Any car costing $69,000 would make most people turn pale. But BMW's 750iL, its most expensive model and its first V-12 production car ever, is not for most people.
Only 3,000 of the luxury sedans will be available this year, creating what BMW likes to call a "super-sedan class" because of its exclusive engine, among other things.Not surprisingly, the 750iL sedan comes with every conceivable amenity and some never thought of before. How about a right-hand mirror that tilts downward when reverse gear is engaged to assist parallel parking? Or rear headrests that automatically rise when someone sits there and that lower when they leave.
Even a cellular telephone is standard, as is a driver's side air bag, an anti-theft system, a self-leveling suspension and trip computer. The ventilation system can be programmed to cool the car on hot days up to 30 minutes before one gets in. For those not impressed with hi-tech, it also has a rear sunshade.
In fact, the only option is a limited slip differential at $390.
Let's face it. There are enough people in this country willing to part with that kind of money to own this kind of car. Just the laws of conspicuous consumption will take care of the 750iL, which is aimed at male homeowners between 45 and 55 with average annual incomes of $175,000.
The rear-drive 750iL (the "i" is for fuel injection and the L is for long wheelbase) is a longer and more powerful version of BMW's 735i sedan, nowpriced at $54,000.
Briefly, the extra $15,000 spent for the 750iL gets one a 5.0 liter V-12 engine pumping out 300 horsepower, instead of the 208 hp 3.5 liter inline six found under the 735i's hood. Although it shares the same chassis and slick body as the 735i, its wheelbase has been stretched by 4.5 inches for the benefit of rear passengers.
Other changes include a stronger four-speed overdrive automatic transmission, a larger gas tank and radiator, and upgraded four-wheel disc brakes.
There also is a $1,850 gas guzzler tax as a penalty for the 750iL's rather dismal fuel economy 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. BMW calls these figures "remarkable for a luxury sedan of this size and power."
Looking past its stiff price and real-world usefulness and enjoying the car without actually spending $69,000 one quickly realizes the 750iL is more a showcase of technology by BMW to further advance its image and the aura of German automotive engineering in general.
BMW says the 750iL's engine is capable of reaching speeds of 155 mph, and I'm convinced of that despite the car's size and 4,235-pound weight.
The engine is virtually maintenance-free, with no need for valve, ignition or fuel injection system adjustments. There are two separate engine management systems. Should one fail, the car can still "limp" home by running smoothly on six cylinders at speeds of up to 125 mph.
The 750iL's engine also appears to be easy to service, although most owners will never touch the furnished tool kit nestled inside the trunk lid. The oil filter, for instance, is mounted atop the wheel well, and the oil can even be drained from the dipstick tube.
On the road, the 750iL displays a perfect balance of handling, comfort and power, whether whipping through a twisty two-laner or gingerly bringing back a Ming vase in one piece. Its four-speed automatic has three settings set by reprogramming the transmission's shift points. Stomping the accelerator with it in the "S" setting is equivalent to entering warp drive on Star Trek's USS Enterprise.
Interior accomodations are excellent, with fully adjustable leather seats and fully legible instrumentation housed in a leather and elmwood dashboard. The only two gripes concern a confusing cruise control stalk and excruciatingly slow electric windows.