A fourth generation of BMWs high-dollar flagship sedan arrives for 2002, introducing what the automaker says is the worlds first six-speed-automatic transmission. Although both V-8 and V-12 engines were available in the previous 7 Series, only a 4.4-liter V-8 version goes on sale initially in the 745i. The regular-size 745i went on sale in January 2002, and the longer-wheelbase 745Li joined it in March. A V-12 sedan called 760Li is scheduled to arrive later as a 2003 model.
The V-8 engine is said to be loaded with technical advances, including continuously adaptable valve timing, as well as lift and intake tube length. It develops 325 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque and accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, according to BMW.
A new aluminum suspension incorporates Active Roll Stabilization to minimize body lean. The six-speed adaptive automatic transmission uses shift-by-wire technology, which is controlled with a new selector behind the steering wheel. In fact, BMW says its new iDrive system produces a drastic reduction in and reorientation of controls that places the most-used controls in and around the steering wheel, while others are in a rotary-dial controller on a console between the seats. We actually dont want to sell a car to a person who has no interest in technology, says Tom Purves, chairman and CEO of BMW North America.
By choosing the optional HPS II the latest version of BMWs Head Protection System buyers will get optional side-impact airbags for the rear seats. Active Knee Protection for the front occupants is new. The new 745i was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany in September 2001 after an appearance at Detroits auto show.
The 7 Series is available only with rear-wheel drive and comes in two sizes. The 745i rides a 117.7-inch wheelbase and measures 198 inches long. Its extended-length companion, the 745Li, gets a 123.2-inch wheelbase and stretches to 203.5 inches long overall. Both sedans are 74.9 inches wide, and the wheelbase and overall length are each a little greater than that on the previous 7 Series. The front and rear overhangs are shorter, and the new models stands about 1.5 inches taller.
Some critics have faulted the new styling, especially the rear end, but others are pleased by the fresh look. Theres a sense of sculptured drama to the rear of this car, because theres no corner, says Chris Bangle, BMWs design director.
Styling elements follow the BMW tradition and include the family twin-kidney grilles, four headlights and a reverse kink in the C-pillar. Bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights operate with both high and low beams. An eyebrow turn signal appears above each headlight cluster, and a high-pressure headlight cleaning system is installed. Standard tires are 18 inches in diameter, but 19-inchers are optional. An optional Adaptive Ride Package includes electronic damping control and a self-leveling rear suspension.
In both regular and long forms, the new 7 Series will seat five occupants. BMWs big sedans are well known for having enough space in the rear seat for taller passengers to sit comfortably; the automakers long-wheelbase models promise limousinelike rear-seat accommodations and longer doors for easier entry and exit. The driver gets a 14-way power seat with microperforated leather upholstery, while the front passengers seat has 12-way power adjustment. Seats with 20-way adjustment and articulated backrests will be standard in the 745Li and optional in the 745i.
Standard features include a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a navigation system, automatic climate control and a 10-speaker premium sound system with a six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
The 4.4-liter V-8 engine has the same displacement as its predecessor but features all-new engineering. It produces 325 hp, compared to the 282 hp of the previous V-8. The new six-speed-automatic transmission works with adaptive technology.
Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and BMWs Head Protection System are standard. Optional rear-seat side-impact airbags extend BMWs inflatable tubular structure to the rear passengers.
Because its packed with so much technology, the first-time driver of a 7 Series sedan needs a bit of instruction before his or her inaugural drive. Expect some strangeness. For instance, the start-up process is different by making use of an unconventional key and a starter button. Electronically activated turn signals also feel different. Choosing a gear takes some attention, and the push-button Park control seems odd at first.
The drive-by-wire technology used for the throttle doesnt feel especially strange, but the electronically operated steering does. Staying in your lane takes more effort than usual, until you get used to the unconventional steering feel. Once you do, it imparts a highly secure sensation As for iDrive, the big knob on the console that operates climate, audio, navigation and communication functions is undeniably intimidating. BMW recommends taking a couple of hours to become familiar with its functions, and youll get used to all the wireless controls in a similar time frame.
It is best to forget the electronics and iDrive for a while and just concentrate on the magnificence of the car and the alluring road experience it provides. All the essential functions can be dealt with in a conventional manner. With so many gears, the automatic transmission seems a trifle busy, but each gear change is easy and the unit performs expertly.
Ride comfort is satisfying, but the optional 19-inch tires riding on rougher pavement may jostle passengers a bit. Optional Comfort seats are especially inviting, which makes the occupant want to stay a while; standard seating is also cozy. The glove box is on the small side.
BMWs 7 Series is a serious road machine and has always been among the poshest models on the market. It is also a car that can be driven eagerly by taking advantage of its outstanding level of control and abundant energy. BMW promotes the fact that the new version lays utterly flat in curves. The companys promise is accurate almost to a disconcerting degree. The ability to slice through curves considerably faster than expected, with no hint of body lean, is a welcome bonus.