by Jared Rosenholtz
While on the whole, popularity for the hybrid sector has mushroomed exponentially, the super-luxury hybrid sector remains a relatively small niche. Nevertheless, with the 7 Series hybrid and its rivals, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8 hybrids as the halos of their respective ranges, manufacturers have invested heavily into these vehicles to deliver the most contemporary tech, top-notch opulence, and best possible ride comfort a vehicle can offer, all with only minor compromise to their performance. That said, however, the 745e gets a new turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine for the 2020 model year, hybridized with a 12 kWh electric motor, electrifying the xDrive system with total combined outputs of 389 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Though afforded a greater all-electric range with its new constituents and geared to deliver the utmost level of luxury-comfort, the 745e isn't as economically-minded as standard hybrid vehicles are expected to be, so the question left to be answered is whether the hybridized 7 Series is worth the premium price, or are there just far more sensible options out there?
The new 745e 7 Series rides into the new model year with a new, more powerful turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder hybrid engine mated to a new, more powerful 12 kWh electric motor and larger battery pack which BMW claims will significantly improve the sedan's all-electric range. Those upgrades replace the prior year's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 9.2 kWh electric motor. The drive mode names have also been switched out for simpler, more self-explanatory labels, from Max eDrive, Auto eDrive, and Save to Hybrid, Electric, and Sport. In the way of new features, the updated 745e now comes standard with BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant voice-recognition software. On the outside, there are also some new midcycle styling elements including a larger than ever BMW signature kidney grille, a new hood, headlights, front fenders, rear bumper trim, and rear lights.
With its midcycle refresh, the 745e now sports a 40% larger BMW kidney grille up front, flanked by slimmer LED headlight units and a hood featuring more intensely sculpted contour lines and covered air intakes. The newly designed air breathers, visible behind the front wheel arches, now feature larger air outlets that extend higher into the front fenders. On the rear end, the trunk and bumper surfacing have been remodeled to elicit a more horizontal impression and the taillights have been made slimmer for a more sophisticated aesthetic. Filling the new sedans wheel arches are 18-inch light-alloy wheels shod with all-season run-flat tires, 19-inch alloys are optional.
The 7 Series is a large and hefty full-size luxury sedan and is discernible by its long wheelbase, short overhangs, and flowing roofline. It spans a total length of 207.4 inches, a wheelbase of 126.4 inches, its height measures 58.2 inches and its width 74.9 inches. And with a curb weight of 4,848 lbs, it's around 600 lbs heavier than the 740i in RWD guise but 311 lbs lighter than the M760i xDrive
The 7 Series Hybrid's new 3.0-liter turbo straight-six engine is electrically augmented by a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery and eDrive motor for combined outputs of 389 hp and 443 lb-ft which power the all-wheel-drive system via a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. For efficiency, the 745e can be set to utilize only the electric motor's 111 hp and 195 lb-ft when pulling away from a standstill, though not as enthusiastic as with the gas engine in operation; either way, the takes-offs are smooth and effortless. That electrified power is also ample enough oomph for accelerating around town and at speeds of up to 65 mph. When more power is required, the straight-six will intuitively kick-in, providing all the passing performance needed at highway speeds with transitions that are imperceptibly quiet and smooth. BMW claims that the 745e will accelerate from 0-60 mph in a blistering 4.9 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the prior model year, and is limited to 130mph, this can be raised to a 155 mph limit when performance tires are fitted.
The 4,848-pound luxury-cruiser drives and handles reasonably well for such a hefty sedan, and for one that has been optimized for a luxurious ride quality above all else. There's a surge of electrified torque with acceleration off-the-line making for an initially rapid launch, and from there on, its seventh-heaven all the way. The powertrain's responses are smooth and consistent, and while the motor runs with no noise whatsoever, the cabin is also incredibly well insulated from all outside noise. The 745e's self-leveling air suspension along with its standard dynamic damper control make for a heavenly, cushy ride; most imperfect road surfaces and minor undulations are effectively smoothed right out.
