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      It's more than a little obnoxious, that new grille on the BMW 7-series. The last car we can think of to have such a big grille that it couldn't fit on the front of the car and needed to cut back into the hood was the 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass-and everybody recognizes that '70s Oldsmobiles were paragons of taste.

      Research the BMW 7 Series on MSN Autos | Find a BMW 7 Series near you 

      Then again, a larger grille naturally can ingest more air-think of the difference between sipping a soft drink through a straw and pouring beer down your gullet from an Oktoberfest stein. The official explanation for the updates to the V-8-–powered 750i xDrive is a re-engineering from the crankcase up, but the grille at least hints at the increased power in the 2020 car. (With the exception of the base six-cylinder 740i version, all 7s are now all-wheel drive.) It's not the 40 percent step up that the scale of that grille represents, but, at 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, the new eight outpunches its predecessor by 80 horsepower and 74 lb-ft. Not that the car needed it; the last 750i we tested (a rear-driver) hit 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. BMW claims this one will do it in 3.9, which is a glorious sort of absurd. Remember, this isn't a sports car. It's two and one-half tons of luxury sedan. But it does a damn good impression of a sports car in a straight line. Peak torque lasts from 1800 to 4600 rpm, and with ZF's excellent eight-speed automatic transmission backing it, the engine is never caught flat-footed.

      a car parked on the side of a road: BMW 7-Series Goes Big on Grille and Power © BMW BMW 7-Series Goes Big on Grille and Power

      Plug It In, Plug It In

      This first encounter with the facelifted 7er also provided us a brief opportunity to drive the new 745e plug-in hybrid. The fire-powered half of the propulsion equation gets upgraded from last year's four-cylinder to BMW's silky turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six. The smoothest gas burner we're aware of, the BMW inline-six does the best impression of an electric motor of any internal-combustion engine on the market today, making it a natural pairing with an actual electric motor. There's a bit of a sound shift between electric and internal-combustion power, but almost no additional vibration enters the cabin when the six fires up.

      A 12.0-kWh battery pack will provide approximately 35 miles of EV range, although engineers tell us the actual figure is higher than they are legally allowed to claim. Regulations in some countries require automakers to claim only as many miles as they can guarantee the battery pack will still provide after 10 years, so there's some leeway built into that figure to accommodate the inevitable battery degradation. But in terms of the other kind of performance, the six-based hybrid system sees increases of 67 horsepower and 73 lb-ft, for totals of 389 and 442, respectively. Sounds like progress to us.

      a close up of a car: BMW 7-Series Goes Big on Grille and Power © BMW BMW 7-Series Goes Big on Grille and Power

      Whereby Wend the Winds (or Whatever)

      In a BMW lineup that often seems at odds with the BMW we know and love (knew and loved?), the 7-series remains a polarizing car. On one hand, it does the best impression of a Rolls-Royce of any car outside of Rolls's own showroom. On the other, though, in no suspension setting does it quite feel like that blue-and-white roundel belongs on the hood. Even with standard adaptive dampers and air springs at all four corners, none of the chassis settings quite feel right. Then again (so, back to that first hand?), if a 7-series buyer wants to drive something that handles like an M3, they probably just drive the M3 that day instead. Or whatever else is in the garage alongside the six-figure sedan.

      a close up of a car: BMW 7-Series Goes Big on Grille and Power © BMW BMW 7-Series Goes Big on Grille and Power

      If they do pluck the 7's fob from whatever it is that people who have loads of cars keep their embarrassment of keys in-we assume it's not the same haphazard pile in the junk drawer that we employ-the BMW is a coddling cocoon. There's massive room front and rear, and the Rear Executive Lounge Seating package is so first class that a tray table even folds out of the center console. Drinks, it should be noted, are not complimentary. The big tech updates that accompany this facelift are voice controls for the infotainment system-by default it responds to "Hey BMW," but can be customized to whatever name the owner sees fit-and the industry's latest definitely-not-an-automated-driving-system. The latter is called Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, and it will drive the car indefinitely at speeds below 37 mph as long as the camera in the instrument panel can see that the driver's eyes are on the road. And BMW's nonsensical gesture-control system now responds to more commands, but it still won't let you program your own gestures. Soon, child. Soon.

      And when can you get your shaky/greasy/silk-gloved hands on a 2020 7-series? Soon. Or now-ish. The 750i xDrive starts at $103,645, while the hybrid starts at $96,545. The lowly 740i is $87,445, and the range-topping V-12–powered M760i costs $158,695.

      Research the BMW 7 Series on MSN Autos | Find a BMW 7 Series near you 

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