- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2005

If you’re shopping for a high-end luxury automobile, you have many choices. Offerings from Audi, Volkswagen (yes, Volkswagen), Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz all have unique qualities and merits. But if pure driving excitement is at the top of your list of requirements, then you need look no further than the 2005 BMW 745i.

BMW has always marketed its cars as “the ultimate driving machine,” and this iteration of the 20-year-old 7 Series is the best yet. It’s loaded with high-end technology to enhance the driving experience.

The most controversial aspect of this luxo-cruiser is its styling. It’s a polarizing design, with distinct groups who either love it or hate it. It has grown on me over time, and I find the design elegantly sophisticated. No one will ever mistake this car for a Honda Accord.

Under the hood, a 4.4-liter V-8 produces 325 horsepower. Mated with a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manual shifting capability, it will move down the road in a hurry. But does it handle well? Yes, as this is the hallmark of the BMW brand. Even though it weighs more than 2 tons, the 745i handles like its little brother — the 3 Series.

The interior is typically German — well laid out, and well executed. Fit and finish are incredible, and the cabin layout is geared toward comfortable drives along your favorite roads. Voice-activated climate, navigation and audio controls and Steptronic functions can be controlled via the steering wheel; a mobile phone slides out of the center console with the touch of a button; and rich, supportive leather seats coddle you.

If you don’t use voice-activated controls, you can manually adjust climate, navigation, trip computer and audio functions with BMW’s controversial iDrive telematics controller. If you’re smart, you’ll use the voice feature to control everything, as using the iDrive is a maddening experience. Essentially a rotary joystick, the system is not intuitive and requires lots of patience to master.

My only other major gripe with the 745i is that the four stalks on the sides of the steering wheel (turn signals, cruise control, wipers, etc.) are too similar. I often found myself turning on the wipers or turn signals when I meant to control another feature.

Prices begin at $69,695. Price as tested was $79,945. Surprisingly, nearly 80k did not include heated seats (part of an optional package), which should be standard on a car in this class. If you need more power and goodies, opt for the 12-cylinder 760i (prices begin at $109,695).

Looking ahead to the 2006 model year, the 745i becomes the 750i, and will come standard with an all-new 4.8-liter V-8 producing 360 horsepower.

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