CHARLEVOIX, Michigan — The BMW 760i is a land yacht. Striking bow. Sumptuous living quarters. All the latest technological amenities that require a shelf of manuals to operate. A big ol’ V-8 engine below decks to get you to your next port of call.
Let me give you a tour.
Like a yacht, I took the BMW’s flagship model up north to Charlevoix for the weekend. But I didn’t tow it, I drove it. The Lake Michigan coastline is peppered with marinas stuffed with sailboats, motorboats and yachts in summertime. Not all of us own a boat, but we have friends who do. They tend to be generous — welcoming friends aboard their prized assets for entertainment, water skiing, or just to hang out and watch fireworks.
Celebrity yachts are measured in feet like, say, the DeVos family’s 178-footer or Kid Rock’s 200-foot cutter. The seventh-generation 7-series length is measured in inches (212 to be exact) but has no less presence. The bow is particularly formidable with its enormous kidneys, black trim and squared-off hood that reminded many of my passengers of a Rolls.
There was no Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament parting the waves, but the front end is so tall that BMW has adopted mid-facia headlights (like many SUVs on the market) to reduce glare for oncoming traffic. The Jeep Cherokee innovated this design back in 2014, but it has since been adopted by premium brands from GMC to BMW to Buick. With the headlights next to the grille, the fascia focus is on the thin LD “eyebrow” lights at the hood-line.
The rest of the car’s flanks are simple, clean, business-like. The real action starts when you open the front door. Or rather, when it opens for you.
Push a button on the Bimmer’s slab-like doors and they briefly gap — then swing open automatically (though not too far if another vehicle is parked next door) to welcome you in. Slide in, press the brake pedal and the door swings shut behind you. Or just speak and the door will close. Cool.
Want to exit? Push the door icon on the left-side dash and the door automatically opens for you to get out. Walk away from the 7, and the doors will swing closed behind you with the touch of the BMW fob. There are myriad other options to learn, and buyers should insist on a day-long course to cover them all (heck, my wife got a healthy electronics course when buying her $30K Subaru).
Like the exterior, the interior is beautifully, simply crafted. A curved, hoodless 27-inch screen dominates the dash — 12.3-inch digital instrument and 14.9-inch infotainment displays contained within. They are supported by wireless Android Auto so you can tell the car where to go (another hiccup: the native voice recognition system is inconsistent). Though BMW was a pioneer of remote rotary screen controllers 20 years ago, the brand now also offers touchscreen control for our smartphone era. I never used the controller (nor did anyone else who drove it) — an artifact that now takes up precious console room.
That console space is helped by a small, exquisite glass shifter. Yes, glass. While BMW has been experimenting with a variety of polarizing exterior designs — 10-story kidney grilles, Lego block M2s — its interior use of glass controls is beyond reproach. Check out the jewel-like glass seat controls on the 760i. They are as functional as they are beautiful.
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