For many people, a large sedan is the automobile of choice. Because they are so popular, there is a variety of them from which to choose, ranging from simple and basic to luxurious and performance oriented. Several sedans even manage to combine these desirable attributes into a single package.
For example, the BMW 7-series is a large sedan that offers sports car-like performance and luxury features that few other cars can match. For 2009, the 7-series loses its rear end, and none to soon. It has returned to the sporty, good-looking design that has made it an automotive icon. Inside, the 7-series is also improved, with a revised I-drive system that simplifies the overly complicated menu-driven system introduced in the 7-series a number of years ago. The gear selector is BMW’s new design; it’s used like a joystick, but functions the same as other automatics. It seems like something different that was introduced for the sake of being different, and not really better.
Some features that do offer increased functionality and true improvement include a back-up camera and four-zone climate control with ventilated and heated seats. Cooled seats on a hot day are the next best thing to Ted Drewes to beat the heat. Electrically operated rear sunshades can also help keep the sun out, or, if you’re carrying a VIP, provide a modicum of privacy. A heads-up display shows digital readout of your speed on the bottom of the windshield so you can monitor it without taking your eyes off the road. A lane departure warning shakes the steering wheel if it detects that you are straying out of your lane.
Rear seat passengers are treated to four air vents, their own dual ventilation controls, available entertainment system consisting of 8-inch color screens in the back of each front headrest, available electric adjustments, heated and cooled seats with a massage feature, and in the stretch version 750Li, enough legroom for Shaquille O’Neal.
The 7-series is a serious performer as well. The heart of the 750 is a 4.4 liter twin turbo V-8 engine that delivers 400 horsepower and 450 pound feet of torque, good for a zero-to-sixty run of just 5.1 seconds. Acceleration is quick as a bullet when desired, and the engine always provides plenty of power. It’s deceptively fast. I found myself going 75 when I thought I was doing 60. Fuel economy is 14 city, 21 highway. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. “Integral Active Steering” is available with the sport package and adds speed-sensitive rear-wheel steering to the Active Steering System. The suspension has a nice, taut, Teutonic feel that’s comfortable yet provides excellent handling. For such a big car, it’s an excellent driver.
Joe Emerson, sales manager at Autohaus BMW, says, “With BMW’s efficient dynamics, the new 7-series has a 4.4 liter twin turbo V-8 that is the most powerful and fuel efficient V-8 on the market today.”
Of course, a car that can do all this doesn’t come cheap. Prices for the 750Li start about $85,000 and can easily reach $90,000+ with a few options, and $100,000+ with a lot of options. The regular wheelbase 750 starts at about $81,000.
Another German sedan that offers both luxury and performance is the Audi A6. The A6 is an attractive, nicely sized car that offers aggressive styling, plenty of luxury, and excellent performance.
Well-bolstered front seats are heated and very comfortable. Attractive wood trim and sumptuous leather provide luxury interior appointments. Heated seats, a sunroof, and dual automatic climate control ensure passenger comfort. A remote, knob-controlled screen is the interface for the radio, ventilation, navigation and other features, but hard buttons for specific functions around the knob make it reasonably easy to use. Rear seat room is more than adequate, and rear seat occupants enjoy four air vents in the center console and B pillars. The trunk is huge, and the rear seats fold down to expand cargo carrying capacity. The small trunk opening due to the sharp slope of the rear window is the only limiting factor.
The 3.0 T model offers a supercharged 3.0 liter direct injection V-6 engine that pumps out 300 horsepower to all four wheels via a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that offers clutchless manual shifting. All this power translates to acceleration that is very fast and sure-footed. Mileage is 18 city, 26 highway. The taut suspension feels athletic and allows for spirited driving while delivering a comfortable ride when the car is not being pushed. Steering feel is good through the leather-wrapped steering wheel, but slightly overboosted. Brakes are strong. This is a fun car to drive.
The A6 is also available as a stationwagon and with a 4.2 liter V-8 engine. An S6 version offers a 435 horsepower 5.2 liter V-10 engine. Prices for the 3.0T A6 start at about $51,000.
According to Tom Akers, sales manager at Plaza Audi, “The A6 combines luxury and performance in an attractive and fun-to-drive package that can get you wherever you want to go in any kind of weather.”
Robert W. Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate. See robertpaster.com.