unsprung weight and improving ride comfort and handling. As with the 745, the usual cast of handling acronyms are incorporated into the 760Li's traction assists: ARS (Active Roll Stabilization), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), EDC (Electronic Damping Control).

The EDC has been improved for the new V12. The previous system automatically switched the shocks to three firmness settings based on existing road and driving conditions. The new and improved system is stepless, adjusting the shocks to any level of firmness between their softest and firmest settings. There is also a Sport setting, which still varies the shocks' firmness but at a higher level than in Comfort mode. The Sport setting also dials back steering assist. The self-leveling rear suspension has also been improved; it now features air springs instead of coil springs for even better chassis control.

The braking system has its own set of acronyms as well. The 13.6-in. front and 13.70-in. rear ventilated discs with aluminum calipers are augmented with DBC (Dynamic Brake Control), ABS, CDC (Cornering Brake Control) and EBP--okay, I sort of made that one up, but it does stand for electronic brake proportioning, which distributes brake pressure according to wheel slip via DSC wheelspeed sensors. The short explanation is the 760Li stops as well as it goes.

So how does it go? Imagine driving a 4,872-lb sedan through the road course at Homestead. Picture trying to match both the 0-60-mph time of 5.4 sec. and the top-end speed of 149 mph before having to leave the banking for the infield. Envision a passel of journalists tossing around a vehicle that's 203.5 in. long, 74.9 in. wide and 58.7 in. high. Get the picture? The only thing that held us back, and made the 760Li somewhat wonky, were the absolutely awful all-season tires mounted on the standard star-spoked 19-in. wheels. There are optional 18-in. wheels for better handling and a sportier appearance, but they're wrapped with all-season tires, too. You can also order a set of Run-flat tires, but if you're looking for optimum handling, talk the dealer into a set of high-performance contact patches.

How can you tell it's a 760Li and not a 745? Well, the prominent V12 logos on either side of the front quarter panels would be start, as is the rear badging. The front grille surrounds are wider, and the wheels are specific.

The inside has a few clues as well. Each doorsill trim has an illuminated V12 etched onto it; there is "Ambience Lighting" on the C-pillars; the headliner and sun visors are covered in Alcantara; and the trunk's loading edge has a matte metal finish (this is important?).

If you have to ride in the back, you'll be happy to know that the outer rear 14-way Comfort Seats (the front has 20-way seats) are standard on the 760Li. You also have the option of a limited version of iDrive to play with, enabling you to access the Logic 7 audio system, the rear climate system and the rear window sunshades. A between-the-seats coolbox to store your designer water is also optional.

The driver gets the full iDrive system with all of its features, including navigation and BMW's cellular phone system. What does all this luxury and power set you back? The MSRP at launch is $116,495. Somewhat steep, but you do get a lot for it. As for the limo driver, he's sitting in back and I'm driving.

BMW Individual Yachtline
If you truly desire to be driven, you might consider investigating BMW Individual's concept car. The 760 Li Yachtline answers the perennial question, "What does one drive to one's yacht?"

The creamy champagne-colored Merino leather is complemented by high-grade mahogany wood, which is striped with maple for a very deco appearance, making the interior look as though it were taken straight from one of the Rockefeller's yachts. The roof lining and floor carpets are in anthracite Alcantara, sharply contrasting the light-colored leather, and there are embroidered compasses on each floor mat. The requisite humidor is located in the front section of the center armrest (Why do cigars and money always seem to go together?) And keeping with the maritime theme, a compass is integrated into the rearview mirror.

In the back, workaholics can opt for two work tables (similar to those found in business and first-class airline seats), which fold out of the center armrest. When you need a break you can watch a DVD on either of the 6.5-in. monitors mounted into the back of the front seat headrests. You can also opt for a larger cooling box, located between the rear seats; it's big enough to hold a split of Moet, two chilled champagne flutes and a round of brie.

The exclusive Night blue metallic paint denotes the Yachtline's special status, as do the 20-in. wheels and the white indicator lights. If you have to ask how much, you can't afford it. BMW Individual's Yachtline should be available to seagoing customers this year. --SLC

By Sherri Collins
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