The BMW 7 Series can now be had in full-Electric form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the i7.
Ten Second Review
With the i7, BMW proves it can make a really credible modern era full-Electric model that isn't an SUV. This car is aimed directly at the Mercedes EQS and brings a prodigious level of Munich's technological firepower to the task.
A full-EV luxury model should look different, futuristic. Well this one, BMW's i7, does. But visually, it's virtually identical to ordinary combustion-engined versions of the eighth generation 7 Series large segment saloon it's based upon. So, convention, evolution and cutting-edge technology, all in one prestigiously-badged package. How could any self-respecting, ecologically minded company board member resist?.
Well possibly quite easily because the car this i7 is directly up against a model lauded as one of the greatest luxury EVs so far produced in this era, the Mercedes EQS. That's a model with great front-of-cabin wow factor. This one though, aims to trump it an area arguably more important in this class of car: back seat luxury. Sounds intriguing.
Sales of the i7 are primarily based around the xDrive60 model, which uses two electric motors, a front one with 258hp and one at the rear with 313hp. The combined total is quoted at a potent 544hp. And BMW quotes a WLTP-rated range of up to 388 miles. Which of course you'll get nowhere near if you habitually enjoy the rapid 0-62mph sprint time of 4.7s, en route to a 149mph maximum. This EV's clearly engineered for motorways as well as the metropolis. And secondary roads should feel cruisey too, thanks to adaptive self-levelling air suspension, which lowers itself by 10mm in 'Sport' mode (and at speeds of over 75mph) to improve stability. You can also use it to raise the ride height by 20mm to avoid damage on rougher sections of road.
As with the brand's other EVS, this one can be had with an 'IconicSounds' package curated by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer. This offers two options: one is 'Relax', which is a bit like the sort of thing you'd hear in a health spa. The other more dynamic powertrain note is called 'Expressive' which, according to early reports, sounds like some sort of air raid siren. Fortunately, you can turn it off. Should the i7 xDrive60 somehow not be fast enough for you, your dealer can brief you on an alternative i7 M70 xDrive model with 660hp.
Design and Build
If you've seen BMW's latest eighth generation 7 Series saloon, with its divisive new look, you'll know what to expect because almost everything's exactly the same with the i7. There are a few differences of course; an 'i' badge on the front grille, various decorative blue touches and of course, the conventional model's exhaust is missing here. As with the ordinary 7 Series (which is a PHEV), only a long wheelbase body style is available. And, as with that car, the main visual talking point is the huge (and optionally glowing) front grille, flanked by two-tier matrix LED headlights. The main beams sit on the lower tier. The upper tier delivers daytime running lights and indicators bejewelled with Swarovski crystals.
The cabin provides even more evidence of BMW's desire to deliver something quite different in this segment - and again, it's just as in a comparable 7 Series. Much, predictably, is borrowed from the brand's iX flagship EV; the curved display with its central infotainment monitor and instrument screen; the two-spoke steering wheel; and the crystal iDrive controller. But there clever touches too, the main one being this i7's so-called 'Interaction Bar', a glossy back-lit panel that stretches across the fascia. It reacts to inputs and what's happening as you drive - so will flash, for instance, if you get a phone call.
There's even more tech in the rear, which can be had with an 'Executive Lounge' package featuring a reclining seat with foot rest, allowing for a torso angle of up to 42.5-degrees. Once you're comfortable, you can even enjoy your own private cinema experience. The car can be fitted out with an enormous 31.3-inch 'BMW Theatre Screen' that folds into the ceiling when not in use and has built-in Amazon Fire TV. There's also a black-out screen for the rear window, touchscreens in the door panels and the option of 'seat exciters', which vibrate and pulse the seat with loud sounds from the 'Theatre Screen'. Out back., there's a big 500-litre boot.
Market and Model
The i7 xDrive60 variant costs just over £107,000 and there's a choice of 'Excellence' or 'M Sport' trim. Your i7 will come fully loaded for that, with features like adaptive air suspension, rear wheel steering, a gesture-controlled powered boot lid and a panoramic glass sunroof. But you'll want to spend more on some of the key features. The highlight is the 'BMW Theatre Screen' rear seat cinema system we briefed you on in our 'Design' section. We'd also want to spend more on the automatic door mechanism. With this, to open or close the front and rear doors, all those on board need to do is touch the handles set flush into the body, or use the buttons in the 'BMW Interaction Bar' at the front of the cabin or on the rear door trim. The opening and closing sequence can also be activated using the radio-operated key.
Also leave some spend for the optional 'Sky Lounge panoramic glass sunroof', which will delight those inside the car with a bespoke light show, which uses light threads back-lit by LED units. The structure this creates replicates the pattern of the quilting on the seat surfaces. The glass construction consists of three highly functional and fully integrated individual sections of glass. A pattern within this construction emits the light and intensifies the feeling of acceleration when the car is moving. Lovely.
Cost of Ownership
We gave you the i7 xDrive60's driving range figure in our driving section - 388 miles. This comes via an extremely slim high-voltage battery with a cell height of just 110mm, located low down in the vehicle floor and providing 101.7kWh of usable energy. The heat pump technology used in the integrated heating and cooling system for the cabin and drive system also helps boost efficiency, as does the adaptive or individually adjustable recuperation feature. The high-voltage battery is heated using a dedicated 5.5 kW electric flow heater.
The Combined Charging Unit in the i7 xDrive60 allows AC charging at a rate of up to 11kW, while DC power can be taken on board at a rate of up to 195kW. This allows 106 miles (WLTP) of range to be added in just ten minutes at a high-power charging station.
The 'BMW Charging' package comes as standard, which gives i7 owners attractive kilowatt hour tariffs for AC and DC charging throughout the UK and Europe. The high-power charging network run by the BMW Group's joint venture IONITY also forms part of the BMW Charging network. Almost 16,000 charging points are included in the UK and Ireland, while the monthly fee for BMW Charging and IONITY is waived for the first 12 months for all retail customers.
The divisive looks that might make a typical customer question the conventional version of this eighth generation 7 Series seem better suited to this i7. Customers of expensive luxury EVs expect their cars to look different and this one will stand out in the boardroom car park just as much, if not more, than its arch-rival, the Mercedes EQS.
If you're fortunate enough to have a chauffeur, the i7 might well be the preferential choice, providing it's specified with the rear 'Theatre Screen' system. And even if you like to drive yourself, this BMW might well present a fractionally more engaging option. It's hard though, to make a wrong choice between an EQS and an i7. Time moves on but luxury driving decisions get no easier. Which is as it should be.