BMW entered the ranks of battery EVs early on in 2013 with the Oddball i3. Then, for the next decade, the company all but squandered its lead while Tesla led the way.
Thankfully, BMW recently woke up and delivered the all-electric i4 sedan and iX crossover. Now the company is getting even more serious with the i7, its flagship battery-electric luxury sedan.
We’ve been spending time with it personally recently, so here’s our first look.
An executive lounge and Swarovski crystals
The BMW i7 is the all-electric version of the new 7 Series sedan and shares its platform with the ICE (internal combustion engine) model. Therefore, the i7 was not designed from the ground up as a battery EV, but just as another variant within the 7 Series.
This means there is no front trunk (frunk) and the cabin floor is not flat. On the plus side, it will be built on the same assembly line as its ICE twin, making production easier.
BMW is offering a single i7 model: the Dual Motor (AWD) xDrive60, which starts at $119,300 / £110,455 / AU$ TBD pre-incentives.
It delivers 536 hp (400 kW) and 549 lb-ft (744 Nm) of torque, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.7 s) and offers a range of 300 miles EPA (369 miles / 594 km WLTP).
An M Sport package is available in some markets (as a trim level in the UK, as an option in the US).
It features a 105.7kWh battery (101.7kWh usable) and supports up to 195kW DC fast charging (CCS Combo 1 in the US and Combo 2 abroad) for a 10-80% charge in about 34 minutes or 80 miles (128 km) in 10 minutes and up to 11 kW AC charging for a full charge in 10.5 hours.
In the US, BMW has partnered with Electrify America to bring free, unlimited DC fast charging to i7 owners for three years.
The i7 is packed with standard features, including air suspension with adaptive dampers, rear-wheel steering (up to 3.5 degrees), Matrix LED headlights, 4-zone climate control, heated and ventilated seats, a heads-up display, touch command units (5.5-inch touchscreens on the rear door armrests) and a panoramic sunroof (with LED light show). Cargo capacity is 322 liters (11.4 cu-ft), and there is a ski passage in the trunk (trunk).
Options include automatic doors (power open/close with ultrasonic obstacle and traffic detection), massage seats, crystal daytime running lights (made with Swarovski crystals, of course) Executive Lounge (power rear seats with power footrest, heated armrest and headrest speakers), Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System and 31.3″ 8k BMW theater screen with Amazon Fire TV.
Polarizing design cues
It’s fair to say that BMW purists will find the i7’s design controversial. Like the i4 and the iX, the new, massive kidney from BMW is emblazoned at the front. We’re still not big fans, but we’re getting used to it.
And while the i7 overall retains BMW’s classic RWD-like proportions, the exterior inherits many design cues from the iX. This ranges from that general angular yet soft vibe to more concrete elements like the flush door handles.
Even more polarizing are the i7’s split headlights, which represent a major change for BMW. These new split headlights will also carry over to the other 7 Series models – including the newly refreshed X7 SUV – and will likely flow into the rest of the BMW lineup for years to come.
Overall, the exterior of the i7is looks more angular than its predecessor, and the thicker C-pillars are reminiscent of the second-generation 7-series (E32, 1987-1994).
Like the outside, the inside of the i7 follows in the footsteps of the iX. It looks and feels a bit over the top, but offers premium materials like quilted leather and cashmere (for the seats), open-pore wood, and stainless steel (for the speaker grilles).
The iX’s ornate, faceted, crystal-like material is back on the i7, adorning the iDrive puck, gear knob, power seat controls and what BMW calls the interaction bar, which stretches across the dashboard and front doors.
Obviously, BMW serves the taste of its largest market (China). Still, there is absolutely no doubt that the interior of the i7 is extremely luxurious and extremely well-appointed.
By default, the driver gets a flat-bottomed, two-spoke steering wheel with multiple controls, including a rocker, scroll wheel, and capacitive buttons with haptic feedback. The M Sport package includes a sportier three-spoke steering wheel.
A 31-inch theater screen with Amazon Fire TV
As you would expect from a modern electric vehicle, the BMW i7 offers a variety of displays. These include a 12.3-inch instrument panel along with a 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen mounted behind a single curved glass panel up front, two 5.5-inch touchscreens in the rear door armrests and – optionally – a gigantic 31.3-inch touchscreen theater screen in the back.
This 8k touchscreen with a 32:9 aspect ratio folds into the roof (glass down) when not in use.
This 31.3-inch theater screen comes with built-in Amazon Fire TV and offers a variety of entertainment options. Rear passengers can also adjust their seats, blinds, lights and climate using the Touch Command unit integrated into each rear door.
This pair of 5.5-inch touchscreens also offers controls for the theater screen and Fire TV, and each can be paired with a phone and even Bluetooth earbuds or headphones.
Both the 12.3-inch instrument display and 14.9-inch front infotainment touchscreen are powered by the latest version of BMW software (iDrive 8) and feature faster computer hardware for a more responsive user experience and better sensor fusion for level 2 driver support.
We expect the i7’s ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) to enable pre-mapped hands-free driving like Ford’s BlueCruise and GM’s Super Cruise.
Of course, the i7 also inherits all the technical features of the i4 and iX, such as the Active Driving Assistant security suite, a 360-degree view, 5G connectivity via eSIM, OTA (over-the-air) software updates, WiFi hotspot support, the Intelligent Personal Assistant, the My BMW App, UWB (Ultra Wideband) for Phone-as-a-Key functionality, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto wireless support, Qi phone wireless charging and multiple USB ports.
In addition, the i7 offers YouTube streaming on the 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen, a heads-up display with AR (augmented reality) navigation and multiple ultrasonic sensors mounted on each sill.
These are used for BMW’s maneuver assistant, which can hands-free learn and execute maneuvers previously performed by the driver – such as a three-point turn required to park the car in an underground garage.
The optional 36-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System includes headrest speakers and seatback subwoofers, and supports directional audio for each rear passenger, allowing for more private hands-free calls.
BMW Iconic Sounds Electric, created by Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, gives the i7 a unique soundtrack, not only when driving, but also when starting the vehicle and using the 31.3-inch theater screen.
An interior camera allows owners to peek inside the i7 from the My BMW app and automatically records video when the alarm goes off.
Obviously, BMW isn’t holding back on the i7’s technology. But this EV also offers solid range and performance, plenty of luxury and comfort, and a unique BMW design that’s both familiar and different.
Now we just have to go for a spin, so keep an eye out for our first ride and review later this year.