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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 BMW 7 Series Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 BMW 7 Series Overview

After only two years on the market, BMW has made some major changes to its somewhat controversial flagship, the 745i. Most of the critical commentary from the press and some owners centered on the new iDrive system; some who were not familiar with this type of device, found the controls too complicated and lacking an intuitive direction. BMW listened to all corners of criticism and has returned for 2004 with a much-improved iDrive and climate control system as well as some new options. The 2004 745i and its stretched twin, the 745Li, are better cars in every way, yet still retain all that goes into making a BMW the ultimate driving machine.

We've said before that commenting about a car's styling is, well, not our style-because styling is subjective; what we think is attractive you may not and vice versa. We will say that everywhere we stopped-including momentary pauses at stoplights-people went out of their way to gush over our plum colored 745Li. Upon arriving home, neighbors rushed over to jump inside and were instantly wowed by the I-Drive navigation, the voice-activated audio and the infinitely adjustable power seats; talk of second mortgages and a solved mid-life crisis could be heard emanating from the interior. Meanwhile, those standing outside the car nodded heads in full agreement that the 7 Series strikes an imposing stance. The car looks substantial because for the most part, it is. Riding on enormous optional 19-inch wheels and fat tires, the 7 Series takes a bulldog-stance that says to all other traffic "don't even try."

The 7 Series interior redefines BMW's concept of luxury in a way few could fault. Climb inside and you'll find what are arguably the most comfortable seats in the industry, adjustable in so many ways it's almost impossible to imagine someone not finding an agreeable position. An optional upgrade adds air conditioning to the seats to keep your back cool and dry and a lower seat cushion massager to keep your bum from falling asleep on long drives. The elegant dash design abandons the traditional polished dark wood theme in favor of a more natural wood tone reminiscent of high-end Scandinavian furniture. All essential controls are within fingertip reach and are located on or near the steering wheel. Four small stalks that protrude from the steering column control the transmission, cruise control, onboard information center and windshield wipers. A push button starter brings the car to life and can only be activated after the driver inserts the key fob into a special slot.

The centerpiece of the 7 Series interior is the new iDrive system. iDrive is BMW's name for its onboard navigation, audio, climate and data display, similar in theory to those systems found in Lexus and Mercedes cars, but far less complicated to operate. In the center of the dash is a display screen that shows all of the iDrive features; it also displays a cool graphic used by the parking sensors to indicate how close objects are to the car's bumpers. At the end of the center armrest—and resting conveniently beneath your hand—is a joystick-like device that is used to operate the iDrive unit. Moving the control north, south, east or west causes the screen to display a different function. New for 2004 is a menu button installed just behind the controller; this switch makes it easier for the driver to choose screen options from the main menu. BMW has also added a preset button programmable by the user. The new iDrive features faster screen changes, easier navigation, improved phone dialing and new screens with simplified audio functions.

If you are not one for such fancy contraptions, do not despair; the audio and climate controls can be operated manually via traditional switches located on the dash and steering wheel. You can also use the voice command. Simply depress a button on the steering wheel, and speak your command: "CD," the system goes to the CD player, "track 3," the third track on the CD begins to play. We tried a number of inflections and accents to try and throw off the system, but for the most part, it understood everything we said.

For 2004, the 745 receives a few new conveniences designed to make your life a bit safer. Inside, a humidity sensor detects when the windshield is about to fog over and automatically activates the defrost cycle. Outside, optional adaptive headlights move in the direction of the steering wheel, helping illuminate blind corners.

Though its plethora of electronic wizardry is bound to impress the neighbors, it is the 7 Series' performance attributes that will likely impress the most important person of all: the driver. If you're lucky enough to be the one behind the wheel, you'll be surprised at the level of steering response, control and acceleration the 7 Series possesses. The braking, turn in, turning radius and vehicle stability is exemplary. You can push the 7 into the tightest turns and never feel as though you will lose control of the vehicle. Even when the traction control is prompted to intervene, a simple easing off the throttle brings the car back into line; such confidence in a sedan of this size is rare, but the 7 Series makes it all seem easy.

Assisting you on the drive is BMW's new six-speed automatic transmission-an industry first. You'll find the new automatic offers crisp, precise shifts, though you may find it lags for just a second when you first punch the accelerator from a dead stop. The six-speed auto is linked to a dynamo of a V8 engine that produces 325 horsepower yet manages to return a highway fuel rating of 24 miles per gallon. If you are truly power happy, the 760 offers a direct gasoline injection V12 engine that can churn out over 400 horsepower. Both of these engines will more than satisfy your need for speed and their melodious exhaust note sounds so sweet you may find yourself lowering the windows just to catch an earful.

As for the luxury side of the story, the 7 Series' standard features are too numerous to list and the options page reads like something from a science-fiction novel. Among the highlights are a cruise control system that maintains a preset distance from the vehicle ahead, a 14-way power adjustable rear comfort seat and ten separate airbags that surround the passenger compartment. Our time with the 7 Series was all too short and left many a broken heart when we had to return the car. We think that once you drive the 7 Series, you'll conclude that it truly is the ultimate "ultimate driving machine."


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