by Sebastian Cenizo
Luxury and efficiency combine to form one elegant package in the shape of the BMW 7 Series Hybrid. As hybridized and electric vehicles gain popularity across all sectors of the auto industry, even the most luxurious and tech-forward cars that brands make must adapt. One such flagship vehicle is the BMW 7 Series, a luxury limousine that does battle with the likes of the Audi A8 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Just like its competitors, the 7 Series is available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain while still providing plenty of luxury features, advanced driving aids, and impressive performance. BMW's luxury hybrid is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six with an additional electric motor that provides a total of 389 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. However, opting for the 745e xDrive here will cost a pretty premium over similar non-hybrid 7 Series models. So is it worth paying extra, or should you stick with a conventional powertrain?
The 745e xDrive is not at all new to the US and comes into 2021 with no major changes for the new model year. This is understandable as last year's model was just updated significantly and came with a more powerful engine and a bigger electric motor than its predecessor. However, a few standard features have been reshuffled - the in-dash CD player has been removed, a Drive Recorder has been added, and heated front seats, armrests, and a heated steering wheel have been added. Eight available paint colors have been removed, too, along with four interior upholstery options. Lastly, a number of options have been rearranged, and night vision, as well as BMW's Laserlight Icon Adaptive headlights, are no longer available.
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Hybrid
There's very little about the 745e that tells you this is a hybrid model, as most of the regular 7's design characteristics carry over. These include Icon Adaptive LED headlights with adaptive LED brake lights, those enormous front grilles, and massive dual-exit exhaust outlets. You also get a panoramic glass sunroof, subtle fender vents, and 18-inch wheels as standard, although 19s are optional. The only telltale signs that this is the BMW 7 Series plug-in hybrid from the exterior images lie in the driver-side fender plug point and the subtle badging on the trunk lid.
This massive, long-wheelbase luxury sedan is rather bulky as it is, and adding hybrid components only increases heft by around 600 pounds over the regular 740i, for a new curb weight of 4,848 lbs. Other dimensions are similar, though, with a length of 207.4 inches, a width of 74.9 inches, and a wheelbase measuring 126.4 inches. The height is 58.2 inches.
The 2021 BMW 7 Series Hybrid is powered by a combination of a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine that produces 280 hp and an electric eDrive motor that has 113 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque on its own. Together, the setup produces 389 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, all of which is handled by an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system sends power to all four corners of the car. As a luxury car, power delivery is smooth and serene, and this is improved further when just the electric motor is the only one in operation, a feat that is possible at speeds of up to 65 mph. If you want maximum performance, simply bury your right foot, and the 745e will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds. Top speed arrives at 130 mph, but if you fit upgraded performance tires, the limit can be moved to 155 mph. As you'd expect, the eight-speed auto is similarly impressive, with silky-smooth shifts and gearchanges coming quickly when you swap into manual mode and use the steering-mounted paddles.
The BMW 7 Series Hybrid we review here may have its origins in the base model 740i, but it's still remarkably well equipped. It features adaptive dampers and self-leveling air suspension, making for a serene ride. Its weight also plays a part here, and you can hardly feel the most significant bumps, but that mass also has its downsides when you're taking corners, where some body roll is exhibited even in the car's firmest setting. Still, the steering is light enough not to fatigue you and direct enough to make placing the behemoth of a sedan easy. Its brakes are great too, bringing the car to a smooth stop easily, despite regenerative braking helping to charge the battery as you decelerate. However, it's been a long time since we could honestly call the 7 Series a driver's limo, so there's not all that much fun to be had behind the wheel. That said, compared to rivals in this class, the 7 still performs brilliantly.
According to the EPA, the 7 Series Hybrid will achieve 22 mpg on the combined cycle if running on gas alone. With a 12.1-gallon gas tank, that should allow for a mixed range around 266 miles. With the hybrid system in play, the EPA estimate is 56 MPGe with a 16-mile range on electric power alone before the 12 kWh battery needs to be topped up; although, traffic and other factors will affect how much real-world range you get. When you need to charge, a universal outlet can fill the battery from empty in ten hours, but BMW's home charger and Level 2 public outlets can cut that down to just three hours.
The 7 Series seats five adults in pretty good comfort, but this is a car that was designed to be filled by no more than two in the back. The center seat is fairly small while the outboard seats are capacious, with plenty of headroom and legroom. If you decide to maximize the experience, a rear-seat entertainment package will replace that middle seat with an iDrive controller and console, allowing you to play media on the seatback-mounted screens. Obviously, in a car like this, one would experience the most comfort in the back, but the front seats are impressive too, boasting 20-way power-adjustment. The rear seats can also be specced to feature reclining functions, though.
Thanks to the addition of a battery pack, the 7 Series hybrid offers less trunk capacity than its traditionally-powered siblings. Where gas-powered models offer 18.2 cubic feet of volume, the hybrid only manages 14.8 cubes, but there's still enough space for a couple of medium-sized suitcases and some carry-on luggage, although you'd have to be quite the Tetris guru to get everything fitting perfectly, as the battery pack also adds a step to the trunk floor.
In the cabin, each door gets storage pockets while four cupholders, a large glovebox, center armrest storage, and a slot ahead of the gear-lever ensure that you can empty your pockets and sit comfortably.
