Car a few months ago Share Tweet Pin Share FARO, Portugal — At face value, the extensive mid-cycle refresh of BMW’s flagship 7 Series sedan lineup is dominated by, well, its face. As in the company’s iconic kidney grille, now 40 per cent larger than before. Clearly, luxury buyers didn’t feel the big sedan imposing enough. Well, to quote Jack Nicholson’s scene-stealing Joker role in Batman, “Wait till they get a load of me!” The extreme design makeover at the front end, which is also 50 millimetres taller at its highest point, might be the most visual cue defining the 2020 7 Series, but it’s not the most significant. Nor are the improvements and upgrades to infotainment, connectivity and safety systems, or to the interior. The honour goes to the powertrain department. In addition to the redeveloped, turbocharged V8 and V12 engines, a new turbocharged six-cylinder plug-in-hybrid variant (the 745Le xDrive) crashes the party, a replacement for the old four-cylinder-powered 740Le plug-in. Bonus: Want to stay up to date on our latest Rare Norm news ? The 745Le’s newly developed drive technology consists of a specially adapted 3.0-litre inline six from the current BMW EfficientDynamics family. Maximum output is 286 horsepower, delivered with a smoothness the 740Le lacked, plus a synchronous electric motor rated at 113 hp and 195 pound-feet of torque. There’s also a new lithium-ion battery with updated battery cell technology and increased capacity. 2020 BMW 745Le Brian Harper 2020 BMW 745Le Brian Harper 2020 BMW 745Le xDrive BMW 2020 BMW 745Le xDrive BMW 2020 BMW 745Le xDrive BMW 2020 BMW 745Le xDrive BMW 2020 BMW 745Le xDrive BMW 2020 BMW 745Le xDrive BMW 2020 BMW 745Le Brian Harper 2020 BMW 745Le Brian Harper 2020 BMW 745Le Brian Harper 2020 BMW 745Le Brian Harper 2020 BMW 750Li xDrive Brian Harper 2020 BMW 750Li xDrive Brian Harper 2020 BMW 750Li xDrive Brian Harper Without getting overly tech-y, BMW elaborates: Enhancements have also been made to the power electronics, “whose intelligent energy management ensures precisely orchestrated interaction between the two drive units and, if the proactive driving function is activated, efficiently coordinates the electric driving phases to coincide with sections of the journey that should be covered without any emissions.” OK, that’s still a bit convoluted; here’s what you really need to know: With the Driving Experience Control switch set to Sport mode, the combined output of gas engine and lithium-ion battery power increases net output to 394 hp, with maximum combined torque for the 745Le plug-in boosted to 442 lb-ft. Clearly, this regal ride has some zip, BMW touting a zero to 100 km/h time of just 5.1 seconds, not shabby for a car tipping the scales at 2,274 kilograms. An all-electric driving range of about 50 kilometres is expected. And, with the electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission, BMW says the car can be driven at speeds up to 140 km/h on battery power alone. I didn’t get to use anywhere near maximum power during a brief experience in the 745Le xDrive ($122,300 to start). Testing was limited to a staid 11-kilometre loop through an upscale retirement enclave, the car’s seamless transitions from hybrid to electric the primary takeaway. The bonus was a pampering ride and a tomb-like cabin. RELATED Review: 2019 Audi A8L”>Car Review: 2019 Audi A8L Review: 2018 Jaguar XJR 575″>Car Review: 2018 Jaguar XJR 575 More time was spent in the 750Li xDrive (base price $126,400, $119,800 for the standard wheelbase 750i), its reworked 4.4L twin-turbo V8 now pushing out 523 hp (80 hp more than before). In addition to a quickness that belies its size, the car was particularly adept on the twisting, undulating backroads outside of Faro, maintaining the poise expected of a luxury sedan even while hustling along at sporting speeds. All variants of the new 7 Series feature electronically controlled dampers and two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling. Plus, the Driving Experience Control switch can activate a range of damper settings to dial in more comfort or sportiness depending on the driver’s wishes. Though not available for testing, the M760Li xDrive ($173,100) is the topline model for the 7 Series, its twin-turbo 6.6L V12 engine developing 600 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. An exploration of the car’s myriad new and improved driving assistance systems will require a much longer time behind the wheel. All versions of the 2020 7 Series will be arriving in dealerships this month.