Gadget Price

Review: BMW’s all-electric i7 sedan offers goblin mode on the go

The 2023 BMW i7 starts at $147,000, but after adding all the options on our tester, the price came out to $194,200.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

My in-laws, who were in town for the holidays, sat in silence in the back seat of BMW’s new electric flagship. They’re rarely this quiet, but here, reclining in the premium massage thrones of the all-new 2023 BMW i7, they’ve been silenced, transfixed not by the fact that the car is electric, nor by its shocking price tag, but by the screen. This thing makes the JumboTron look easy.

At the push of a button, the 31-inch theater display pivots down from the roof and moves fore and aft along a motorized track, adjusting itself to be perfectly positioned for rear seat occupants. Motorized curtains black out the car’s glass roof and rear window – rendering the rear-view mirror utterly useless – while blinds black out the side windows.

The $147,000 BMW i7 is actually a home theater masquerading as an electric car; It lets passengers switch to “goblin mode” en route.

The i7 comes with a 31-inch screen for the rear seat passengers.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Being stuck in traffic is just an excuse for passengers to sit back, pop open a few Doritos, watch Netflix, and retreat from the world into this luxurious, dark cocoon. Its heated and cooled loungers put La-Z-Boy to shame. The cinema display has a pin-sharp maximum resolution of 8K and Amazon Fire TV is integrated. It streams movies and TV in 4K provided cellular data coverage is good enough. The surround sound is incredible, probably better than most home theaters. The optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond stereo system has 36 speakers, including four in the roof and two in each headrest. “Exciters” vibrate in the seats so you can really feel the roar of jet engines in the new, for example Top Gun: Maverick.

The screen is controlled via touch screens in each rear door or by touching the screen itself. All this technology could have been complicated, but it’s easy enough to use. My in-laws, who admit they’re not particularly tech-savvy, managed to stream the original Addams Family TV show.

Globe Drive editor Jordan Chittley took his two kids for a test drive in the backseat and found that not once did they ask, “Are we there yet?” It’s going to be hard, he said, for his kids to go back to go family station wagon.

The catch, of course, is that a portable home theater doesn’t come cheap. The i7 costs $147,000, or more than three fully loaded Subaru Outbacks, but the BMW is within $500 behind the Mercedes-Benz EQS, its closest rival.

At this price point, you’d think BMW could throw in the giant screen, but no, it’s a $4,900 option. The adjustable rear seat and footrest are part of the Executive Lounge package, which costs an additional $2,800. The B&W Diamond surround sound system costs $5,900. Including the $12,000 two-tone paint job, our test car came in at $194,200 before taxes and fees.

You don’t pay that much because the i7 is electric, mind you. The battery-powered i7 costs the same price as the petrol-powered 760i. The two cars are essentially the same aside from their powertrain systems. (At least at this more refined automotive stage, electric vehicles and gasoline cars have already reached price parity.)

Given the staggering price BMW is charging here, it’s disappointing to see so much cheap-looking black plastic on the front of our test car. Not only that, but all the fun gadgets that make this car so entertaining – the giant screen, the lounge seat, the automatic doors – are optional.

When it comes to that all-important range, Mercedes and Tesla have beaten the BMW, at least on paper. In sub-zero temperatures, the i7 estimated a range of just over 400 kilometers with the heating turned on. Officially, the two-engine four-wheel drive i7 xDrive60 in Canada is designed with 476 to 512 kilometers. (It varies by wheel size, with the 19-inch tires offering the longest range.) For comparison, the all-wheel-drive Mercedes EQS 580 is rated at 335 miles, while the $135,000 Tesla Model S trumps both with a rated range of 652.

As a gadget-crammed electric flagship, the i7 offers more for your in-laws, kids or other passengers to ooh and aah than the Mercedes EQS. And in the electric age, high-tech features are becoming increasingly important as differentiators.

As a gadget-crammed electric flagship, the i7 offers more for your in-laws, kids or other passengers to ooh and aah.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Technical specifications

2023 BMW i7 xDrive60

  • Base price/as tested: $147,000/$194,200
  • Engine: Twin motor electric
  • Transmission/drive: Single speed/four wheel drive
  • Energy consumption (liter equivalent per 100 kilometers): 2.7 city, 2.6 highway
  • Alternatives: Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz EQS, Lucid Air, BMW 760i, Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8

Looks

The i7 has more presence than the bean-shaped Mercedes EQS, but like most recent BMWs, it’s hard to love. With the i7 (and iX, updated X7, 4 Series and M3/4), the brand has opted for more imposing designs, flanked by an enlarged buck-toothed grille, as seen here.

The rear seats of the i7. The front passenger seat moves forward, allowing the rear seat to recline.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Inner

At least the interior is impressive. It’s a real generational leap over the old 7 Series. The cabin feels far more luxurious and expensive than both the Tesla and Mercedes EQS, with its smudge-prone all-glass hyperscreen dashboard. The BMW’s color-changing crystalline stripe running around the cabin is a great touch.

power

For a 2.6-ton luxury behemoth, it corners well composed, resisting body roll and only understeering when the driver tries to call on all 544 hp mid-corner. The i7 isn’t a sports sedan – try the Porsche Taycan or Lucid Air for that – but it doesn’t try to be, despite the pointless BMW M badging scattered throughout.

technology

The doors are said to open and close at the touch of a button, but the function was inconsistent. Thankfully, the i7’s optional hands-free highway driver assistance worked much better. (Like every other car available in Canada today, the driver is still responsible for driving.) If you take your eyes off the road for too many seconds, the car will notice you’re distracted and prompt you to take the wheel.

The driver’s seat and dashboard of the i7. It’s cozy, but the place to be is in the back seat while someone else drives.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

charge

The gas-powered 760i has a slightly higher load capacity: 540 liters versus 500.

The judgment

If not the best luxury EV, then certainly the best way to enjoy home cinema on the go.

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