Introduced during the 2002 model year with V-8 engines, the fourth generation of BMWs largest series comes in regular- and long-wheelbase forms. The regular-size 745i went on sale in January 2002, and the longer-wheelbase 745Li joined the ranks two months later. Multispoke alloy wheels replace double-spoke versions on the 2004 models, and a Sirius Satellite Radio becomes optional.
The styling on these cars departs from BMW tradition, especially at the rear end. The innovative iDrive control system has drawn both praise and consternation. This system places the most-used controls in and around the steering wheel and others in a rotary-dial controller on the console. It has been hailed as a high-tech wonder but has also been denounced as a complicated, unnecessary example of excess technology. The six-speed-automatic transmission has been less controversial; it operates with shift-by-wire technology and an unconventional electronic control system.
An optional Adaptive Ride Package includes electronic damping control and a self-leveling rear suspension. A 760Li sedan with V-12 power joined the lineup in 2003.
Available only with rear-wheel drive, the 7 Series comes in two sizes. The 745i rides a 117.7-inch wheelbase and measures 198 inches long overall. Its extended-length 745Li sibling gets a 123.2-inch wheelbase and stretches to 203.5 inches long overall.
The styling elements follow BMW tradition and include the familiar twin-kidney grille and a reverse kink in the C-pillar. Bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights operate with both high and low beams. Standard tires measure 18 inches in diameter, and 19-inchers are optional.
In both regular and long forms, the 7 Series seats five people. The driver gets a 14-way power seat with microperforated leather upholstery. Seats with 20-way adjustment and articulated backrests are standard in the 745Li and optional in the 745i.
Standard features include a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, a navigation system, automatic climate control and a 10-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
BMWs 4.4-liter V-8 engine cranks out 325 horsepower. The 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 these sedans are packed with so much technology, the first-time driver needs a bit of preliminary instruction. The drive-by-wire technology used for the throttle doesnt feel especially strange, but the electronically operated steering does. Staying in your lane demands more attention than usual until you get used to the unconventional steering feel. Once you do, it imparts a highly secure sensation.
Ride comfort is satisfying, but on rougher pavement the optional 19-inch tires may jostle passengers. BMWs 7 Series is a serious road machine and has always been among the most luxurious models on the market. BMW correctly promotes the fact that the new version lays utterly flat in curves. The ability to slice through curves considerably faster than expected, with no hint of body lean, is a welcome bonus.