Its hefty weight is inescapable, however, as the body exhibits some body roll around the bends and at its limits. Its steering is nevertheless still admirable, providing decent levels of feedback and respectably accurate responses. But the 745e is no driver's car, owners will most likely be enjoying the leisure of the back seats rather than being stuck behind the wheel. That said though, the 7 Series does remain one of the most dynamically proficient large luxury sedans out there, so pleasure can be found in any of the 745e's seats.
Properly driven, the 745e returns an electric and gas combined EPA estimate of 56 MPGe, on gasoline only, the sedan returns a meager 22 mpg with combined driving cycles. A rather disappointing figure for the supposedly efficiency-minded hybrid, considering that the gasoline-only BMW 740i performs better. From last year's 740e's disappointing all-electric range of 14 miles, the 745e's new electric motor along with its larger battery pack has more than doubled that number, the Plug-in Hybrid now offering a claimed 34 miles on pure electric propulsion. BMW states that on a level two charger, the 745e's battery pack can be fully charged within four and a half hours.
There is seating for five occupants in the opulent 7 Series Hybrid, though considering that the center rear seat is pretty small, go all-out on luxury and opt-in for the Rear-seat Entertainment Professional package which replaces the center seat space with an iDrive controller console comprising the included rear-seat infotainment systems functions as well as the rear-seating functions. With the US getting only the extended wheelbase variant of the 7 Series, rear passengers are ensured more than enough legroom to stretch out in. The front seats are multi-contoured and feature 20-way power-adjustability and three-way heating, and with luxury being the name of the game, high-quality Dakota leather adorns every seat throughout the cabin.
With the large battery pack on-board there's a considerable compromise in trunk capacity, from 18.2 cubic feet of room in the standard sedan model to a mere 14.8 cubes in the Plug-In Hybrid. There is an elevated mid-trunk step due to the large battery as well, which does hurt storage versatility a bit, but the room is still good enough to stack ten variants of the finest Armani suits so you'll never be seen in the same outfit twice.
As for storage within the cabin, there are a plethora of solutions, there are two cup holders between both the front and rear seats along with some compact storage cubbies, and there's more space for bottles and other small items in the door side pockets. There's a sizable passenger-side glove box, a front-center armrest cubby, and seatback map pockets behind each of the front seats.
Comprehensive would be putting it lightly in terms of the 745e's standard consignment of features. Keyless entry and push-button ignition gets one started, the motor features an auto start/stop function and while the driver gets a heated, leather-wrapped multifunction sports steering wheel with power tilt/telescoping functionality, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Passengers are welcomed by 20-way power-adjustable front seats with three-tier heating, four-zone automatic climate control and extended ambient interior lighting. Other standard features include dynamic cruise control, soft-close auto door operation, a power rear sunshade, a power tilt/sliding panoramic moonroof, a power-operated trunk, and a universal garage door opener. That's not all, the 745e also comes outfitted with Parking Assistant Plus which comprises surround-view cameras with a 3D display and active park distance control, a rearview camera, as well as Active Driving Assistant which includes daytime pedestrian protection, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, speed limit info, lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Befitting the 745e and its super-luxurious sum and substance is an up-to-the-minute infotainment system to boot. A 10.2-inch touchscreen display takes center stage and is also operated via either voice command or the familiar iDrive touchpad controller and is tethered to a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. The system comprises BMW's latest 7.0 iDrive operating software, with the latest updates in gesture control and includes functionality in navigation, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, WiFi hotspot capability, simultaneous device pairing enhanced smartphone connectivity and Apple CarPlay. Unfortunately, the Apple CarPlay is subscription-based and there is still no sign of Android Auto. In the front console is a wireless QI charging pad and two smart-charging USB ports and there are power outlets in the front passenger's footwell the back of the center console and in the trunk.
The NHTSA has already sent out a recall for the 2020 year model 7 Series Hybrid, pertaining to a faulty electronic control unit that may involuntarily disable the seat belt unbuckled warning signal. Though no reliability estimate has been given to the new 745e, BMW covers the sedan with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and an eight-year/80,000-mile high-voltage battery warranty. Numerous warranty extensions are also available, taking total coverage up to seven years or 125,000 miles.
