Driving out of Boston’s Logan International Airport at 3:30 pm on a Friday afternoon is a fate to wish upon only the truest of wretches. Yet as I sit fender-to-fender, inching forward toward tollbooths, a 7,221-foot tunnel clogged with more cars, and the commuter-choking Big Dig construction project, I am ecstatic. Where else would I find the time to learn how to operate the BMW 745i?
I know the basics. Insert the fob (which is also the 7’s remote control), step on the brake, and push the start/stop button to ignite the engine. Pull one of the two right-hand stalks forward and down to put the 7 Series into drive, forward and up for reverse.
That’s it. I know nothing about the other stalks, the buttons on the steering wheel, or the switches on the steering column. And the round aluminum knob on the center console, which operates the 7’s innovative iDrive system, is baffling.
But the stop-and-don’t-go traffic allows me to push and fiddle and jiggle, and even to read the owner’s manual.
By the time I clear the traffic, I have a firm grasp on the 745i, including its iDrive system, which you control with the center knob. The iDrive allows the dashboard to be clear of nearly all switches and buttons. Click the knob in any of eight different directions, and you can control the climate, change the radio station, or input your destination.
The 7’s spartan dashboard matches the empty roads I have found, and so I put the sedan to work. The 325-hp, 4.4-liter V-8 engine powers the car effortlessly, and it sweeps through turns with buttery smoothness. I adjust the lumbar support, turn up the CD player, and open the sunroof. I click through the iDrive’s dozens of functions, turning up the heat, adjusting the scale of the map, adding radio stations to the car’s memory.
Since I have only a few days to test the 7, I cannot master all of its wizardry, but I enjoy the car regardless. On a Sunday trip to Cape Cod, the car performs flawlessly, as the comfort, quiet, and pleasure of the drive transforms the 7 into a portable living room. I prefer to unplug on weekends, choosing books over television and letter-writing over e-mailing. In the 7, however, I cannot resist trying one more bit of technology, so I push the voice-input button on the steering wheel.
“Uh, 850 AM,” I say softly and with uncertainty.
“Pardon me?” the car’s voice asks.
“Sorry. 850 AM,” I repeat, this time with more confidence.
The radio clicks on to WEEI, the local sports radio station, and I catch the final out of the Red Sox game. Final score: Boston 4, Baltimore 1. Life is good—in most ways. I’m driving the BMW on the day after we have set our clocks forward for daylight savings. I’m pleased with the extra 60 minutes of sunshine, but disappointed that I have one less hour to master the car’s technology and enjoy the 745i’s performance.