We test the 745e plug-in hybrid at our 2020 Car of the Year competition
- Smooth hybrid powertrain
- Beautifully finished interior
- Quiet at cruising speeds
- That grille
- Soggy dynamics
- Poor brake feel
The 7 Series has long been a struggle for the guys in Munich. Why? The answer lies 150 miles (241 km) to the west, in Stuttgart. For decades, BMW has viewed its flagship luxury sedan through the prism of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, by far the best-selling vehicle in the segment.
And the dilemma has always been this: Do we simply do what they do and maybe win over buyers bored with the three-pointed star? Or do we do something completely different and try to redefine the segment? The Bangle-era E65 7 Series was an attempt at something completely different. The 2020 7 Series hews closer to traditional S-Class virtues: softer and more comfort-oriented than you’d expect a BMW to be, laden with technology, and with a big grille to let everyone know you’ve joined the plutocracy. A really big, really glittery grille.
That grille is the controversial centerpiece of a midcycle refresh of the sixth-generation 7 Series. Other cosmetic changes include a new hood, new front fenders, and a new front fascia with redesigned lower front bumper air intakes featuring large air deflectors to curb turbulence around the wheel openings.
At the rear is a new fascia and taillights connected by a thin cross-car light strip. Not that you’d notice: In the metal, it simply looks like a whole new front end—as in-your-face as a clenched fist with a chrome knuckleduster—has been grafted on to the old car.
The $96,545 USD 745e xDrive plug-in hybrid is the mid-price model in a refreshed five-car lineup that starts with the $84,645 USD, 335-hp six-cylinder 740i and stretches to the $159,395 USD M760i xDrive, which is powered by a 600-hp version of BMW’s 6.0-liter V-12. And it’s the most changed in terms of powertrain.
The 745e’s predecessor, badged 740e, had a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder internal combustion engine working with the electric motor mounted in the eight-speed automatic transmission. The 745e combines a 280-hp version of BMW’s smooth 3.0-liter straight-six with a 111-hp motor to create a powertrain with a total system output of 389 hp and 442 lb-ft.
Those power increases of 67 hp and 73 lb-ft are enough to scoot the 4,956-pound (2,248-kg) sedan to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and over the quarter mile in 13.3 seconds at 105.2 mph (169.3 km/h). BMW claims the 12-kW-hr battery gives the 745e a 16-mile (26-km) range running purely on the motor, a 2-mile (3-km) increase over the 740e.
More powerful and more range. What’s not to like? A lot, actually.
Yes, the 745e might go farther on battery power than its predecessor, but the larger internal combustion engine means its overall efficiency is worse, dropping from 64 mpg-e to 56 mpg-e, according to the EPA.
More concerning, though, is the drive experience, which is as soft and pillowy as an old Buick. “It sure doesn’t handle like previous BMW 7er models,” said associate online editor Stefan Ogbac, who also called out the lifeless, robotic steering and the brake actuation evocative of an on-off switch.
And although it’s beautifully put together and laden with technology, the interior ambiance is oddly old school, especially in the context of the current S-Class with the MBUX interface and Audi’s dramatic new A8 interiors. “If I were a modern-era executive trying to show that I was hip to current trends,” executive editor Mark Rechtin said, “I would take an Audi A8 instead.”
The 2020 745e xDrive proves, six generations in, BMW is still trying to figure out its flagship sedan. “Copious engineering effort has gone into this car,” technical director Frank Markus said. “Pity so little of it was directed toward the powertrain and chassis dynamics. There’s no ‘ultimate driving’ in this machine. BMW management in the ’90s would never have stood for it.”
|2020 BMW 745e xDrive (PHEV)|
|Base Price/As Tested||$96,545/$119,875|
|Power (SAE net)||280 @ 5,000 (gas), 111 @ 3,170 (elec); 389 hp (comb)|
|Torque (SAE net)||330 @ 1,500 (gas), 195 @ 3,170 (elec); 442 lb-ft (comb)|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||4.8 sec|
|Quarter Mile||13.3 sec @ 105.2 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||112 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||26.1 sec @ 0.73 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||22 mpg; 56 mpg-e|