The BMW -- labeled the "Most Appealing Premium Luxury Car" by J.D. Power & Associates two months ago -- is sleek and graceful to the eye, but packs a 325 horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission under the hood and is a pro at handling curves due to an enhanced Active Roll Stabilization system.
More obvious to passengers are the leather comfort seats all around and a spacious rear cabin that accommodates adults without cramping their legs. There's also a Logic 7 premium audio system that includes AM/FM stereo radio and CD player with 10 speakers, two subwoofers and an FM diversity antenna system for better reception. Cruise control and power seats provide an easier ride, while aluminum double-pivot strut-type front suspension, and active roll stabilization as well as hydraulic energy absorbers in the bumpers keep passengers safe. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles an hour in 5.9 seconds and get 18 to 26 miles to a gallon of gas.
There are numerous other features, both visible and below the surface, that add value to the BMW 745Li, which has a manufacturer's suggested retail of $74,595 and is available at Peake BMW (2630 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Kenner, 469-6165).
Also packed with power, plus lots of German engineering, is the Dodge Magnum RT, which has a HEMI, 5.7-liter engine, 340 horsepower and a V-8. Its multi-displacement engine helps save on fuel by automatically switching to four cylinders when extra power isn't needed but seamlessly ratcheting it up to eight cylinders when more power is required.
This little amalgam of a car, wagon and sport utility vehicle also has lots of safety features that make it almost impossible to lose control even when you make a sharp turn at a high speed. Its Electronic Stability Control Program senses such problems and automatically decelerates, applies brakes to the appropriate wheel and corrects driver errors. The suspension on the car is the same found on E Class Mercedes, which bought Magnum's parent company some time ago. The RT comes standard with power windows and locks, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, a fold-down cargo area, a five-speed automatic transmission, disc brakes, an AM/FM stereo with CD player and leather interior. It starts just under $30,000 and is available at Don Bohn Dodge (4848 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-4888).