The BMW 7 Series is a full-size luxury sedan which has been produced by the German automaker since 1977. The Rear-Wheel Drive “saloon” car is BMW’s flagship and is only available in a sedan body style, which includes long wheelbase and limousine models. In the past, BMW often introduced exterior design themes and new technologies into its 7 series first, before passing them down to the other models in the lineup. Though it was once the king of luxury saloons, it has lost market share to the wide variety of luxury sedans that have proliferated the car world in the last 6 to 8 years, and to the widening popularity of SUVs and hatchbacks, which offer customers far more practicality.
To attract new customers, BMW has been offering plug-in hybrid versions of all of its models. They added an integrated electric motor to the 745’s 6-cylinder combustion engine a year ago, creating the 745e xDrive Plug-In Hybrid. The 2021 model retains all the features of the 2020 model. This is understandable, as last year’s model was significantly updated with a more powerful engine and a bigger electric motor than its predecessor.
The 2021 BMW 745e uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine that produces 280 hp and an electric eDrive motor that adds 113 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. Together, they create 389 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, which is supervised by an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission which provides silky-smooth shifting. Top speed is 130mph. With high performance tires added, the limit moves up to 155mph. The hybrid achieves 0 to 60mph in 4.9 seconds.
The car’s Driving Dynamics Control offers Adaptive, Sport, Hybrid and Electric modes. The 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes use an anti-lock braking system (ABS) and Brake Energy Regeneration to charge the e-battery.
With almost all the regular 745’s exterior design characteristics carrying over to the 745e, the exterior offers few signs the car is a plug-in, save for the plug point door on the driver’s side fender and a subtle badge on the trunk lid. The PHEV’s exterior retains the regular 745’s Adaptive LED headlights with Adaptive LED brake lights, enormous front grilles and massive dual-exit exhaust outlets, a panoramic sunroof, fender vents and standard 18” wheels.
The plug-in achieves an EPA-estimated 22mpg. With the hybrid system of gas engine and electric motor activated, the car gets an EPA-estimated 56MPGe. Using electric power only, the car will take you 16 miles before the 12.0kWh Lithium-ion battery needs to be recharged. A Level 1 wall socket replenishes the battery in around 10 hours. Using a Level 2 charger, you’ll replenish the battery in 3 hours. The EPA-estimated Annual Fuel cost for the 745e is $1,650 (www.fueleconomy.gov)
The BMW 7 Series will seat 5 adults, but all its models have really been designed to be occupied by no more than 2 passengers in the back, with the center back seat being fairly small. As a general rule, saloon car passengers experience more comfort in the back seats, but the 745e’s front seats are impressive as well, boasting 20-way power adjustments. Legroom in the front and back is spacious.
Because it’s a flagship luxury sedan, the 745e comes with a prodigious list of standard features, including: push-button start, keyless entry, remote start, an automatic stop/start system, adaptive dampers, self-leveling air suspension, heated power wing mirrors, a 12.3-inch driver info display, dynamic cruise control, and a hands-free trunk. Heated front seats and armrests and a heated steering wheel, along with a panoramic sunroof, soft-close doors, quad-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, extended ambient lighting, and a power rear sunshade are standard. These features get added as well: wireless smartphone charging, automatic high beams, adaptive LED brake lights, a collision preparation system with post-collision braking, a driver condition monitor, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, and a drive recorder. Want more “stuff”? The options list includes: a head-up display, rear side power sunshades, a "Sky Lounge" LED roof-lighting arrangement, traffic jam assist, lane keep assist, and heated, ventilated, and massaging seats, in both front and rear.
The car’s infotainment system is BMW's iDrive 7.0. It uses a 10.25-inch dash-mounted touchscreen display. The system can also be operated with steering wheel controls, a rotary iDrive controller, voice control, and gesture control. iDrive 7.0 contains a Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, and a pair of USB ports, but no Android Auto, which will likely be added next year. A 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is standard. It can be upgraded to an optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system. Also available is a rear-seat entertainment system with its own iDrive controller and two rear screens. If you enjoy playing books-on-tape or music CDs, you’re out of luck. BMW has removed the in-dash CD player.
With a massive length (207.4”), a long wheelbase (126.4” and a curbweight of 4,848 lbs, this is a bulky luxury sedan. Despite its weight, it gets great speed and has wonderful handling. But parallel-parking-wise, its length can make finding an accommodating spot challenging.
Car and Driver reviewers say of the 2021 BMW 7-Series cars in general: “Classy exterior styling, smooth-running powertrains, serene cabin. While it’s not as much fun to drive as we expect a BMW to be, the 7-series has the comfort part of the luxury car equation down pat.”
Bottom line: this is a plug-in hybrid for drivers who want to say “I own a plug-in hybrid,” without worrying about loss of luxury creature comforts or low all-electric range.
The 745e xDrive’s starting MSRP is $95,900. A Federal Tax Credit will knock off $5,836.
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