Move over, Ultimate Driving Machine. Make way for the Ultimate User Experience.
The ’16 BMW 750xi takes the brand’s performance-luxury celebrity to new heights with industry-leading connectivity, cutting-edge driver-assist technologies, an easily navigable human-machine interface and a number of delightful nuances to keep the fun in “fun-to-drive.”
Those attributes also vault the car to a 2016 Wards 10 Best UX award, a new competition recognizing vehicles that excel in marrying software to hardware to enhance the user experience.
But as WardsAuto editors found while evaluating dozens of vehicles across a broad price range during the competition, very few could fulfill both the mundane and the extraordinary tasks.
For example, some cars scored poorly at establishing a Bluetooth connection by either requiring more than a step or two to link up, or simply failing to recognize our devices. Others offering advanced driver-assist technologies were sufficiently good at lane-keeping or emergency braking, but intervened too often or the alerts were annoying and boisterous.
The BMW excels on all fronts, from the first impression to the last. It starts with an optional iPhone-like key fob, a technological marvel that functions as a gateway to the 750xi. With a swipe wipe of the key’s small display screen, drivers can remotely set the car’s climate control, check fuel levels, check whether it is locked or unlocked, work items such as the windows and lights and even retrieve it from a parking space. The fob has some heft to it as well to convey, like the car itself, social status and a gratifying sense of invulnerability.
But if an owner’s preference is to keep the fob in their pocket or handbag, the BMW Connected app is available for smartphones and provides useful information such as fuel level, range and miles traveled. The app also locates the car and shows its whereabouts in traditional map form or lifelike 3-D.
It also allows owners to remotely download other apps, such as Telekom Smart Home, Amazon Music, TuneIn, Glympse and GoPro to name a few. It is an important infotainment access point, because the 750xi is not compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Unlock the 750xi and the real experience begins. Puddle lights emulating the BMW kidney-grill-design light the ground, while a choice of amber, blue or white ambient lighting pours from the sunroof shades, door panels and audio speakers to create a lounge-like atmosphere.
A welcome screen reads, “Welcome Inside the BMW 750i.” Turn over the engine and an image of the car and its position appears in the gauge cluster suggesting the freedom of the open road.
Pair a smartphone, which takes just seconds, and its calendar can be imported to the central display screen to manage appointments, while music wirelessly streams through the 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround system. Hand gestures control the volume.
Mapping details and navigation display are rich in content and resolution. Traffic conditions, for example, not only show where an incident may lie ahead but also estimate where the backup starts and ends and whether it is road construction or a crash. If the backup cannot be avoided, front passengers can kill time reading the latest headlines from leading new providers on the center display screen.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the new 7-Series is how manageable engineers and designers made such a wealth of vehicle and connectivity information. The car’s iDrive system is backed up by hard buttons and knobs and the voice-command system was not altogether perfect but among the best tested for a technology still evolving.
ADAS technologies such as full-speed adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping worked exceptionally well, and kudos to BMW for a convincing warning system that keeps a driver’s hands on the wheels at all time times despite the lure of letting the 7-Series’ autonomous technology take control.
For a brand that built its reputation on the experience behind the wheel, it is remarkable how well BMW executed the rear-seat experience. A true executive lounge, key features include expansive legroom with reclining seats that would satisfy professional basketball star LeBron James and massaging seats capable of working out the bumps and bruises of an NBA title game.
A 7-in. (18-cm) Android-based removable tablet unlocks from the center console to control infotainment and comfort features of the back row, while dual, 10-in. (25-cm) iPad-like entertainment screens occupy the front-seat backs.
BMW might be best known for making drivers smile with its unparalleled performance expertise, but the 750xi demonstrates the German automaker can create a user experience like no other as well.