Ugly duckling or an innovative trendsetter? BMW hopes the latter, but you the buyer will ultimately decide with your purchasing decisions. A year since it’s introduction, the BMW 745iA remains the topic of debates over the new look and the complexity of its ‘mouse’ driven iDrive electronics. To BMW this isn’t new. Since the early days (BMW 7 Series was launched in 1977) a new model from BMW meant one thing. Controversial styling coupled with groundbreaking technology. But time tends to silence most critics, and BMW has managed to deliver vehicles that the publics wants and other manufacturers often try to emulate. Having spent a week with the new 7454iA, I can honestly say that the new look grew on me. And judging by the drive up window critics, the car received nothing but praise from my local Tim Horton’s employees. I almost forgot another ‘small’ claim to fame that BMW holds proudly. BMW’s like to be driven. And make no mistake about one thing, the new BMW 745iA, while extremely comfortable and civil, is a serious Drivers Car.
Engine & Transmission
Perhaps the key component in making any car a success is the engine. In the case of the 745iA, the only engine option, for now, is the DOHC V8, 32 V, Valvetronic producing 325 horsepower @ 6100 RPM and 330 ft/lb of torque @ 3600 RPM. The power generated by the engine is delivered to the rear wheels by a 6-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic controls mounted on the steering wheel. In order to control the beast, the 745iA comes complete with the following safety and driver assist features:
- DSCIII – Dynamic Stability Control III
- DTC – Dynamic Traction Control
- DBC – Dynamic Brake Control
- CBC – Cornering Brake Control
- Dynamic Drive (Active Roll Stabilization)
- Plus, plus, plus… for more info go to www.bmw.ca
So what does it all mean in real life driving? Let’s start with the engine. In normal driving situations, you hardly know it’s there. But step on the throttle with authority, and the engine wakes your senses with a crescendo of sound that is music to the ears. The sound is rich and full and the sensation puts you directly behind the wheel of a race-prepped sports car. At 1985 kg/4376 lb this BMW is not designed for a drag strip, but with a 0-100 km/h of 6.2, it will silence some of those pesky ‘wannabe’ racecars. Top speed is electronically limited to 240 km/h. We found ourselves driving ‘drag race’ style just to hear the big V8 at work. However, we quickly changed to a more civil and relaxed approach after filling the big 88L gas tank with premium only fuel. Under normal driving conditions, the 745iA will reward you with 13.1 L/100 km city and 8.3 L/100 km city/highway combined.
We found the transmission a competent match for the engine. The transmission comes with three settings: D Program (Drive), S Program (Sport) and M Program (Manual). The difference between normal and sport was especially felt when driving on twisty roads in sport, where the algorithm holds the transmission in gear longer maintaining higher revs and thus providing more engine response from turn to turn. I did not use the manual setting very often as I found it to be too cumbersome. The buttons on the steering wheel are a good idea but are too small and difficult to use once the speed picks up and the road becomes twisty. I found myself wishing for a true 6-speed manual, especially given the 745iA’s awesome handling characteristics.
Suspension & Handling
A car this size should not handle as well as this big Bimmer. Outside dimension suggest a large, sluggish highway boat. This could not be further from the truth. All aluminum suspension, Dynamic Drive and Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) combine to offer sports like performance from this rather large automobile. Although the steering effort is over damped and very light, especially at slow speeds, the big 7 Series really handles well. Special sensors with two active anti-roll bars to reduce body ‘roll’ and ‘lean’. Real driving situations translate into flat, fast and controlled navigation as the terrain becomes twisty. Very impressive in a car this size. Although expansion joints and road imperfections are a reality of Ontario driving, the BMW did a decent job masking the noises. We all felt this car represents a great balance between comfort and handling. One reason perhaps is the opulence with which you are greeted upon entering the cabin.
As expected in a car of this caliber, the interior meets you with unequaled lavishness. You’ll know that you are about to enter something special when the door-handle mounted floodlights light your approach to the car. Dropped your keys… no problem! The experience only gets better as you open the door. The interior is warm and welcoming. Our tester came equipped with leather (as if), infinitely adjustable seating and a Canadian must – heated steering wheel. All in all, if you can’t get comfy in this car… stop looking, it doesn’t exist. I will not dwell on the comfort of the interior, but I will spend some time talking about the controversial “iDrive” technology. Before I begin, let me set the record straight. I am a techno junkie! And this car satisfied my deepest desires. Think of a gizmo or a gadget (otherwise know as options) and this car has it. As a matter of fact, this new BMW 745iA leaps forward into a new era of car-driver interaction. After my week behind the control center, otherwise known as the driver’s seat, parting with the Bimmer was like parting with a good friend. Not only did this car talk to me, it interacted with me!
The nerve center (iDrive) is located on the center armrest, fitting perfectly into my well-rested right arm. No need to stretch or reach. It’s right where it should be. It is nothing more or nothing less than a cleverly integrated ‘mouse’. Every car should have one. The iDrive provides access to key areas such as Communication, Climate, Entertainment, and Navigation. From there, it’s adventure time. Within each category are numerous sub-groups that bring you deep into this cars’ psyche. Simply put, you are connected. I know what some of you must be thinking, ‘I have a hard time programming my VCR and you expect me to operate a computer while driving?!’ Don’t worry because BMW has thought of you too… all the day-to-day convenience controls are duplicated in a form of conventional buttons. They are placed where you’d expect them to be. Radio/CD/Volume are still front and center, as are the climate controls. This car has the ability to be as sophisticated or simple as you want it to be. And trust me, you will like sophisticated.
I was also fascinated by the 745’s voice recognition program. This feature may or may not be new in concept, but here once again the bar has been raised to a new level. A little button on the left side of the steering wheel (did I mention heated) activates the voice assist. A friendly voice is always waiting to assist with key daily functions such as Stereo, Communication, and Navigation. You have no idea how cool it is to ask the car in a normal non-strained voice to flip to your favorite radio station or help you find a gas station in an unfamiliar area. My morning conversation with the BMW would start with the selection of my favorite morning radio station, followed by a chat with the navigation computer. Appointment location selected, off we’d go to start our day. Always relaxed, refreshed and on time. I finally understand how this car is capable of contributing to making the owners more successful in their endeavors. Time on the road is not only pleasant but also productive. Did I mention the hands free voice-activated telephone directory, you will never again lose focus on the road while conducting business or pleasure.
To once and for all settle the question of appearance, the ugly duckling has grown up to became a beautiful swan! Will the 745iA mature to impress the rest of the world with its looks? In our eyes it already has, we fell in love with both the appearance and functionality of this car. It’s difficult to imagine how BMW will manage to improve on this world-class automobile. Although we understand the engineers did manage to stuff a 12-cylinder engine into the 7 Series? Stay tuned as we test the icon of renowned luxury, BMW 760Li.
|Base suggested retail price (Canadian):||$96,500.00|
|Price as tested:||$107,380.00|
|Fuel consumption rating:|
|City:||13.1 L/100 km|
|Hwy:||8.3 L/100 km|
|Engine Type:||DOHC V8, 32V, Valvetronic|
|Engine displacement:||4398 cm3|
|Peak Horsepower:||325@6100 rpm|
|Peak Torque:||330@3600 rpm|
|Front:||Aluminum Double Pivot Strut|
|Rear:||Aluminum 4-Link Integral|
|Front:||245/50 R 18|
|Rear:||245/50 R 18|
|Curb weight:||1985 kg/4376 lb|
|Fuel Capacity:||88 L|
|OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT INCLUDED AS TESTED|
|19″ Star Spoke Alloy Wheels:||$1,980.00|