2002 BMW 7 Series
Sedan 4D 745i
No matter where you sit, its interior is beautiful and wonderfully comfortable. A longer 745Li model is available for even greater legroom in the back seats. The best-sounding stereo we have ever experienced is available for this car. The cabin is whisper quiet, a great place for quiet conversation, listening to music or solitude. A plethora of features ensure travel will never be dull.
Known for brilliant high-performance sedans with conservative styling and straightforward interiors, BMW has stepped out of the box with this design. The new 7 Series models offer stunning styling and a fresh approach to ergonomics that have sparked controversy among the automotive media. The styling is well thought out, however, and we think it deserves to be given time and consideration before being dismissed. We are growing to appreciate it.
This car stretches the bounds of driving technology to new horizons. But could it be ahead of its time? No question there's a learning curve to operating some of the more advanced secondary features. You'll need to read the owner's manual to fully master all of them, though that's not necessary to enjoy this car. It is conceivable, however, that some owners may tire of telling valets how to start the car, release the parking brake, put it in drive, and put it back in park.
Driving the 7 Series is fun and easy, however, as the car quickly and efficiently achieves any of the driver's wishes, even bending the laws of physics when necessary. In addition to its brilliant performance, this is probably among the safest cars on the road.
Indeed, as big luxury cars go, the new BMW 7 Series is the ultimate driving machine.
Before the year 2002 is over, BMW will launch an all-new 2003 760Li powered by a new 6-liter V12 engine. That will complete the new 7 Series line.
The 745i rides on a 117.7-inch wheelbase while the 745Li and 760Li ride on a 123.5-inch wheelbase. The long-wheelbase Li models are 5.5 inches longer overall than the standard 745i. BMW says about two-thirds of its 7 Series customers opt for the longer Li models.
BMW's new iDrive system is standard on all 7 Series models. And, of course, the 7 Series comes standard with a long list of luxury features, including beautiful interiors trimmed in a choice of rich leathers and woods. Standard tires are V-rated 245/50s on 18-inch alloy wheels, with optional 19-inch 245/45s on front, 275/40s on the rear.
Twelve airbags are available: two frontal airbags, two knee airbags, two side airbags, and the Head Protection System, or HPS, which is a tube-shaped curtain designed for head protection in a side impact. Active Head Restraints move the head rests closer when a collision is detected. As an option, side-impact airbags and the HPS are available for rear-seat passengers ($550). An optional tire pressure monitor ($300) is available. And there's a host of state-of-the-art active safety features designed to help drivers avoid accidents in the first place.
Options include an Adaptive Ride Package ($1900), which includes a self-leveling rear suspension, and stepless Electronic Damping Control that automatically adjusts shock damping according to conditions. A Cold Weather Package ($1100) adds a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and a ski bag. A Convenience Package ($1000) includes soft-close doors, which draw them in for easier, quieter closing, and power trunk opening and closing. A Luxury Seating Package ($2500) adds 20-way adjustments, fans to blow air through the seating surfaces, and an automatic massager. Why go to a five-star resort if you're driving one of these? Some of these features are available as separate options so you can choose exactly what you want.
The new styling has not pleased everyone, however. The design, particularly when viewed from the rear, has been controversial among automotive media. BMW says its buyers love it. We did not care for it at first, but we are warming up to it after spending time with the car and receiving a detailed (and entertaining) explanation by BMW's chief designer of why it looks like it does. BMW says it did not want a bland design for its new 7 Series and suggests that the appearance of the previous-generation 7 Series (1995-2001) was overly conservative. It should also be pointed out that this company was not what it was just a few years ago. In addition to its 3-, 5-, and 7-series sedans, BMW now has an X5, a Z3, a Z8, and, in Europe, a 1 Series. Its portfolio could be compared with a small library: Instead of having just three books as before, it now has a big shelf loaded with books and several different types of volumes. The company did not want the 7 Series to simply look like a big 5 Series. BMW felt it was time to step out of the mold, time to exercise some design leadership. Frankly, we're pleased to see passion and emotion come out of this conservative company.
To understand the styling, it is important to keep in mind that this is a radically taller car than before (2.2 inches taller), giving its occupants more head room, more comfort, more rear-seat roominess, and a larger trunk. The greatest increase in height is along the outer edges of the roof, increasing head room and improving safety for occupants. The 7 Series is slightly longer (1.8 inches) and wider (1.6 inches), but the wheelbase is significantly longer (2.3 inches) than before. With these dimensional changes, BMW had to re-work the proportions and redesign the surface details.
