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Car of the Year 2002: 6th Place BMW 745i

Ken Gross

BMW’s 745i sedan has a polarizing effect on people. There are those who love its visual audacity and those who decry its styling, especially the squinty headlamps and oddly defined but roomy and aerodynamic bustle-back trunk. Critics are also split over the iDrive system, with its multiphase single knob that manages 700 functions—from seat temperatures to stereo settings—through eight compass points, and displaces the shifter from the console to the steering column.

The 745i’s gear lever itself is controversial. Shaped like a fat key fob and located at the end of a short stalk, it is easy to operate but not immediately intuitive. European versions of the 745i and the U.S. M Sport model feature Steptronic steering wheel actuation “buttons” that permit instantaneous shifts from the velvety (and world’s first) 6-speed automatic transmission.

Befitting a BMW, the new 745i quickly reveals itself as perhaps the world’s finest-handling full-size sedan, thanks to an all-new, light-alloy suspension system and standard Active Roll Stabilization (ARS). Both front and rear antiroll bars are supplemented with cleverly integrated hydraulic actuators that virtually eliminate lateral body movement under hard cornering. The 745i’s optional rear Adaptive Ride Package (don’t leave your dealer without it) takes this a step further with electronically controlled shocks and rear air springs that ensure maximum grip. Meanwhile, countless sensors and computers are continually fine-tuning the 325-hp V-8 engine’s lightning-quick throttle responses. Opt for the sexy 19-inch wheels, too.

For safety, the 745i has 10 airbags and an updated Dynamic Stability Control system that bundles ABS with all-speed traction control, dynamic brake control, and brake proportioning. There is also an optional Logic 7 sound system with 13 speakers.

The 745i represents a quantum leap ahead of where most automakers aim when they seek to replace a popular model with a new version. The safer route would have been far less complex and controversial, but BMW insists on taking luxury car buyers further than ever. And to think, a long-wheelbase 745Li version and an even more muscular V-12 760Li are in the works.

Specifications

Engine: 4.4-liter, 32-valve dOHC V-8
Power: 325 hp at 6,100 rpm
Torque: 330 ft lbs at 3,600 rpm
Zero-to-60 time: 5.9 seconds
Top speed: 149 mph
Transmission: 6-speed manu-matic
Wheelbase: 117.7 inches
Curb weight: 4,376 pounds
Base price: $67,850

Second Opinions
“Give credit—or blame—to BMW for choosing not to go the simple route with design, but it certainly breaks ground in a positive way with the iDrive system.” —Paul A. Eisenstein

“Among the everyday cars, the coolest and best of the lot.” —J.P. Vettraino

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