BMW Meets Bang & Olufsen

What do people with luxury cars think about while driving?

Now that I’ve spent more than three hours piloting a BMW, I know.

It didn’t matter if I was crawling along Toronto’s Dupont St. or stuck in traffic on the Gardiner Expressway, 427 or 401. It didn’t even matter if I was shuttling my mom to the passport office. The thought I couldn’t scrub from my mind was a phrase once articulated by Ice Cube and Westside Connection: “Bow Down.”

A few weeks ago, BMW invited me to test the 750xi with a Bang & Olufsen Sound System. On the day of my test drive, I parked my bicycle around the corner from Toronto’s Bang & Olufsen showroom. I wanted them to know I was professional, not some diehard cyclist moonlighting as car journalist.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford may or may not have said those words. But I’ll apply them to the BMW750xi. Driving this car, you see and feel why faster horses don’t cut it and how luxury cars galloped ahead of minivans.

You don’t need active blind spot technology. But you’ll envy the gentle vibration warning you not to sideswipe the car you can’t see. Most people can reverse just fine without a birds’-eye camera view, but you must applaud the ingenuity. Inside and out, this car proves one thing. More money equals better leather, more gadgets, and an engine that drools when your foot grazes the gas pedal. Or maybe that drool was from my mouth?

But let’s be clear about something. Sure, this thing is a pleasure to drive. As my mom said while we sped to the passport office, are we gliding on air? It’s even better in sports mode, where 120 km per hour feels like 60 and everything’s more responsive. Which is great, but I accepted this assignment to get drunk on sound.

Some catch up if you’re unfamiliar with Bang & Olufsen: they craft TVs and high-end audio systems that deliver audio that’s clean and crisp. They pack it into technology that’s futuristic, alien, and looks good as furniture. Instead of giving people bigger speakers, they’ve returned texture to great music.

What they built into the 750xi is stunning. And at $4,900, it better be. When I learned about the sound system, I asked for contributions to a playlist. I wanted to put the system through its paces (Hear it here: Driving a BMW 750i and blaring tunes from a Bang & Olufsen sound system). There were some stellar contributions. And then there was Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

Nothing sounded mediocre or middling. I used Bluetooth to connect my smartphone to the sound system and a little console rose from the dashboard. Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive” thumped without rattling the trunk. Every gallop and shriek of Kings of Leon’s southern rock arrived in full stride. Vocalists like Sade and Rhye sounded sublime . . . so I hit repeat a few times. If you have money and fucking love music, you need this sound system.

What’s delivering the sound? Let’s count: there’s a dizzying array of sixteen loudspeakers, seven tweeters, seven midranges and two subwoofers, the latter of which they’ve packed under the front seats. Finally, your booty and the beat are one. Even if you’re stuck in traffic and it’s too cold to lower the windows, crank the volume and accept accolades from passersby.

I returned to the Bang & Olufsen showroom after my drive. I told the staff I’ve never heard music sound so good in car so expensive. One guy pointed to the BMW M6 cabriolet. All I heard was, “Bow Down.”

2014 750xi Sedan
Exterior: Azurite Black Metallic
Interior: Opal White Merina Leather
Base MSRP: $105,500
As tested: $136,150
For more information on Bang & Olufsen’s collaboration with BMW, check here.

Pierre Hamilton is a freelance writer from Toronto, where some of his best friends describe him as an acquired taste. He enjoys bourbon and scotch, but craves craft beer, overproof Jamaican rum and great non-fiction. He has a very limited style knowledge but knows what he likes. He also produces a monthly music podcast called Sound Considerations. Follow him, but not too closely, on Twitter.

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