To maintain good proportions, the 7 Series was given a fast greenhouse with a very fast C-pillar. (All of the roof pillars are much thicker for enhanced safety in the event of a rollover.) Big wheels were used. While front-wheel-drive Chryslers use a cab-forward design, the rear-wheel-drive BMW 7 Series uses a long hood and a swept back, giving it a sporty, coupe look.
The rear end is the focus of the controversy. Much of its design can be traced back to an attempt to handle the substantially raised rear deck height. Because the roof was raised dramatically, the rear deck needed to be raised to help the 7 Series achieve its excellent aerodynamics. Aerodynamic efficiency is crucial in reducing wind noise, improving fuel efficiency, and increasing the top speed, and the 7 Series is highly successful in all three of these areas. The traditional design did not work because the tail needed to be raised so high, so a sculptured appearance was used to maintain the lines of the car.
A by-product was a much larger trunk. At 18 cubic feet, the 7 Series trunk is significantly larger than the Mercedes S-Class (15.4 cubic feet). It's dramatically larger than the trunk on the previous 7 Series and nearly as large as the humongous trunk on the Lexus LS 430. The 7 Series trunk is oriented to carry four golf bags transversely or five standard pieces of luggage. A single-link tubular hinge eliminates intrusion into the trunk space, yet it springs open when the remote is activated. A power trunk lid is also available.
The back end does not look like a BMW. Thin secondary brake lights are a radical extension of the L-shaped taillamps BMW has used previously, most notably on the current 3 Series. Extending across the trunk lid, they are designed to draw the eye across the back, making the car look wider. The taillights are a technological marvel themselves, employing a new feature BMW calls adaptive brake lighting that is designed to signal the intensity of the driver's braking to other drivers. Under normal braking, the outboard and third brake lights illuminate as usual. Under hard braking or when ABS is activated, the taillights join the brake lights for a significant increase in visibility of the brake lights. If that isn't impressive enough for you, a monitoring system will signal you when a bulb burns out. And while you're waiting for an opportunity to get to a dealership to replace it, the system will commandeer other bulbs in the taillamps to use as brake lights. That's but one of many examples of the amazing attention to detail on this car.
In front, the outer edges of the four round headlamps sweep up, instead of down like they do on other BMWs. Set relatively low, the headlamps are set off by turn signals above them, looking like the eyebrows of a hawk. (This is a departure from other BMWs, which set the turn signals to the outsides of the headlamps.) High-intensity discharge headlamps are used for both low and high beams on the outboard lamps; the inboard lamps are conventional halogen high beams. All four beams are outlined by light rings that function as parking lights. The grille and upper front fascia are designed to look up, as compared with other BMWs, which have looked down. However, the lower intake works with the bumper to give it that shark-like overbite so feared by other drivers in the left lane.
The seats are supportive and comfortable, and swathed in beautiful leather. They adjust every which way (14 ways standard, 20 ways optional) and in some ways automatically: the headrests, for example, change height automatically according to the position of the seat. To adjust the seats, press one of the metaphoric buttons on the side of the center console telling the system what you want to adjust, then move a separate knob to adjust it. Optional Active Seat Ventilation cools the seats in the summer by blowing air through micro-perforations; leather trim in other areas of the car is perforated to complement this option.
The rear seats of the 745i are comfortable and roomy. Waterfall LED atmosphere lighting inside the C-pillars adds to the elegance of the rear seats. Rear Comfort Seats are available for the 745Li that offer 14-way power adjustments; the front passenger's seat can be adjusted from the right rear seat's power controls. Power rear and side sunshades are available. An rear-seat iDrive system controller will be available in later models.
When underway, the cabin is whisper quiet. The only sound we could hear while driving the 745i over San Antonio's busy freeways was the tires whacking over expansion joints or humming across grooved concrete. Sound is wonderfully deadened inside, making conversation easy and pleasant.