Luxury vehicles this high-end are usually not evaluated for their crashworthiness due to their low-sales volumes and high pricing, thus it's unclear exactly how safe the 745e really is as neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has had it for evaluation. Fortunately, the 745e comes comprehensively equipped with a favorable selection of active safety and advanced driver assists at the base level, including six standard airbags, BMW's active protection system, daytime pedestrian protection, frontal collision warning with city collision mitigation, speed limit info, lane departure warning, active blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert - not forgetting the standard rearview camera.
In terms of luxury, one couldn't get more opulent than the 7 Series super luxury sedan, however, in the sphere of hybridization, the 7 Series hybrid is somewhat of an underperformer. There are gasoline-only vehicles that offer better fuel-economy estimates than the 7 Series Hybrid, and loads of hybridized vehicles that offer far greater all-electric ranges. The 7 Series Hybrid is an expensive way to have the bragging rights to owning a hybrid vehicle, without the actual benefit to the environment. Shoppers can find as much luxury in the far more affordable BMW 740i which is also more economical and the better driver's car. Despite this the 7 Series Hybrid is still a decent BMW, its beautiful inside and out and offers all the luxury-focused features one could want from a vehicle in this class, it's just a tough one to recommend considering its faults and the vast array of better alternatives.
The 7 Series 745e Plug-in Hybrid is a standalone model, therefore prospective buyers will have to go all-in on the lines MSRP of $95,550, which is excluding BMW's destination charge of $995 as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees. If the money is there, then opting for a fully-loaded model, with all the available packages and extras optioned on, increases that base price to around $134,000.
|745e xDrive iPerformance Plug-In Hybrid||
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Hybrid
With only the one model making up the lineup, there's only the choice of what options to include on the 745e. Seeing as the rear center seat is barely usable by adults, we suggest including the Rear-Seat Entertainment Professional package which outfits the rear seats with an infotainment system with screens for both rear occupants and a center console control hub that divides the rear seats. With the hefty weight of the large hybrid sedan, and considering its potent power and acceleration, we suggest opting for the M Sport Brakes as well, just to deliver some added stopping power for more confident driving. To get the most out of the luxury experience that the 7 Series has to offer, throw in the Premium and Executive packages too, with the Premium package, comes a head-up display and power rear side window sunshades, in the Executive package, a panoramic sky lounge LED roof, ventilated front seats, and more.
The S-Class Hybrid may be around $10,000 more than the 7 Series Hybrid, but it comes equipped with a far more powerful hybridized 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 engine with peak outputs of 469 hp and 516 lb-ft. With this powertrain, it's as quick in acceleration from 0-60 mph but far more fuel-efficient, returning 25/32/28 mpg. Though with a larger 13.5 kWh battery, the S-Class is availed with a slightly worse, or more honest all-electric range of 30 miles on a single charge. The S-Class' interior feels more futuristic with its merged dual 12.3-inch digital driver information and infotainment displays. The infotainment system itself is more user-friendly and more responsive than the 7 Series' and comes installed with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, not on a subscription-basis, but standard. The S-Class is certainly worth the extra outlay, it's the more refined and more comfortable vehicle, and better suits the persona of the hybrid luxo-barge.
Though based in a class below that of the 7 Series, more comparable to the 5 Series, the Volvo S90 Hybrid is still a decent alternative. It's around $30,000 cheaper than the 7 Series and comes powered by a more powerful 2.0-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder hybridized engine with combined outputs of 400 hp and 472 lb-ft. The S90 is considerably more efficiency-minded than the 7 Series, returning 24/34/27 mpg on the EPA drive cycles and 71 MPGe with fuel and electric power combined, a significant improvement over the 7 Series' claimed 56 MPGe. The S90 does, however, offer a weaker all-electric range of only 21 miles. For the price of the S90 in comparison to the 7 Series, there's a massive value for money difference in favor of the S90, boasting a nine-inch touchscreen display, and a system comprising Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality as standard. The vastly spacious and luxurious rear seats in the 7 Series is where the S90 has no standing, however. But with what the S90 offers everywhere else, it's definitely the better buy for the money and is a better hybrid vehicle.