This thing is basically like driving a Best Buy.
Stepping into the 2016 BMW 750i xDrive is a bit intimidating. Not in the way that climbing into the cramped cockpit of a supercar is. Actually, it's more like getting a new smartphone. Some of the buttons and functions are instantly familiar, but chances are you'll need a few days of trial and error (aka pressing every button and seeing what it does) before you feel comfortable and in control. Even after spending a week with the all-new 7 Series I still don't feel like I got the car's many functions and features all down.
Perhaps that's by design, as BMW's new flagship sedan is a tech and luxury showcase for its cars of the future. And indeed, I did feel like I was in the future. Here are five times the all-new 7 Series made me feel like I was living in 2026 as opposed to 2016. No. 1 – While playing with BMW Gesture Control: Unlike touchscreens, gesture controls haven't permeated every part of our tech-based lives, and that includes the infotainment centers of the cars we drive. But BMW has taken a bold new leap forward with Gesture Control. I found the system, which works with the new iDrive touchscreen, to be finicky with recognizing gestures and not as intuitive as I would have liked.
However, I did find it really cool when I was able to turn down the volume of the sound system simply by twirling my fingers. To me, buttons are still more convenient but given time for further refinement I could see gesture-based controls acting as a complement to touchscreens, although I don't think they will ever fully replace them (or physical buttons).
No. 2 – When I put the car in "Adaptive" drive mode: "Adaptive" drive mode changes the car's driving characteristics in real time to match both your driving style and the road ahead, moving seamlessly between the three driving modes (Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro). It links the GPS, transmission, steering, throttle and dampers into one cohesive unit to ensure that everything is in sync. I'd be lying if I said I noticed a big difference when driving in Adaptive mode. However, what impressed me most is that BMW has brought the tech from Rolls-Royce to the 2016 7 Series. As the years go by it should move on down the line and become polished to the point where drivers rely on it to help maneuver, and enjoy driving on, unfamiliar roads.
No. 3 – After I played around with the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy tablet: BMW definitely took a shortcut to the future by shoving a tablet in between the two rear seats of the new 7 Series. That being said it's much more than a gimmicky feature designed to wow yokels such as myself. The tablet gives the rear passengers full control over the two 10-inch touchscreens mounted into the rear headrests. From it rear passengers can order in-seat massages, play music and videos and even "exercise" thanks to the car's Vitality Program. Tablets are becoming much smaller, lighter and more capable as the years - hell, months at this point - go by. Expect them to become standard fixtures in the back seats of all luxury cars sooner than later.
No. 4 – When I read about the new Display Key: In an awful twist of fate my tester included the Display Key as an option but what I got was just a normal fob. That was a huge bummer as I really wanted to check out the 7 Series' self-parking feature. In addition to turning the sedan into a Tesla Model S, the Display Key provides vital stats about the car. Oh, and it's also got a flipping touchscreen! Will a feature like this become standard on all cars? Probably not. However, I could see BMW and other automakers offering it as an option on more than just flagships. Hopefully those who select said option don't have to deal with a commoner's key like I did.
No. 5 – When I fully reclined the rear passenger's seat: This isn't exactly a revolutionary bit of luxury but it did make me stop and think of the future for a second. The autonomous cars of tomorrow that we are promised will likely have features like the 7 Series' lie-flat rear seat, which pushes forward and folds the front passenger seat for max legroom. Normally I prefer to be behind the wheel but I often found myself jealous of whomever was sitting in back. For perhaps the first time the thought that self-driving cars might not be the end of the world crossed my mind. That's a sacrilegious idea, I know, but BMW didn't make such a reality seem all that bad.