Love it or loath it, the styling of the new BMW i7 is certain to be a conversation starter amongst BMW lovers and haters alike!
With its split headlamp design (upper as running lights, lower as headlamps), in-your-face restyled grille and angular grille surround, it certainly stands out-and-proud as the new look for BMW’s flagship luxury large sedan. And it costs nearly $300,000.
It is now 46 years since the BMW 7 series was introduced to the world as the marque’s flagship model. As such, the 7 series has always been the first to get the latest and greatest features, which then filter down over subsequent years to their ‘lesser’ models.
For instance, the 1977 first generation 7 series was BMW’s first model to feature an on-board computer – and the third generation saw the introduction to BMW of curtain airbags, satellite navigation and an in-built television.
It should therefore be no surprise than the latest iteration of the 7 series (the 7th generation) comes with many new toys, accessories and options not seen in BMW cars before.
These include voice control of almost every vehicle function, automatic opening/closing doors all round, an 8k 31 inch (79cm) fold-down theatre screen in the rear, remote parking (including the ability to drive it by remote control from a smartphone) and (believe it or not!) Swarovski crystals incorporated into the front lights, with the crystals designed to reflect light in a multitude of facets even when they are off.
Released for sale in late November last year, it has taken BMW a bit of time to assemble a press fleet. The Driven was recently invited to a drive day (with lunch included) to sample the new range of BMW 7 series versions.
The reason The Driven attended is because with this seventh generation, a fully electric (BEV) version is now included in the line-up. It seems that rather than lead with full-electric in the flagship model, BMW have been content to prove the technology in their other model ranges first before being confident enough to offer it as an option in their flagship.
A full day of driving ensued – comprised of driving out from City BMW (on the edge of the Melbourne CBD) via a selection of city roads, freeway travel and winding B roads to the Yarra Valley and return.
As such – this article is a ‘first-impressions’ one rather than an extended review. To do a full review of a car with so many functions and features would probably take a month of varied driving to test them all!
The start of the day was marked by a demonstration of the remote driving function. Having someone moving their finger around their smart-phone screen and a very large car faithfully follow the movements like a child’s remote control toy was quite surreal – although a quick test by walking in front of it did prove that its myriad sensors do the job of avoiding running over the driver or one’s inevitable audience.
Another feature was the full width theatre screen that folds down for the rear seat passengers to view. When activated it pulled up the side and rear window shades and, combined with the 35 speaker sound system and optional connoisseur lounge seating, would rival the experience in gold-class of a cinema.
Mind-you, for the driver, activating the rear passenger screen was annoying as you lost the view out of the central rear-vision mirror – and there is no camera option to replace that view.
Inside, the i7 is no less surprising – this new 7 series has more party tricks than a clown at a child’s birthday party. With a simple ‘hey BMW’, it would do whatever asked of it, including open or close any door and activate any desired vehicle function – including operating the folding theatre screen for the rear-seat passengers.
The interior is also littered with touch screens – the central 14.9 inch (38 cm), lightly curved touch screen flows seamlessly into the 13.3 inch (34cm) driver’s display, plus an ‘interaction bar’ running along the lower dash, made with a haptic LED screen, controls the ventilation and some of the other more minor systems.
Each of the rear passenger doors also featured a 5.5 inch (14 cm) touch screen to control the
associated seating position, individual climate settings and activate the folding theatre screen.
Rear seating options include a ‘connoisseur lounge’ choice (including massage function) – which in its most extreme form moves the passenger seat forward and enables the rear seat to extend into an almost business class airline seat mode.
In the i7 the executive lounge console and seating with cinema screen is standard, and the connoisseur lounge is a $9,000 option. However, in the ICE versions the console and cinema screen are not and, together with connoisseur seating, would add around $28,000.
Four cars were available on the day: two BEV and two ICE. For the first section I drove one of the two electric models – and found the ride and handling of the electric version precisely what you would expect of a large, luxury sedan with a complex, active air suspension and active roll bars – as in it just did what such cars are supposed to do: propel one effortlessly down the road, be they smooth freeway tarmac or lightly uneven, slightly potholed B roads. It certainly didn’t tempt one to drive it ‘willingly’, despite its 4.7 second time to get from 0 to 100km/h.
Jumping into a 740i for the second half of the morning drive was a revelation: despite the more sports tune of its suspension (making it feel less like a ‘luxo-barge’ and more of a performance tuned BMW): its ICE engine made it feel quite agricultural in comparison to the i7.
It turns out that no matter how hard auto engineers try, you cannot engineer out the vibration of an ICE motor or make-up for the slight lag between accelerator push and fuel spraying/igniting inherent in burning fuel in a combustion chamber.
Given that the 7 series is BMW’s prestige executive transport vehicle, the difference between the electric and ICE versions showed not only that the future of this top-end vehicle niche is fully electric in order to get the most luxurious driving experience for drivers and passengers alike, the i7 shows that future is now here.
