Some people dream of going to heaven in a silver chariot. I'd like to try it in a 1986 BMW L-7 sedan. Even if I am turned away at the Pearly Gates, it will have been worth the trip.

This is an exquisite machine, a perfect blend of luxury and performance.

This car is also costly. But that's okay by me.

Those of us on Strivers' Row need a motivating factor, and the L-7 is certainly that. It is a standard of excellence, a symbol of uncompromised quality.

Do I gush? No, no, no, no, no. I appreciate what this car represents.

Some automakers, for example, use luxury as a cloak to conceal deficiencies in performance. Others eschew creature comforts in pursuit of ever faster 0-to-60-mph speeds, ever-tighter cornering. The L-7 offers the best of both worlds.

Outstanding complaint: Letting go of the test car. It really hurt. I didn't know it was so easy to fall in love with rich people's toys.

Outstanding praise: The overwhelming care and attention to detail invested in putting this car together. It's simply wonderful to drive something that is not the least bit tacky.

Look at the interior. Better still, touch it, sit in it, feel it. Leather enwrapped, including the door panels and pillars. Supple where wanted, taut where needed. Superbly stitched -- no loose threads or loose ends anywhere.

You've heard of adjustable seats? How about eight ways, touch control, accurate enough and comfortable enough to soothe every little ache in your back?

Safety? How about a driver's-side air bag, along with automatically tensioning seatbelts that firmly, yet gently pull you into place in panic stops?

The L-7 also has antilock brakes as standard equipment. It is a computerized braking system designed to prevent wheels from locking up in emergency braking. I've also tested this system on other cars on rain-wet roads. It really helps to prevent skids and loss of driver control. Why must we be forced to buy luxury cars to get a safety system that works so well?

Acceleration, ride, handling: Just more cause for praise. Power comes from a 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder, fuel-injected gasoline engine, controlled by a four-speed automatic transmission.

What a transmission! It has three settings -- E, S, and 3-2-1. "E," the economy setting, is the most commonly used. It delivers a smooth, even flow of power to the car's rear wheels. "S," the sports setting, uses more gasoline, but offers more responsive handling in urban, scoot-and-go traffic. "3-2-1" virtually gives the driver manual control over the L-7 on winding roads.

None of this is gimcrackery. It all works well.

Head-turning-quotient: Like a fine jewel, it always attracts attention.

Sound system: BMW AM/FM stereo-cassette. Superior radio signal retention and tape-reproduction tonal quality. High marks are also due here for the simple, easily used balance-fader controls.

Mileage: About 17 to the gallon (22.5-gallon capacity, including reserve), running with five occupants and no luggage, with automatic climate control system operating full time.

Price-as-tested: $44,175, including a $295 destination charge, $110 "dealer preparation fee," and an $850 gas guzzler tax. Hmmm. Maybe heaven can wait.