BMW has finally released full details and images for its fifth-generation 7-series flagship following the premature leak yesterday of several images and sketchy details. As expected, the car picks up several influences from the previous CS Concept including new LED elements on the headlights, an oversized grille and more fluid taillights.

The rear end of the car is sure to draw criticism, just as the previous generation did, but overall the new model displays a much more elegant design than its predecessor. While the exterior changes appear to have been kept to a minimum, there are rumored to be a raft of significant changes underneath the sheet-metal, including a longer wheelbase and wider track, plus a range of new engine options including a hybrid version.

The range topping model is a new 750i and its 750Li extended wheelbase cousin, both of which are powered by a 400hp (298kW) 4.4L twin-turbo V8 engine with 450lbs-ft (610Nm) of torque. The only transmission available is a six-speed automatic, however BMW is expected to add a new eight-speed unit further down the track.

The 740i name returns, but is powered the award-winning 3.0L straight-six turbo engine instead of the former's V8 and delivers 326hp (243kW). In European markets there’s also a 730d turbodiesel with a 3.0L force-fed oil-burner churning out 245hp (183kW).

Performance is also improved through the extensive use of lighter multi-phase and hot-rolled steels in the body and chassis load-bearing structures, as well as aluminum for the roof, doors, hood and front fenders, plus on the front spring towers, engine block and differential housing.

An entirely new suspension system also features in the new 7-series. The design consists of a multi-link double-wishbone front suspension combined with a new ‘Integral V’ rear set-up. Self-leveling air suspension is also available. Rack-and-pinion steering with variable ratio and hydraulic power assist continues, but with a new-type hydraulic pump that delivers assist only when called for, thereby saving fuel. One key feature is the debut of BMW’s latest active steering system for the rear wheels.

The suspension system features further development of BMW’s active damper control system, which allows the driver to choose between four settings for shock-absorber firmness, transmission shift characteristics, engine-throttle response and power-steering assist.

The latest 7-series also picks up a new E-Shift gear selector located on the center console instead of the previous car’s steering column unit. Changing gears is done by tipping the E-Shift from side to side, while Park is engaged by a button atop the lever.

The car also debuts BMW’s second-generation iDrive system, which comes with a larger display monitor and a new menu and control system. Other new details include buttons for direct selection of the radio, CD, navigation and telecommunications menus, grouped conveniently next to the controller.

Advanced safety features include an active blind spot detection system and a new night vision set-up with pedestrian detection features. An optional adaptive cruise control system is also available, which can move the car automatically in stop and go traffic.

The blind spot system will vibrate the steering wheel and flash an LED on the exterior mirror upon initiating a lane change when there is an unseen vehicle in the blind spot or when there is a vehicle quickly approaching. The new system works in conjunction with BMW’s previous lane departure warning system, which also vibrates the steering wheel.

Finally, there is also a high beam assist, which automatically dims the headlights for oncoming traffic.

The new 7-series will make its world debut at the Paris Motor Show in October before going on sale by the end of the year.

2009 BMW 7-series

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