BMW i7 details:
Powertrain and technology
- 2x current-excited synchronous motors, one front, one rear
- High voltage battery, 106 kWh gross, 102 net
- High voltage battery certificate, 8-year/160,000 km warranty
- BMW xDrive all-wheel drive
- Domestic socket charging cable, Mode 2, 5m with max. power 1.8 kW
- Public charging cable, Mode 3
- Adaptive 2-Axle Air Suspension with automatic self-levelling function, manual raising by 20mm up to 35km/h
- Integral Active Steering
- My Modes with PERSONAL, EFFICIENT, SPORT, EXPRESSIVE, RELAX and THEATRE modes
- Tyres non-Runflat, includes tyre repair kit
- Active Protection incl. Attentiveness Assistant
- Alarm system
- Acoustic Protection for Pedestrians
- Airbags, 7 in total: driver & front passenger front, central airbag between driver and front passenger, full-length side airbags (front seats) and head protection side curtain airbags in headliner
- Active front seat headrests
- Inner-vented front and rear disc brakes
- Central locking with electronic immobiliser
- Dynamic braking lights
- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Braking Assistant, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Traction
- Control (DTC), PostCrash light braking function
- Warning triangle and first aid kit
- BMW Head-Up Display
- Driving Assistant Professional, incl. Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go, Lane Change Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Front & Rear Crossing-Traffic warning, Rear Collision Prevention, Exit Warning, Steering & Lane Control Assistant, Automatic Speed Limit Assist, Evasion Assistant, Front Collision Warning & Auto Brake
- Parking Assistant Professional, incl. Parking Assistant with Active Park Distance Control, Lateral Parking Aid, Surround View, Panorama View, 3D View, Reversing Assistant Professional up to 200m distance, additional object and line marking detection via surround view cameras, and Automated Manoeuvre Assistant
- BMW Drive Recorder
- Speed Limit Info
- Speed limiter, driver-adjustable setting of desired maximum speed
- Tyre Pressure Monitor
- Executive Drive Pro, includes Active Roll Stabilisation
- BMW Iconic Sounds Electric
- 5-Year Chargefox membership, complimentary use of Fast and Ultra-Rapid (DC, 50kW+) public charging stations
- BMW Wallbox (excluding installation)
- BMW Service Inclusive Basic, 6-Year / Unlimited km (BEV)
Light and sight
- BMW Crystal Headlights Iconic Glow
- Adaptive LED Headlights with High-Beam Assistant
- Ambient interior lighting
- ‘Grand Entrance’ welcome light show
- Electric folding external mirror, driver’s side with automatic dimming
Exterior design and equipment
- M Sport, includes:
- 21” M light-alloy wheels Star-spoke style 908 M Bicolour (1FC)
- M front and rear apron design
- M High-Gloss Shadow Line
- M Sport Brakes with calipers in dark blue
- M Side Sills in High-Gloss Black
- M Leather Steering Wheel, 3-spoke, flat-bottom design
- M Headliner Alcantara Anthracite
- Design Pure Excellence (NCO)
- BMW Individual metallic paintwork
- BMW ‘Iconic Glow’ illuminated kidney grille surround
Interior design, comfort and equipment
- BMW Individual Leather ‘Merino’ Upholstery
- Multifunctional Seats front
- BMW CraftedClarity glass application
- BMW Interaction Bar
- Seat heating, front and rear
- Active seat ventilation, front
- Seat massage function, front
- Automatic air conditioning, 4-zone
- Heated: steering wheel, front centre console armrest, front & rear door armrests and door trim panels, instrument panel lower section
- Remote Engine Start, remote pre-conditioning of interior climate Comfort Access system, keyless entry
- Automatic tailgate operation incl. contactless operation of the tailgate
- Panorama Glass Roof Sky Lounge
- Instrument panel and door upper trim in ‘Walknappa’ leather
- Fine-wood interior trim
- Roller sunblinds for rear windscreen and rear door windows, electric
- Automatic Doors, automatically open and closing of doors when the vehicle is stationary at less than 10o vehicle pitch and roll angle
- Multifunctional Rear Seats, includes forward/back seat adjustment, seat base inclination, backrest angle and backrest upper section adjustment, 4-way lumbar support, head restraint height, loudspeakers in head restraints
- Executive Lounge Rear Console
- BMW Individual Gran Lusso Interior, featuring BMW Individual Merino / Wool-Cashmere Upholstery, available only with Connoisseur Lounge
- Auxiliary heating, air-conditioning and pre-conditioning
- Doors with Soft-Close function
- Door sill finishers with illuminated model line designation
- Through loading system
- Intelligent Emergency Call
- BMW TeleServices
- BMW ID, personalisation of vehicle settings, via vehicle login
- Wireless smartphone integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Vehicles apps (News and Weather)*
- BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant*
- Remote Software Update*
- Connected Package Professional* incl. Remote Services*, Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI)*
- BMW Natural Interaction
- Interior Camera, includes video anti-theft recording * 3 year subscription
Entertainment, communication and information
- BMW Live Cockpit professional, 12.3” digital instrument display
- Navigation and Infotainment via 14.9” Curved Control Display feat.
- BMW OS 8 and natural voice recognition and map updates*
- BMW Touch Command, 5.5” Touch Displays in the rear doors
- DAB+ digital radio
- Wireless smartphone charging
- Extended Bluetooth Connectivity
- Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, 35 speakers, 1965 Watts
- Rear Seat Entertainment Experience, featuring a 31.3” Theatre Screen in 32:9 ultra-wide format at up to 8K resolution
- Travel & Comfort System, interface for holding tablets incl. USB C port
- 6 x USB C ports and 4 x 12V power sockets
740i M Sport mild hybrid: $268,000
i7 xDrive 60 M Sport: $297,900
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.