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Here's Lookin' at You, Kidneys: Updated BMW 7 Series Gets Gigantic Grille

Here's Lookin' at You, Kidneys: Updated BMW 7 Series Gets Gigantic Grille
2020 bmw 7 series; manufacturer images

audi a8, jaguar xj, lexus ls, mercedes-benz s-class, porsche panamera

looks like: the 7 series got a dose of xl grille from the vision inext suv concept

drivetrains: 335-horsepower, turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder (740i), 523-hp, turbo 4.4-liter v-8 (750i), 600-hp, turbo 6.6-liter v-12 (m760i) or turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder and electric motor with a combined 389 hp (745e); eight-speed automatic transmission; rear- or all-wheel drive

hits dealerships: spring

to celebrate its fifth birthday, the current-generation bmw 7 series went out and got a nose job for the 2020 model year. the automaker claims the twin-kidney grille on its flagship sedan encompasses 40 percent more surface area than before, and it's likely the only thing people will discuss regarding the 7 series, at least until — or if — bmw spreads the rhinoplasty elsewhere.

related: see 's 2019 luxury car of the year

of course, the grille isn't the only thing that changed. the sedan boasts reworked styling elsewhere, a new plug-in hybrid drivetrain and new technology like conditional hands-free steering. as before, the 7 series comes in four variants: the six-cylinder 740i, v-8 750i, v-12 m760i and aforementioned plug-in hybrid, now the 745e instead of last year's 740e. the foursome will hit dealers in april 2019.

exterior

chief among the styling changes is a mammoth new twin-kidney grille, at least by bmw standards. splayed over a nose the automaker says is now 2 inches taller at its highest point, the grille shares its tall shape with the new x7's oversized kidneys. but the smaller backdrop of a sedan — not an suv — makes them appear even larger, as do the pinched-for-2020 headlights.

the front bumper sports a narrower opening with air deflectors where you'd normally expect outboard portals. framed by upward-curling brightwork, the deflectors help aerodynamics and thus gas mileage, but they're a jarring departure from the current generation's bumper, which has a single width-spanning opening or three separate portals on m sport versions; stay tuned to see if an m sport package can alter this look, too. changes in back, meanwhile, are subtler: look closely and the taillights gain three-dimensional bump-outs.

interior

cabin styling largely carries over, with trapezoidal shapes characterizing much of the center controls, including an elevated touchscreen above the air vents. bmw's idrive 7 system includes a personal assistant that responds to "hey bmw" prompts; you can also set the assistant to respond to a different name. apple carplay is standard, but android auto isn't available right now.

leather upholstery is standard, with various grades of upgraded leather optional — many of the extended options covering other portions of the interior beyond the seats. as is the norm among top-shelf luxury sedans, the 7 series offers all manner of amenities for backseat passengers: power-adjustable outboard chairs with massagers, quad-zone climate control, dual 10-inch touchscreens and a 7-inch tablet controller in the center armrest. rear passengers should hear even less noise, too, as bmw claims improved insulation for 2020 in areas like the rear wheel arches, b-pillars and backrests. eight and 12-cylinder models get thicker rear glass standard, too.

related: we performance-test bmw's v-12 7 series

under the hood

engine outputs at the low and high end don't change much: a turbocharged inline-six-cylinder used engine makes 335 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque in the 740i (up 15 hp), while the m760i's turbo v-12 makes 600 hp and 627 pounds-feet of torque (up 37 pounds-feet). 

the offerings between those bookends change significantly. overhauled components in the 750i's turbo 4.4-liter v-8 make for 523 hp and 553 pounds-feet of torque, up 80 hp and 74 pounds-feet versus last year's 4.4-liter v-8. 

the plug-in hybrid 745e, meanwhile, swaps last year's turbocharged four-cylinder for a turbo six-cylinder, which pairs with a transmission-integrated electric motor for maximum system output of 389 hp and 442 pounds-feet of torque. the motor gets power from a higher-capacity battery, now rated at 12.0 kilowatt-hours versus the outgoing 740e's 9.2 kwh. that may increase the 745e's all-electric range versus the 740e's epa-rated 14 miles, and it should doubtless raise the car's eligible plug-in federal tax credit versus its current $4,668. as of this writing, both the range and tax credits on the 745e have yet to be published.

bmw says it tweaked the 7 series' eight-speed automatic to improve performance. all-wheel drive, called xdrive, is standard on all variants but the 740i, where it's optional. even the least powered 7 series is quick, with 60 mph coming in around 5 seconds. higher-powered used engine move the needle well past that, culminating in a 3.6-second sprint from the m760i. adaptive shock absorbers and four-corner air springs are standard; rear-axle steering and active roll stabilization are optional.

safety and self-driving features

as in the redesigned 3 series and x5 plus the all-new x7, the updated 7 series offers hands-free acceleration, braking and steering at low speeds — below 37 mph — as long as you're paying attention, which the system intuits through a driver-facing camera. dubbed extended traffic jam assist, the feature is part of bmw's driving assistance professional package. it only works "on recognized highways with dividers between opposite traffic lanes and on and off ramps," bmw spokesman oleg satanovsky told . asked how the 7 series intuits such environments — by sensors alone or via geographic tracking, like with cadillac's hands-free super cruise system — satanovsky did not elaborate.

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