The quiet cabin provides a perfect environment for a superb stereo that delivers crisp highs, sharp bass, and clear mid-range tones. BMW's optional Logic 7 Premium Sound Package ($1800), developed by Harman Kardon's Lexicon, is truly sensational. Unless you have a state-of-the-art stereo at home, you'll hear things in your favorite songs you've barely noticed before, crisp snare drum beats, sparkling vocals. An in-dash CD player and a multi-disc CD changer are provided. It offers seven channels of sound with a multitude of speakers including a pair of subwoofers BMW ingeniously integrated into the chassis itself.
The 7 Series provides multiple compartments for storing things. The center console is split down the middle to create a pair of leather access lids. Ours was filled with CD storage, a cellular telephone and the owner's manual, and we couldn't help thinking it would be preferable to eliminate the CD storage and put the owner's manual someplace else. Likewise, much of the space in the elegantly designed glove box was taken up with the CD changer. I'd almost prefer putting the CD changer in the trunk or eliminating it altogether in favor of more storage. The single in-dash CD player doesn't add much to the otherwise beautiful 7 Series interior and the volume knob is on the small side, but it works well and sounds great.
Cellular telephones, an important part of our daily lives nowadays, are brilliantly integrated into the 7 Series. Simply pull your cellphone out of your jacket pocket or purse, plug it into the pre-wired coiled phone cord in the center console and the 7 Series will re-charge its battery. But here's where it gets better: press a small panel on the dash just to the right of the steering wheel and out pops a keypad that's easy to punch with your right hand; this keypad operates your phone. The 7 Series maintains a database of important numbers that are displayed on the dash. If you'd rather use voice commands, press a button and tell the 7 Series to phone home, or check your voicemail, or call the office.
BMW's voice-activated system works reasonably well for people willing to take the time to learn how to use it and program it. Our take on it is that we'd likely use it for a few key features, like calling home, checking voice mail, switching among two or three favorite radio stations. It'll do much more for those willing to invest some time in it, however. To use it, press the SVS button and give it a command. A key command to remember is "Options" because that will cause the system to call out a list of recognized commands you can use: "Radio on." The radio turns on. "106.7." It switches to FM 106.7. You can also tell it to play CD track number five. You can really impress someone with it even if you only set it up to do a few key functions.
What really separates the 7 Series from other cars is its embrace of technology. We thought the Mercedes-Benz S-Class was loaded with technology, but this new BMW takes it to new levels. It approaches the operation of a computer closer than any other major production car we've seen.
It takes a little familiarization to know how to start a BMW 7 Series sedan, release the parking brake, back out of the driveway, and take off. To start the car, insert the key, which isn't a traditional key, and press the start button next to the key slot. Press another button to release the electronically controlled parking brake. To shift into reverse, pull the small lever toward you, then snick it down into drive. The shifter works more like a switch or an electronic stalk than a mechanical shifter because it is, indeed, an electronic controller. You control the transmission electronically, "by wire," as there is no direct mechanical connection between the transmission selector stalk and the transmission. To shift into drive, stop, pull the little lever toward you and switch it down. It takes quite a bit of practice to do this as quickly as a traditional shifter as I found out while trying to make a quick Y-turn on a street in downtown San Antonio. But once mastered, it may end up being quicker and less troublesome than a traditional mechanical shifter, which often requires that the driver look down when shifting among reverse, neutral, and drive to ensure the proper gear is selected. To return to park, simply press a button on the end of the stalk and it shifts into park no matter what gear you were in before. Shut the engine off by pressing the start/stop button. Adjusting to this takes a little while, maybe a day, maybe longer. But we think the biggest hassle will be when the car is loaned to someone else. It's possible some owners will grow tired of explaining how to operate it to valets, parking lot attendants and car wash jockeys, not to mention spouses and anyone the car is loaned to. Teenagers and 20-somethings, on the other hand, will likely quickly figure it out as they adapt to technology much more quickly than those of us in our 40s and 50s.
This brings us to BMW's iDrive system, which takes automotive operation closer to that of a computer than we've ever gone before. BMW's iDrive system is controlled by a round silver knob on the center console. The knob can be pushed in one of eight directions to change modes, such as temperature, entertainment, navigation, communication. The knob is turned to select different options on the selected menu. Using the system takes a fair amount of practice and you'll probably need to do some reading to fully exploit it. In the meantime, it can raise frustration levels. For example, I never could figure out how to call up a map in spite of considerable effort. Some reading would solve this problem, but I would have been happier if the system was a little more intuitive.
