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Autos: Ghost Buster

Paul Meyers

The BMW 760Li escapes the eye of most luxury-sedan buyers because the German automaker designed it to do just that. But the inconspicuous V-12-powered 7-Series can afford to be unassuming, given that the vast majority of examples to be built will never cross a dealer’s showroom floor. "There are only a small number of customers, so we really only build these cars based on special priority orders," says Peter Miles, executive vice president of operations for BMW North America. "The 760Li is essentially a flagship of the flagship car for the BMW brand."

Do not be misled, however, by the 760Li’s conservative styling. While the 6-liter V-12 version is virtually identical in appearance to the standard BMW 750Li (apart from discreet V-12 badges on the front fenders and rectangular quad exhausts), its power and handling prowess provide all the road presence a driver could desire: The understated exterior panels intentionally conceal a very special car.

This rear-wheel-drive four-door, like the sportier BMW M3, reaches 60 mph in a mere 4.5 seconds, and shares with the forthcoming Rolls-Royce Ghost BMW’s 8-speed automatic transmission, which provides both smooth and sporty gear changes. Moreover, the 760Li’s 6-liter turbocharged V-12 engine is similar to the baby Rolls’6.6-liter version and, with 535 hp and 550 ft lbs of torque, produces a strikingly similar level of power.

The drivetrain showcases most of the engineering advances to be found in the 760Li, but the car also offers several creature-comfort upgrades. Heated and cooled front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel with circular wood inlay, a 16-speaker audio system, a DVD entertainment package, and privacy screens for rear passengers are just a few of the sedan’s amenities. And thanks to BMW Individual, the automaker’s personalization program, the materials and colors of the advanced and ergonomically fine-tuned interior can be tailored to suit the owner’s personality. The 760Li driven during Robb Report’s evaluation, for instance, had two-tone leather upholstery with Walnut Honey Wood trim and Champagne-colored Alcantara headliner. "BMW Individual accommodates almost every customizable aspect of the vehicle and works extremely well for a car like the 760Li," says Miles.

The test car was also equipped with some impressive technologies designed to increase vehicle safety and improve drivability. NightVision with pedestrian-detection capability employs infrared light to make humans and animals on the road more visible, while a lane-departure warning system vibrates the steering wheel to alert the driver of impending obstructions.

"[The 760Li] is definitely the best of the best in the lineup and epitomizes our mantra of the ‘ultimate driving machine,’ " says Miles. "We expect this car to sell better than the [Mercedes-Benz] S65, but we really never set any targets."

With a base price of $136,600 (the test vehicle was priced at $154,925), the unobtrusive BMW is certain to attempt to steer clear of the forthcoming, attention-grabbing $250,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost: The German automaker, after all, owns the British luxury coachbuilder. Miles remains confident that the two new models will avoid a head-on collision, despite their shared DNA. "I think that Rolls-Royce customers are suffering like everyone else these days with this economy, but it’s really a different scale of luxury," says Miles. "The Rolls-Royce buyer and the BMW 760Li buyer are looking for very different things in an automobile."

 

BMW, www.bmwusa.com

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