2020 BMW 7-Series Review

2020 BMW 7-Series - The benchmark choice of sedan luxury


It's a benchmark flagship, one other large luxury domestic and import sedans compare themselves to by default.  The 7 Series from Germany's BMW signifies rarified status in any language.

For 2020, the Ultimate Driving Machine's largest four-door undergoes a significant mid-cycle upgrade inside and out of the sixth-generation platform introduced five years ago.  The highly recognizable twin port, functional kidney grille grows by some 40 percent in size, resembling an in-progress ameba-like split rather than two separate, distinct spheres. This prominent nose contrasts with slightly slimmer headlight housing surrounding standard LED lighting. Front bumper air deflectors keep brake rotors and pads cool while passing through to vertically scalloped side vents .

The 7 Series includes a half-dozen trims, three high volume choices, and three targeted to specific sub-segments: a plug-in six-cylinder hybrid and a pair of performance beasts belching out 600 horses. Of the six, only the 740i comes with rear-wheel drive standard.  All others include an 'X-Drive' suffix specifying all-wheel drive:  740i X-Drive, 750i X-Drive, 745e X-Drive plug-in hybrid, Alpine B7 X-Drive and the 12-cylinder M760i X-Drive. All mate with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.

Total BMW U.S. sales in the 2019 calendar year reached 324,826, up from 2018's mark of 311,014.  The upward surge primarily fueled by BMW's line of sport activity vehicles, the German automaker's in-house calling card describing five-door crossovers. Total 7 Series sales in 2019 reached 8,823.

Road characteristics migrate towards a floaty smooth glide rather than a sporty connect-with pavement-below experience.  Standard adaptive air suspension with multiple mode selections contributes to this narrative. Thicker lamented glass in 2020 helps reduce interior noise along with extra shielding along outside rear wheel arches.

Blue-and-white medallion flagship sedans don't come cheap.  A 2020 rear drive 740i starts at $87,445, before a long list of available packages and a-la-carte options factor into play.  The V-12 under hood of the M760i starts at $158,695.  Our tester, all-wheel drive 740i X-Drive promoted a starting price of $89,450 before add ons.

Those extras ballooned the bottom line to $102,895 with a strangely reasonable $995 destination charge. A $3,000 premium package (rear sunshade, heads-up windshield information display), $750 cold weather package (remote engine start, rear heated seats, heated steering wheel) and $1,700 Driver Assist Professional Package together pushed the button line above $100,000. That's considerable bling and a growing number of lower-priced luxury competitors are out there, but the 7 Series still commands a top-dog status after decades on the road.

Both the front and all-wheel-drive 740i power from a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder twin turbo with high-performance direct injection generating 335 horses, up 15 from 2019.  It includes a relatively unobtrusive automatic start-stop function, resting the engine at prolonged stops and summoning back to attention when lifting the right-foot off the brake.  The 750i X-Drive's 4.4-liter twin turbo V-8 increases horsepower by 80 from 2019 for rating of 523. The 20.6 gallon fuel tank needs premium unleaded fuel to nourish this performance.

Our inline six turbo tester provided ample oomph although no drag races were scheduled during the week-long evaluation. If one challenges the 7 Series with all-wheel drive to a winner-take-all, pink-slip-on-the-line race, BMW estimates a zero to 60 time in a mere 4.8 seconds.

Other exterior slight-of-hand 2020 reboots includes the hood's bolder character lines.  Dual tail pipes posh up by situating inside clean-looking, outboard framework.

Expect exceptional inside quality materials. Plush front bucket seating includes knee bolster extensions, great for longer legs in need of pampering.

The latest-generation electronic transmission shifter retains a welcome grip-able design, combining the muscle memory of a mechanical, vertically shifting handle with high-speed electronics.  Recently tested Lincolns and Acura's utilize a less desirable push button layout utilizing a dashboard piano key or push-buttons between the front buckets respectively.  The folks at BMW found a sweet spot with a tactile grab plate needing a gentle nudge backward for drive or forward summoning reverse.  Park requires the push of a face plate button. An electronic parking brake button resides nearby.

The new, all-electronic (non-analog type) instrument panel artfully features two outward-facing bird-beak like housings with a left-side speedometer and right side tachometer with a variety of electronic points of interest in between.  This screen fades to black when pushing the dashboard-located electronic push start/stop button.

Throughout the decades, 7 Series enjoyed an abundance of back seat leg room, and the 2020 model pays this forward; limousine-like aptly applies thanks to an extra-long wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles).  Roominess applies to the 18-cubic-foot trunk, a size once common in the long road cruising sedans of the 1970s, but this BMW includes a power open and close trunk lid. Unlike past era land yachts, no spare tire awaits, replaced by four axle-attached run-flat orbs.

The lower middle dash includes a long, narrow HVAC section with small twist dials handling dual front temperature zones and small, inconvenient pressure-sensitive push panels for increasing and decreasing fan speed.

Apple CarPlay, working in tandem with Apple products including iPhones, remains subscription based for one year, allowing app interplay with the flat screen. After one year, buyers need to ante up. Google's Android Auto platform has yet to beam aboard. A wireless charging pad in front of dual cup holders near the electronic transmission hub cordlessly power up newer Smartphone versions.

The 10.5-inch, rectangular-design touch-sensitive flat screen protruding up from the center dash also works in tandem with a circular command dial with a push-down select action between front buckets, part of BMW's iDrive version 7.0. The easiest method of changing satellite or terrestrial station choices is best left to a thumb-scroll on the steering wheel front.  Intriguing to tech heads, BMW's gesture control.  A clockwise swirl of the driver's pointer finger in front of the center screen turns up audio volume. Gesture the other direction to reduce volume.  It's theatrically distracting if driving, fine if stopped for a time.

The Bimmer arrived for testing in late March with the in-screen digital clock one hour behind the times (needing a spring forward assist).  Since this scribe stanchly, stubbornly refuses an owner's manual reference unless absolutely flummoxed, he ventured to set the world right by one hour utilizing only his diminished wits. Amazingly, only a few moments passed before correcting the time warp; simply touch the screen's illuminated digital time to access a pop-up tutorial and scroll forward the correct coordinates.

Another tech inspired gadget, standard radar-inspired parking assist, useful when parallel parking. The system takes control of steering, braking and slow forward/backward movement.

Hate to admit it, but intense flummoxing quickly took hold during Beta testing of this radar system. Luckily, my Smartphone provided reference to a rather generic YouTube video spotlighting the finer details of BMW's park assist.  The system worked as advertised in Downtown Glen Ellyn on a day of limited traffic flow, complements of Covid-19. Downtown Elmhurst provided differing results as more detailed parallel parking street markings confused the in-car radar, requiring human interaction.

All BMWs purchased or leased from an authorized dealership immediately enroll in BMW Ultimate Care. This no-cost perk covers a three year or 36,000 mile time/mileage frame of brake fluid changes, engine oil and air filter changes, spark plug maintenance and general vehicle checks.  This program remains non-transferable to a second owner.

2020 BMW 7 Series

Price as tested:  $102,895

Engine:  Inline turbo six

Horsepower:  335

Overall length: 207.4 inches

Overall width:   74.9 inches

Overall height:   58.2 inches

Wheelbase:    126.4 inches

Curb weight: 4,381 pounds

Fuel Economy:   20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Assembly: Dingolfing Germany

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.