BMW i7 review
Taking a different approach to its Mercedes arch rival, BMW hits the nail on the head with the first electric 7 Series
- Spacious rear cabin
- Interior technology
- Long range
- Some gimmicky tech
- Polarising looks
- Expensive options
|Car type||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||367-388 miles||c.14 hours (est. 0-100%, 7.4kW)||34 mins (10-80%, 195kW)|
Luxury cars need to perform multiple duties. They have to be comfortable, spacious and filled with the latest technology. They need to come covered in the finest premium materials, while also being quiet, refined and good to drive. But nowhere does it say they need to be pretty; enter the latest BMW i7.
Whatever you think of the way the new i7 looks, one thing separates it from its Mercedes EQS rival. It’s not the running gear or the price tag as both start at over £100,000. The thing that makes the BMW different is that it’s also available as a plug-in hybrid, and – in other global markets – with a petrol engine.
By sticking to the conventional three-box luxury limo body shape, the new 7 Series retains the old car’s imperious rear cabin comfort. There is loads of head and leg room for even the tallest adults, and the front passenger seat can be pushed right forward for when you really want to stretch out.
The i7 is filled with the most cutting-edge tech in BMW’s arsenal, for those up front and in the rear. Using the latest iDrive 8 operating system, the 7 comes loaded with live features, plus all the usual smartphone connectivity. There’s automatic-opening and closing doors, electrically-operated seats, and touch-sensitive controllers mounted to the rear doors.
These can be used to operate everything from the window blinds to the four-zone climate control, as well as changing the radio station or media input. They all grant you access to the optional (£4,000) 8K Theatre Screen. Folding down from the roof, the 31-inch monitor hosts popular streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix and YouTube.
It’s the new i7’s party piece, without doubt. But in reality there isn’t much in the way of adjustment, and it always feels like it’s set a little close for comfort. The graphics and the functionality is great, but we’d prefer if you could recline the seats further or position the screen more toward the driver or front-seat passenger – if only to create some distance between your eyes and the crystal-clear display. We’d liken it to sitting on the front row at a concert and craning your neck to get the best view.
But while the Theatre Screen is perhaps a bit of a gimmick, comfort levels in general aren’t to be sniffed at. The seats are plush, and quality – whether you’re sat in the front or the back – feels worthy of the £100,000–plus price tag.
On the road, the i7 is quiet and it rides beautifully. It’s not totally exempt from wind and road noise – especially around the A-pillars – but electric power suits the car’s character well. Overall, an EQS is probably quieter, but the BMW beats it if you’re the kind of high-flying entrepreneur that prefers to drive than be driven.
There’s some pretty trick tech on board designed to ‘improve’ the driving experience, too. There’s active roll stabilisation, and if you select the Executive Drive Suspension option the car can combat body lean during fast cornering by bolstering the dampers on the outside edge – thus keeping the car level. It’s impressive, and works well with the four-wheel steering system. But we can’t help but feel it’s of more use to those in the back than the front; it can feel quite unnatural at times.
None of this can take away from how inherently agile the new 7 Series feels for a car of this size (more than five metres long) and weight (the best part of 2.7 tonnes). It’s very quick, too, with an ability to pick up speed in an instant, no matter how fast you’re already going. The 0-62mph sprint is dealt with in 4.7 seconds, and it’ll almost match its V8-engined sibling’s top speed; the i7 is pegged at 149mph – probably to preserve range.
Speaking of range, BMW claims the i7 will do between 367 and 388 miles on a single charge of its 101.7kWh battery. That corresponds to efficiency of 3.6 and 3.8 miles per kWh, whereas in reality we were seeing closer to 3.0mi/kWh. Still, that should mean a range of around 300 miles is achievable in normal driving.
BMW hasn’t opted for 800-volt charging like you’ll find on a Porsche Taycan. The engineers say the i7’s 400v set-up allows for a more consistent charge speed, meaning the saloon car can maintain its 195kW peak for longer. A 10-80% top-up is achievable in as little as 34 minutes, though charging at home will take much longer.
At launch there is just one i7 powertrain option on offer: the dual-motor xDrive60. Excellence trim comes with that curved infotainment display and four-zone climate control, a panoramic glass roof and LED lights all round. Customers can step up to M Sport for £4,500, adding a more dynamic look, plus M Sport brakes and an M Sport steering wheel.
As you’d expect there are plenty of option packs, including Excellence Pro and M Sport Pro kits, which bring everything you could possibly want. Prices are steep, however, adding between £19-22k depending on spec. We’ll also see an i7 M70 variant join the line-up in 2023 that’s expected to produce over 650bhp.
The new BMW i7 is the best luxury EV currently on sale – with the caveat that plenty of rivals sit waiting in the wings. It moves the game on from the excellent iX SUV, with even more technology and features, while trouncing the sleek Mercedes EQS for rear-seat comfort. Just be grateful you can’t see that polarising front end from the driver’s seat.