A split screen in the upper center dash area displays all kinds of information depending on the mode selecting by the iDrive. It's an attractive display, which can be customized according to owner preferences. But it's not ideal: I found the temperature readout nearly impossible to read while wearing polarized sunglasses.
Many of the controls on this car simply do not operate in the traditional manner so there is a learning curve associated with them. For example, I struggled to operate the turn signals and windshield washer and wipers. I could get them to work, but initially I had trouble operating them elegantly. Say I wanted to signal a lane change, then turn off the signal, then turn it right back on to signal an actual turn. Turning it off momentarily signals the driver behind that I am performing two maneuvers in succession, so that the other driver doesn't think I simply neglected to cancel the signal after changing lanes. I had trouble with this in the BMW, often signaling the opposite direction when trying to cancel out the signal, until I learned that a light touch in either direction was what was needed to cancel it. It's difficult to figure this out when traveling a hundred miles per hour.
Optional Park Distance Control ($700), a feature superbly executed in BMW's X5, has been taken to a new level in the 7 Series with a graphic display. Sensors in the front and rear bumpers detect objects near the car and beep with increasing frequency as you get closer. A solid tone means you're almost touching. Different tones for the front and rear greatly assist the driver in parking in tight locations and can help the driver from accidentally backing over something, such as a child, that cannot be seen from inside the car. The 7 Series takes this a step further by displaying a pictograph of the car enveloped in color that graphically displays the distance and location of the offending object. It sounds like a gadget, but it is a practical feature that adds convenience to your everyday life and could someday prevent an annoying or even tragic accident.
Because the iDrive system eliminates so many switches and knobs, the dash of the 7 Series looks clean and elegant.
The first thing we noticed about the 745i was its wonderful magic carpet ride. This car smoothes out bumps. It's incredibly comfortable. We were astonished at how well it handled a speed bump.
Yet the driver does not feel completely isolated from the road. And the car senses when being driven hard, retuning the suspension appropriately for optimum handling. BMW's Active Roll Stabilization, computer-controlled active anti-roll bars, stiffens roll resistance in hard cornering keeping the car flat in turns. At the same time, the system maintains enough suspension compliance to keep the tires planted on the road. Bumps in the middle of a high-speed corner do not upset the handling balance one whit. Part of this is due to the low unsprung weight weight, a benefit of lightweight aluminum wheels and brake calipers, the lightweight aluminum suspension components, and the highly rigid chassis that allows precise suspension tuning.
Anti-skid technology makes adjustments to maintain handling balance whenever grip is lost to any one tire. By applying braking force to individual wheels it can bend the laws of physics. Just steer this thing where you want to go and the 7 Series takes you there. I explored this on a fast, greasy corner over a crest that un-weighted the suspension. All four wheels lost grip, but we simply motored around the corner, drifting just slightly wide of the intended line. I never lifted my foot off the accelerator pedal nor made any adjustments in the steering. No special action on my part was needed; the 745i did all of that for me. The anti-skid system is transparent; you can't feel it kick in and out. BMW's system is far less obtrusive and more performance-oriented than similar systems found in Mercedes-Benz and Lexus automobiles.
Steering the 745i is a joy. The rack-and-pinion steering is super sharp and precise. It's very light at low speeds for parking lot work, but firms up at higher speeds for improved driver feel. It also steps up response by 10 percent as the wheel is turned off center. With this new rack-and-pinion steering system, it's easy to drive the 7 Series with extreme precision on winding roads at very high speeds, placing the tires exactly where you want them. When hitting bumps, there's little or no kick back in the steering.
The drive train is absolutely silky when cruising around. The new six-speed automatic transmission is extremely smooth, yet it's the most responsive I have ever experienced. Those are usually mutually exclusive benefits. Hit the accelerator pedal and the transmission drops a gear or two without any of that hesitation found in so many automatics. BMW's new six-speed automatic is smaller and lighter than the previous five-speed automatic. The additional gearing with re-mapped ratios gives it quicker performance off the line with a lower first gear, better response in the mid range with ratios that are closer together, and improved fuel economy with taller top gears. The 745i does offer a feature allowing the driver to downshift manually using a pair of buttons on the steering wheel, but I found that feature to be superfluous. BMW promises it will be executed more fully next year on selected models and will allow the driver to manually shift up and down. But frankly, with a transmission as responsive as this one, manual shifting seems more of a toy than anything else.
