2019 BMW 7 Series 745e review - price, specs and release date

It's all change for the plug-in hybrid BMW 7 Series as the 745e arrives with two more cylinders and a denser battery. Can this and a facelift raise its standing in the luxury car class?...

2019 BMW 745e front

Priced from £69,430 | On sale Spring

This is the new BMW 7 Series, which marks the start of the German brands efforts to inject more refinement and opulence into its high-end models and close the gap to Mercedes-Benz. 

It’s why you’ll find extra soundproofing in the wheelarches, thicker window glass all round and a monstrous chrome grille that's designed to evoke a touch of Rolls-Royce imperiousness.

The engine line-up is largely unchanged, featuring a selection of silkily smooth, powerful six-cylinder petrol and diesel options, each with the option of BMW’s secure xDrive four-wheel drive system. The entry-level 730d starts at a fraction below £70,000, which is on a par with the Audi A8 but usefully cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Naturally, it’s possible to spend a lot more than that; BMW also offers this latest 7 Series in V8 petrol 750i form and, for those who can find £138,935, the 577bhp M760Li xDrive – a twin-turbocharged V12 petrol-engined super-limousine that will crack 0-62mph in a startling 3.7sec.

2019 BMW 7 Series 745e on the road

But before all those, there is the variant tested here. That BMW has chosen to introduce its updated flagship model in plug-in hybrid form is a bellwether for the luxury car segment. The message is simple: for the last word in serenity on the move, you now need an electric element to the powertrain.

In the case of the 745e, which goes directly against the Mercedes-Benz S560e, that comes in the form of a battery pack beneath the rear seats that feeds an electric motor integrated into the gearbox. Both elements have been upgraded over those in the old 740e, and this plus the engine's increase from four cylinders to six means performance as well as the zero-emissions driving range have improved.

Our test drive was brief but long enough for the 7 Series’ charms to work their magic. BMW has massaged the car’s air suspension set-up, and although the plug-in hybrid needs to be a mite stiffer to cope with the extra weight, there’s no doubt the ride quality is now just hair’s breadth behind that of the S-Class.

What you don’t get in an S-Class is the same steering weighting and cornering composure. A plug-in hybrid luxury limo is just about as far from BMW’s philosophical handling homeland as it’s possible to get, but this car is a satisfying steer, albeit in a sedate fashion. That manifests itself in the way the car is surprisingly easy to place on the road, given its gargantuan proportions – easier, certainly, than its rivals.

The electrified powertrain itself is something of a delight. The six cylinders spin effortlessly, and in Sport driving mode, both the noise and sharp response to a stab of the throttle are genuinely satisfying. When the engine and motor combine, all 389bhp is available and the 745e accelerates with hot hatch gusto but in an unshakeably graceful fashion.

The car's claimed electric-only range is 36 miles, and it’s possible to ‘lock’ it into zero-emissions mode so long as there's charge in the battery and you don’t exceed 87mph. 

The 745e is best left in its default Hybrid mode, however. It’s here that it decides which of its two power sources to deploy, and it can use sat-nav data to inform that decision. For instance, it can charge the battery using the engine on the motorway and then switch to electric mode at the city limits or in traffic jams. Impressively, handovers are mostly seamless.

2019 BMW 7 Series 745e interior

With most of the budget spent on the 7 Series’ new exterior design, its comfortable interior is largely unchanged, and so continues to resemble that of a super-sized 5 Series a touch too closely.

The most noticeable alteration is to the 12.3in instrument binnacle, which is now fully digital and features the side-scrolling dials seen on the new X5 and 8 Series. A central rotary controller for the iDrive infotainment system also remains, and it continues to manipulate the 10.3in display more intuitively than the systems in the S-Class and A8. 

One of the penalties of the hybrid system is a reduction in boot space because of the big battery pack, but you'll still get plenty of suitcases back there.

Next: 2019 BMW 7 Series 745e verdict >