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by Grant Yoxon
Photos by Rob Bostelaar
When well-equipped family sedans come with leather seating, tilt and telescoping steering, six-disc in-dash CD changers and 250-plus horsepower V6 engines, what defines a luxury automobile?
Even entry level luxury sedans have standard features like electronic throttle, brake assist, traction control, vehicle stability system and “dynamic” steering. Check off a few boxes on the option sheet on many cars costing over $50,000 and you can add features like a DVD-based navigation system, back-up camera and even a rear-seat entertainment system.
So what about the ultra-luxury sedan? What sets a car costing well over $100,000 apart from more mundane luxury transportation? What is so unique about a luxury sedan like the BMW 745Li that would make writing a cheque for at least $103,200 easy to rationalize?
First there is size. In a word – big. This is a big car – over 16 feet (5169 mm) long and six feet (1902 mm) wide. It rides on a 3130 mm (123.2 in.) extended (hence the L in 745Li) wheelbase. No one, no matter how big will ever complain about a lack of leg room in the back seat. There are even convenient “foot wedges” on the floor on which to rest your feet.
Then there is power. The base 4.4 litre V8 produces 325 hp at 6,100 r.p.m. and 330 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 r.p.m. Power is smoothly applied through a six-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission with Steptronic manual shifting capability and right there when you need it. It makes the 2,025 kilogram (4,464 lb.) sedan seem much smaller than it is. Of course, if that’s not enough, you can always step up to the 438 hp 6-litre V-12 760Li, but that’ll cost you quite a bit more – $66,000 more – than the 745Li.
Probably not necessary anyway, considering that the 745Li will accelerate effortlessly from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 6.2 seconds and reach an electronically limited 240 km/h top speed.
The there is technology, which includes the best BMW has to offer: speed-sensitive power steering, electronic brake-force distribution, 4-channel anti-lock brakes, ventilated disc brakes front and rear, all-aluminum suspension, electronically-controlled engine cooling, and dynamic drive with active roll stabilization. This latter feature combines sensors and electronically-adjustable anti-roll bars to reduce body roll and lean in corners. It works. The 745Li corners flat and sure. The car is surprisingly agile for its size, both at speed and in the parking lot at the grocery store.
When the current 7-series debuted in 2002, many complained about the complexity of the vehicle’s iDrive system. iDrive consists of a controller mounted on the centre arm rest, which can be moved in eight different directions to shift between menu items presented on a screen in the dash. iDrive can be used to control the navigation system, heating and ventilation, audio and video and other features and settings of the car. For 2004, i-Drive has been simplified a bit and a button added to make returning to the main menu quick and easy. I had no complaints. I found the current version of iDrive to be easy and intuitive to navigate.
Perhaps the best examples of BMW technology are found in the 745Li’s passive and active safety systems. With DSC II, which includes dynamic brake control, cornering brake control, stability control and traction control, one would have to err on the verge of lunacy to lose control of this big sedan. Helping along the way are standard adaptive (they adjust for inclines and corners) Xenon headlights with high-pressure wash system, halogen free-form foglights, heated exterior mirrors, and windshield wipers with heated wash nozzles and rain sensors.
Standard passive safety features include side thorax airbags for the driver and front passenger, knee air bags in front and ceiling mounted inflatable head protection for front and rear passengers, as well as five three-point seatbelts and front airbags.
And finally there is comfort. Oh, where do we begin. Leather is not just leather, it is Nasca leather. Cruise control is not just set, accelerate, decelerate and cancel. It is programmable – you can set your six favourite cruising speeds in memory. The steering wheel is not just tilt and telescoping, it is a “heated, multi-function, electronically adjustable, four-spoke, leather-wrapped” steering wheel. The front seats are heated and 20-way (How do I love thee, let me count the ways) adjustable. Illuminated vanity mirrors are mounted not just behind the sun visors, but also in roof consoles in the rear passenger area.
Despite the lofty price, there are options, which raise the comfort and convenience quotient quite a bit. Our tester included a multi-media package ($4,900) with rear seat TV screen mounted on the centre console and iDrive controller on the rear centre armrest. The package also includes a six-disc DVD changer. Rear seat passengers can watch a movie, tune into regular analogue TV channels or listen to their choice of music.
An Executive Package ($8,200) added automatic opening and closing trunk lid, soft-close doors (no need to slam), ventilated front seats, heated rear seats,
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parking distance control, Logic7 Hi-Fi system with 11 speakers and two sub-woofers, and electric rear and side sunshades. A unique feature of this package is the “active” front seats, which slowly and softly undulate to keep blood flowing in your tired posterior.
Rounding out the add-ons was active cruise control ($2,500), which enables you to follow another vehicle at a set distance. Standard equipment on some other high-end vehicles, I’m glad BMW kept this one optional. Active cruise control is a pain on the freeway and I wouldn’t order it if I had a choice.
So what do you get for $118,800? With the BMW 745Li you get big size and big power, room to seat five in luxurious comfort and a host of electronic gadgetry to make driving easy, entertaining and safe.
And you get a butt massage.
|Options||$15,600 (Executive Package, $8,200: automatic trunk, soft close doors, ventilated front seats, active front seats, heated rear seats, park distance control, LOGIC7 Hi-Fi system, electric rear and rear/side sunshades; multimedia package, $4,900: rear screen & iDrive, 6-Disc DVD Changer; active cruise control, $2,500)|
|Price as tested||$118,800, excluding destination and taxes|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger luxury sedan|
|Layout||Longitudinal front engine, rear wheel drive|
|Engine||4.4-litre V8, 32 valves|
|Horsepower||325 hp @ 6,100 rpm|
|Torque||30 ft-lb @ 3,600 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed auto with Steptronic|
|Tires||245/50R18 with full size spare and alloy wheel|
|Curb weight||2,025 kg (4,464 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||3130 mm (123.2 in.)|
|Length||5169 mm (204.4 in.)|
|Width||1902 mm (74.9 in.)|
|Height||1492 mm (58.7 in.)|
|Luggage capacity||500 litres (17.6 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.1 L/100 km (21.5 mpg)|
|Highway: 8.3 L/100 km (34 mpg)|
|Fuel type||premium unleaded required|
|Warranty||4 years/80,000 km|