The all-new 4.4-liter V8 engine is superb. It's very smooth when cruising. Combine the smooth drive train with the smooth ride and the 745i feels deceptively slow. While rolling out of a jerkwater town in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio, I was preparing to put press the accelerator pedal down to gain speed as we were cruising, but a quick glance at the throttle revealed I was already cruising at 80 mph. This car feels happy cruising around at 80-100 mph all day. I found myself coming into sweeping corners or tight corners carrying more speed than initially realized and having to get on the brakes a little harder than originally planned. It wasn't a scary thing, just more of a whoa, Nellie.
Punch the accelerator pedal (there is no throttle on this car) and the 745i leaps into action. BMW claims the 745i can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds, which matches the $115,200 Mercedes-Benz S600. It is rated at 325 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque, a huge increase over the previous BMW V8 and similar in output to the previous BMW V12. Yet the 745i is rated by the EPA for 18/26 mpg City/Highway, a 13-percent improvement over the previous BMW V8. Its sophisticated Valvetronic system has eliminated the throttle completely, eliminating pumping losses for improved efficiency by letting the valves, which benefit from BMW's double VANOS, control the airflow through the engine.
Modulating the brakes is easy and this car can stop in a big hurry when necessary. Massive ventilated disc brakes, among the largest and most powerful BMW has ever used, are used at all four corners along with aluminum calipers. Electronic brake proportioning ensures the meaty tires are making best use of all available braking traction by transferring braking force to the tires with the best grip. Dynamic Brake Control reinforces the driver's pedal effort in emergency braking to help the car stop in the shortest possible stopping distance even if the driver inexplicable relaxes pressure from the brake pedal. As a convenience feature, the brakes will automatically hold the car at a stop until the driver presses on the accelerator pedal; shut the car off in this situation and the system will set the electromechanical parking brake.
Loaded with technology, there is a learning curve to operating some of the secondary features, however, so owners may find themselves reading the owner's manuals. They may also find themselves explaining basic operation of the car to other people who drive it. Is this car a little ahead of its time? With those caveats, we think this may be the best car in its class, an impressive statement given that the competition includes the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Model as tested
4 years/50,000 miles
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested
Options as tested
rear door-mounted side-impact airbags w/ Head Protection System ($550); Logic 7 audio system w/ 13 speakers, DSP, 6-disc in-dash CD changer, 2 subwoofers, and all features of standard system ($1800); Front Comfort Seats ($1400) includes 20-way power adjustments, articulated upper backrests, passenger-seat memory, active head restraints with adjustable side support; Park Distance Control w/ graphic display ($700); 19-inch alloy wheels ($1300)
Model Line Overview
745i ($67,850); 745Li ($71,850)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual frontal airbags, dual front knee airbags, dual front side-impact airbags, Head Protection System for front passengers, active front head restraints, front safety belts with automatic height adjustment and automatic tensioners and force limiters, automatic-locking retractors for all safety belts for child-restraint seats, anti-lock brake system, Dynamic Brake Control, electronic brake proportioning, dynamic traction control, Dynamic Stability Control
Safety equipment (optional)
4.4-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Specifications as Tested
automatic climate conrol w/ activated-charcoal microfilter ventilation; New Classic leather upholstery w/ microperforated seating surfaces; matte-finish black cherry genuine wood trim; iDrive system with GPS navigation, on-board computer, climate controls, audio controls, electric control stalks, BMW Assist/emergency communications; power two-way moonroof w/ key-off and one-touch operation; keyless entry with selective unlocking; dual power heated auto-dimming outside mirrors w/ automatic right-side tilt-down for reverse; universal garage door opener; enhanced interior lighting system; locking glovebox with removable rechargeable flashlight; leather power tilt/telescope steering wheel w/ programmable fingertip cruise, audio and phone controls; climate-controlled front console compartment with coinholder, trunk-release lockout, illumination, and phone headset; BMW portable Cellular Phone System w/ Telecommander, voice input system, Mayday functions; AM/FM/CD audio w/ 10 speakers, RDS, in-dash single-disc CD player, FM diversity antenna, 2 subwoofers
Engine & Transmission
4.4-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
325 @ 6100
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
P245/45R19 - P275/40R19
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear