Click above for high-res gallery of the BMW 750Li When the 2009 BMW 7 series was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last fall, BMW's fifth-generation flagship had an anvil-sized burden to bear. Although the last 7 series was a milestone in the sales department, its design – which foisted Chris Bangle's influence onto an unsuspecting public – was all but universally panned when it was introduced in 2001. And if the exterior wasn't offensive enough (to some), BMW's newly-implemented iDrive system sent many reviewers and owners into unmitigated bouts of rage. For 2009, BMW has sought to address the fourth generation's foibles while capitalizing on its strengths. And while nothing is more subjective than styling, control interfaces have a huge impact on the overall experience. Find out if BMW has succeeded on both fronts after the break. %Gallery-45410% Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc. Looking over three decades of the 7 series, it's painfully clear that the last generation was an outlier stylistically. The 2009 model appears as if it had directly evolved from the third-generation E38, but it's thoroughly up-to-date and instantly recognizable as a modern BMW. The design team, led by Adrian Van Hooydonk, created a large car that looks deceptively small, so much so that the 750 could almost pass as one of its smaller siblings without another vehicle around to serve as a point of reference. The combination of the short front overhang, 19-inch wheels and maximized cabin visually shrink the sedan. It has none of the ponderous appendages of the outgoing model thanks to the elimination of the Bangle-butt and the droopy-dog headlamps. The sculpted hood ridges flow cleanly into the A-pillars, while another character line connects the corners of the headlight clusters to the corresponding corners of the tail lamps. It's only when you get close to the 750 that its 205-inch span becomes incredibly apparent. In this segment, it's what's on the inside that counts. With all modern cars, especially those battling it out in the premium class, the number of onboard gadgets seems to be expanding exponentially. Unfortunately, all of these new features seem to necessitate a multi-function control interface. So with dashboards sprouting a veritable forest of switches, BMW decided to go minimalist and devised the iDrive system for the fourth-gen. 7 series. By adding a singular knob to control all pertinent vehicles functions, BMW sought to make its new luxo-cruiser as easy to operate as a modern PC – for better and for worse. In practice, the iDrive's hardware worked as advertised from the onset and the concept of a lone controller eventually found its way inside several other automaker's offerings, including Audi and Honda. The real problem was the incredibly obtuse graphical user interface (GUI) that made it almost impossible to find what you were looking for. Tracking down points of interest in the navigation system without wading through the owner's manual or getting a lesson from one of BMW's boffins was a task of …
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