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New Car/Review

1998 BMW 750iL

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:                  5.4-liter V-12
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       322 hp @ 5000 rpm/361 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Five-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, 15.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               120.9 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 201.7 x 73.3 x 56.1 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             4553 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:           25.1 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        13.0 cu. ft.
TIRES:                   235/60R16
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, fuel level, water temperature, 
                         fuel management computer, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                         power seats, power sunroof, cruise control, 
                         heated seats, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo 
                         radio with cassette and trunk-mounted CD changer, 
                         anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $100,000 (est.)

When a car costs in the neighborhood of $100,000, you expect it to be something special. The BMW 750iL is something special.

It has just about every feature one would expect, both in automation and luxury, and it has the performance to go along with the luxury, which makes it extra-special.

First of all, the 750iL is powered by a 5.4-liter V-12 engine. It's not very often that I get a chance to drive a car with a V-12. This is the same engine that used to be in the 850, but that vehicle is no longer made. It's now in the 7-Series with the long wheelbase, which makes for an ideal combination.

The V-12 is rated at 322 horsepower. It drives the rear wheels through a smooth five-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox takes a fraction of a second longer than I would have wanted it to for maximum acceleration. But nothing's perfect. You can accelerate from 0-60, and to pass from 50 to (we discovered) 100 in an extremely short period of time and distance. This power is not the kind that can be used indiscriminately. In the package of the 750iL the power can be used sensibly for good performance befitting the price tag.

Perhaps the most important feature, as I'm getting older, my blood grows thinner and the weather outside gets frightful, is dual zone heating, so the driver and passenger can choose different temperatures and different air flows for their creature comfort. As with many luxury cars these days, the 750iL also has heated seats. As with very few luxury cars, it also has a heated steering wheel. The warm wheel was a definite asset on some cold mornings. Even on not-so-cold-but damp mornings, it's nice to be able to hold onto a warm wheel.

The steering wheel also had cruise control switches and sound system switches.

Of course the 750iL has power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, an AM/FM stereo cassette system with a six-CD changer in the trunk, a digital heating system that is excellent. The Bimmer has a couple of features that you won't find in other cars. For example, it has break-resistant glass. You can come up to the side of a 750iL and hit the glass with a hammer and the glass will hold up. This is a safety feature in an accident but it's also a feature to protect you against people who might want to be nasty to you. You can also power-lock the doors quickly for additional protection. The unbreakable glass includes the side windows, which appear to be about 1/2-inch thick, and the front windshield.

The 750iL has storage compartments all over the place. It has two in the doors. Between the seats in the console there is no storage, but there is a telephone. This console has sliding armrests and small storage in the armrests.

In the center of the dash is a navigation system that is very similar to Acura's. You punch in a destination and it tells you how to reach that destination. We had some difficulties when we first got in the car because the destination that was punched in was about 80 miles from our home. The only problem was that our home street isn't named in our little town and the voice in the computer yelled at us.

The suspension on the 750iL is compliant. It gives a smooth ride when you're looking for comfort. But if you take the 750iL on a winding road, it definitely isn't going to embarrass you and it is probably better than 90 percent of the drivers who will drive it.

Rear seat legroom is excellent. My 6-4 son-in-law sat back there behind me and said he had more room that he has in the front seat of many cars.

Is the BMW 750iL worth $100,000? I seriously question that. But it is an excellent car that did everything I asked of it. It is solid and well-built and has a lot of features many other vehicles in its class don't have. The only thing we found missing was automatic headlights.