- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

The new 2002 BMW 7-Series is, indeed, all new. Not only does this luxury sedan come with a new body design on a new platform but BMW's flagship is probably the first automobile to be fitted with such an impressive level of high-tech features. The new 7-Series is the starship of the BMW galaxy.

The design of the 7-Series exterior is, for BMW, a radical change, yet it is unmistakably all BMW. The car is even more aggressive in its stance and a little controversial. The rear deck design has some people cringing, but, according to Cris Bangle, director of design for BMW, this design actually increases the aerodynamic characteristics of the 7-Series.

This BMW is a little larger, offering more interior space. The redesign has given designers more excuses to offer greater comfort for the occupants as if they ever needed an excuse.

Fully adjustable, power front seats make it nearly impossible for anyone not to be able to find the optimum seating position. Two separate leather upholstery packages are available, offering either solid or perforated leather surfaces.

A feature I scoffed at prematurely is the optional Comfort Seating package, which adds heated and cooled front seats, as well as a massaging feature that is downright unusual.

With three variable cooling settings and 14 fans in each seat, this is no namby-pamby vented seat. By placing the control on the high setting, I was beginning to think I was levitating over the seat cushion.

This is only the beginning of the innovative features of the new 7-Series. The one that, without a doubt, will be the most controversial is the IDrive system.

IDrive is a joystick-controlled electronic system that makes changing virtually every adjustable system, such as the stereo, heating and air conditioning, like a computer game.

IDrive also controls the navigation and communication systems.

Although the IDrive is a bit overwhelming at first, after a quick instruction course from one of the BMW representatives, I was flying through the basics with relative ease.

The more complicated maneuvers will have to wait until I have more time behind the wheel of this wonderfully capable sedan.

BMW vehicles have always been known for having great performance characteristics, and the new 7-Series is no disappointment. In fact, this car proves that a vehicle can get better as it changes through the years.

One aspect that contributes to the outstanding handling ability is the split, electronically adjustable stabilizer bars.

The stabilizers are split side to side and controlled by a message sent through the stability control system. As cornering becomes more aggressive, the system reads the need for more pressure on the appropriate side, and the stabilizers are activated through a hydraulic pump to provide the necessary control.

The powerful V-8 engine (a V-12 engine is slated to be introduced later in the year) is full of high-tech features that one would think would be more at home in a race car than a street vehicle and one might be right with other vehicles.

In BMW's case, all their engineers spend a substantial amount of time working on the BMW racing program. So it is appropriate that racing technology comes to the production side of BMW.

The new six-speed automatic coupled to the V-8 is as intelligent as the package in which it is wrapped. Offering better initial response from a stop and better cruising attributes that allow for quick high-speed passing, give the new 7-Series an all-around better feel. Whether you are in town, out on the highway or running through a mountain pass, the 7-Series will surprise you.

Examine the new 7-Series as an entire package, and it makes a tremendously good argument for spending the substantial price one must for this BMW.

It isn't just spending money for the sake of spending money. Here you get so much in return that it nearly makes the price seem low.

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