- Max Speed
OH GOD MY EYES. TAKE IT AWAY PLEASE!
Oh gosh apologies. We’d forgotten that pictures of the BMW i7 really should come with a trigger warning. There’s not been anywhere near enough research into the effects of prolonged exposure to that front end as of yet.
Still, we’re just expendable bodies that drive cars, write words and repeat, so we’ve donned our visual hazmat suits and driven the big BMW in the UK for the very first time. Although perhaps the best thing about driving the i7 is that you don’t actually have to look at it.
But then again, it’s only really the head-on view with the monster grille and split headlights that offends us. Sure, the sides are rather flat and the relatively small wheels can be lost in the mass of bodywork, but we actually quite like the rest of the i7’s design, whether that be in ‘Excellence’ or the more aggressive ‘M Sport’ trim.
Also, although it may look like a bit of a brick that cuts through the air like a stone through custard, the i7 actually has a drag coefficient of 0.24 – that’s the same as BMW’s own i4 and the far more swoopy Tesla Model S. Impressive.
Which one have you tested, then?
We’ve now driven the xDrive60 in M Sport guise for the first time on UK roads, complete with the optional M Sport Pro Pack (21-inch wheels, a little boot spoiler, uprated brakes, lots of blacked-out bodywork etc), the Rear Comfort Pack (heated, cooled and massaging seats in the back), and of course that all important theatre screen that folds down from the roof – but we’ll come to that later. In the UK, i7 prices currently kick off at £110,545, but as tested ours was a hefty £125,705.
And yes, the i7 is just the introduction to the new, long wheelbase-only 7 Series range. At some point we’ll see the straight-six and V8 mild-hybrid petrols, as well as a plug-in hybrid too, while other parts of the world will also get a straight six diesel option. With this G70 generation there will be no V12.
What’s it like to drive?
Well, the i7 xDrive60 uses a twin-motor setup for four-wheel drive and 536bhp, and it certainly feels sprightly. There’s no getting away from the 2.6-tonne kerbweight, but a full bore start or an overtake using the Boost paddle behind the steering wheel will still pin you back in your exceptionally well-cushioned seat.
After the initial acceleration the i7 settles into a wonderfully quiet and effortless cruise. It feels hugely stable on a motorway as you’d expect and offers plenty of acceleration for overtakes. Just be warned that as it’s so quiet and refined, you may find yourself barrelling towards a corner carrying far too much speed.
Although perhaps remarkably, the i7 corners reasonably flat too (even without the optional 48V anti-roll system). Sure, the steering feel won’t match smaller BMW saloons, but it’s neat, tidy and doesn’t wallow as much as you might expect. That’s largely thanks to the impressive standard air suspension and adaptive dampers, while tighter in-town manoeuvres are helped by four-wheel steering.
A car like this should be the final word in comfort, right?
Correct, and that’s where the electric power really shines for the i7. If luxury equals relaxation and refinement, then the i7 might just be the pick of the new 7 Series range. Plus, there’s a whole lot going on inside to try and make the i7 the greatest limo to passenger in…
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So come on, what’s it like in there?
Well, let’s start in the back, because unlike BMWs of old and in contrast to Mercedes with its Hyperscreened EQS, the i7 really does focus on rear seat passengers. You’ve got heated, cooled and massaging seats back there controlled by little screens mounted on each door, but the main party piece is that 31.3-inch 8K theatre screen. When folded down it completely blocks the driver’s rear view and it may not be the perfect aspect ratio to display most movies, but it is still a hugely impressive bit of kit that helps the i7 stand out from the crowd and somehow still pairs with a glass panoramic roof. It has Amazon Fire TV built-in too, as well as a HDMI input and a 36-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system that packs a real punch.
Will others follow BMW with their own rear-seat cinemas? They may have to if this is what chauffeured saloon owners come to expect.
What about the front seats?
We actually found these slightly less comfortable than the rears. There’s still an exceptional amount of padding on the seats themselves, but there could be more lumbar support and tighter bolsters for better grip. We’re also still not sold on BMW’s latest generation curved display, which pairs a 12.3-inch dial display with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen ahead of the driver.
“Digitalisation enables the number of buttons, switches and controls in the cockpit to be significantly reduced,” says BMW like that’s a good thing. Moving all of the climate controls into the screen (and integrating them poorly) is a big mistake in our books. Also, the crystal iDrive controller and gear selector look and feel cheap and chintzy.
In terms of trim, Merino leather is standard and beautifully soft, while the option to upgrade brings a new leather-like ‘Veganza’ material that can be had in four different colours. Oh, and it’s probably worth pointing out here that for an extra £11,550 (yikes), BMW will let you scare even more small children with a truly terrible two-tone exterior paint job.
Is it a good EV?
Ah yes, we must talk range. The i7 uses a massive 101.7kWh battery that sits thin and flat under its floor. At home it’ll AC charge at speeds of up to 11kW, but find a rapid charger on your travels and you can plough electricity back in at 195kW. That means you should be able to add 106 miles of range in just 10 minutes according to the bumf, but when was the last time you saw an EV pulling its max charging speed? Still, the overall range of up to 388 miles is plenty – even if it is a fair chunk shorter than the EQS’s max 484 miles.
On the move you’ve got BMW’s impressive adaptive, automatic regeneration that uses the sat nav and traffic ahead to judge how much energy you can recoup whenever you come off the accelerator. Learn to trust the system and it’s really very good. What you will want to avoid though is one or two of the drive modes – for example, the ‘Expressive’ mode pipes in a ridiculous haunted sci-fi soundtrack supposedly developed by Hans Zimmer. Not his finest work, we’d argue.
Should I buy one?
As a luxury limo, the i7 really is an impressive tour de force. It’s quick, refined and packed full of tech – some of which you might actually use, especially if you’ve hired yourself a chauffeur at the same time as buying the 7.
As a piece of design it’s harder to understand, although darker body colours do improve things somewhat. Still, it’s never going to be a shrinking violet, particularly if you spec BMW’s optional Swarovski crystal headlights. But then it would seem that the 7 Series is still going to be a good barge to drive too, and with air suspension plus relatively small 19-inch wheels standard fit the ride is fantastically smooth.
We like the i7 a lot, and if an EV fits into your (or your driver’s) schedule then at this point in time we’d be picking the BMW over the Mercedes EQS. Still, best get them together for a shootout at some point, no? It’ll be rock, paper, scissors to decide who gets to sit in the back…