As a flagship luxury sedan, the 7 Series hybrid is not short on standard features. It comes with 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, push-button start, keyless entry, remote start, and a hands-free trunk. You also get 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. Other standard equipment includes 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. If that's not enough, the options list offers 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, front and rear.
The infotainment system in the 7 Series is BMW's iDrive 7.0, with a 10.25-inch dash-mounted touchscreen display. However, touching the screen is just one way of accessing the system, as the steering wheel, rotary iDrive controller, voice control, and gesture control are all included too. The system boasts a Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, and a pair of USB ports, but no Android Auto, yet. Next year's model will likely add support for Android users. Regardless of how you get your music to play, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is standard, while a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system is an available upgrade. Also available is the aforementioned rear-seat entertainment system with its own iDrive controller and two rear screens. However, what is no longer part of the suite is an in-dash CD player, as BMW has removed this for the new model year.
Thus far, the 2021 model has yet to be subject to any recalls, but it may be worth noting that the 2020 variant suffered a single recall in August of 2019 for a faulty seatbelt warning chime, which the ECU may deactivate. No other issues have become apparent.
Fortunately, the 7 comes with a decent warranty that offers four years/50,000 miles of limited and powertrain coverage. You also get the expected eight years/80,000 miles of hybrid component coverage and four years of roadside assistance with no mileage limit. Complimentary scheduled maintenance is thrown in for the first three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Due to its exorbitant price, no variant of the 7 Series has been subject to review by the NHTSA or IIHS, so there are no safety ratings to quote. Nevertheless, one can rest assured that it's a very safe car, with six airbags, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive brake lights, adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, a driver condition monitor, and a collision preparation system with post-collision braking. Further assistance is present in forward collision detection with city-speed automatic emergency braking, active blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the options of a head-up display and an evasion aid.
As a luxury car, any 7 Series is going to impress. It's a car with a stunning Dakota leather interior, a wealth of standard and available luxury features, and a pretty strong powertrain (for what it is). However, it's the power plant that underwhelms us as much as it impresses us. This is a hybrid, and as such, it needs to be far better than its siblings when it comes to gas mileage and range, and unfortunately, the 745e falls short here. Its all-electric range is laughable, and the reduced trunk space that comes with this particular 7 Series makes it less practical too. This is a hybrid for people who just want to say that they own a hybrid without worrying about reliability or the loss of creature comforts. It doesn't have the performance of gas-powered 7 Series models nor the range economy you'd expect of a hybrid. Overall, this is a car worth skipping. Our suggestion? Rather test drive a lesser car, i.e., buy a 740i.
The 745e is not cheap, and has a base price of $95,900 before a $995 destination charge. As a hybrid, the 7 Series is eligible for a $5,836 federal tax rebate, but it still has a high MSRP. Naturally, the price climbs when you add more features, and a fully loaded model will set you back around $130,000.
There's only one variant available as the 7 Series Hybrid is a standalone model, so let's see what configurations may be best. The Executive Package costs $2,500 and adds a stunning LED roof-lighting feature, along with ceramic controls, ventilated front seats, and a leather dashboard, but this is a package that we'd skip. We'd rather spend $1,700 on the Driving Assistance Professional Package with its active cruise control. The Luxury Rear Seating Package is also worth considering at $3,900. It equips ventilation to both rows of seats, along with power-adjustability for the rear. Massaging front seats are also available - if you can spare an extra thousand bucks. Adding the rear-seat entertainment system is also a nice option and will set you back $2,700. All in, this spec would cost $105,700.
The 2021 S-Class hasn't yet hit dealers in the USA, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, so let's see if the 2020 model is still good enough to beat the competition. In terms of price, the Bimmer has an advantage, as the Merc costs almost 14 grand more with a base price of $109,750. The 7 Series also has more space in the back with its 14.8 cubic-foot trunk, while the S-Class can only manage 12.3 cubic feet. However, the S 560e is more powerful with 469 hp on tap and 516 lb-ft of torque. It also has a bigger gas tank and a more economical hybrid powertrain that promises 65 MPGe. It also charges its battery in just 1.25 hours - less than half what the Bimmer takes. In our reviews of the non-hybrid derivatives of 7 Series and S-Class, we favor the Merc. Nothing changes for the S560e, which is not only a better luxury car but a better hybrid too.
Volvo is a company that is seriously committed to a greener and safer future, with all of its range-topping models featuring a hybrid powertrain. However, the 2.0-liter twin-charged four-pot in the Volvo sounds underwhelming. That is until you realize that the whole system produces 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. The Volvo S90 midsize luxury sedan also has a bigger trunk that offers 15.4 cubic feet of volume despite falling into a lower class, but the Bimmer has a much more user-friendly infotainment system and an arguably more luxurious design and feel to it. Still, the Volvo offers a wealth of safety features and a greater all-electric range. The Bimmer is undoubtedly the better car for rear-seat passengers and offers far more luxury, but when the base price of the S90 is just $63,200, that is expected. As a comfortable and stylish hybrid, we'd take the Volvo. If it were just normal cars in this comparison and not electrified ones, the pricier Bimmer would have our vote.
Check out some informative BMW 7 Series Hybrid video reviews below.