Introduced during 2002, the fourth generation of BMW's largest series comes in regular- and long-wheelbase forms as the 745i and 745Li, respectively. BMW also offers its full-size sedans with V-12 power as the 760i and 760Li.
Adaptive headlights are standard for 2005; they move with the steering wheel to enhance night vision through curves. Offered as new options this year are a Rear Entertainment Package with an iDrive controller and six-DVD player, as well as Comfort Access, which features keyless entry, exit and operation. Park Distance Control is now standard.
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; it places access to the most-used controls via a rotary-dial controller on the console. iDrive has sometimes been hailed as a high-tech wonder, but it's also been denounced as a complicated and unnecessary technological achievement.
BMW's six-speed-automatic transmission 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.
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.
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 are 18 inches in diameter, but 19-inchers are optional.
In both regular and long forms, the 7 Series seats up to five occupants. The driver gets a 14-way power seat with microperforated leather upholstery. Comfort seats with a 20-way adjustment and articulated backrests are standard in the 745Li and optional in the 745i.
Standard features on both models 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. Sirius Satellite Radio is optional.
Under the Hood
BMW's 4.4-liter V-8 cranks out 325 horsepower. The six-speed-automatic transmission works with adaptive technology.
Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and BMW's Head Protection System are standard. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional.
Because these sedans are packed with so much technology, a first-time driver needs some preliminary instruction. The drive-by-wire throttle doesn't 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 acquainted, it imparts a highly secure sensation.
Some drivers love the complex, nonintuitive iDrive control system, but many dislike it intensely.
Ride comfort is satisfying, but the optional 19-inch tires may jostle passengers when riding on rougher roads. BMW's 7 Series is a serious road machine and has always been among the most luxurious models on the market. Its ability to slice through curves considerably faster than expected, with no hint of body lean, is a welcome bonus.