What is it like on the inside?
Although there’s no accounting for taste, and there are umpteen different interpretations of luxury, we’re going to call it: this is the best car interior in the world. With the new 7 Series, BMW has managed to harmonise the elements, make the technology user-friendly, and create an environment that feels wholly modern: connected, mindful, and phenomenally comfortable. It’s also impeccably put together.
The Curved Display we know from the iX, and it’s being rolled out across the range. This is core to BMW’s push to digitalisation, and combines a 12.3in instrument display behind the wheel with a longer 14.9in main infotainment glass touch-screen. It tidies up the real estate around what’s still quaintly known as the dashboard – an area that was getting pretty busy on recent BMWs – removing virtually every physical button. Including, perhaps controversially, the climate control switchgear, which is now subsumed within the central screen. As a rule, we’d prefer to maintain some proper physical interaction here, rather than jabbing at a screen, but experience with the iX proves that it works well. It also means that the four-zone system’s air vents are almost imperceptible (there’s a little haptic panel underneath for hot and cold, but it’s near invisible and we didn’t notice it at first).
The curved screen looks high-end and sits on slender brackets atop an open-pore matt wood trim. Audio, navigation, Apple CarPlay and so on live in individual, customisable tiles. There’s voice activation, too, which actually works for a change, and passengers can now access the Personal Assistant. There’s even a funky digital clock widget by Qlocktwo that spells out the time. Go for the Heat Comfort package and you’ll get a heated steering wheel and panel heating for the arm-rests and centre console. This is a more efficient way of staying warm in an EV than cranking up the air con.
ANY OTHER INNOVATIONS/NEW GADGETS/GIMMICKS?
Beneath the central screen is the ‘Interaction Bar’, new on the 7 Series, which has a crystalline surface and backlighting, and stretches pretty much the width of the cabin. Activate the hazard lights and the whole thing pulses red; it also takes its colour cues from whichever of the ‘My Modes’ you’ve gone for. Red for Sport, green for Expressive, and so on. Recent BMW Art Car artist Cao Fei has even created a Digital Art Mode. This also alters the sound signature, as co-developed with Hollywood movie soundtrack superstar, Hans Zimmer. Mostly, it’s a variation on an escalating sci-fi whoosh; it’s fun and adds perceptible character to the electric experience, but we’re not sure how often you’d change it. The centre console is lower and more conventional looking than in the iX, but has the same little (optional) crystal drive controller and other haptic touch points. It’s an easy, swift way to get going, and feels satisfying.
As on the iX, you push a button to get out. New on the 7 are automatic doors. There’s a little button below the wheel that closes the door from inside, or you can set the system so that the driver’s door shuts when you press the brake pedal. Or use the voice activation if you’re incredibly lazy. The doors’ gyros recognise inclines and possible hazards and it’s all very clever, but there’s a touch of overkill here, perhaps.
Clear thought and imagination has gone into the door trims – if we can call them that – and the seats are absolutely magnificent, with multi-functionality and massage programmes and so on. The back of the headrests have wood trim with electro-plated accent strips. The (optional) wool cashmere trim is sustainable and looks and feels lovely. Various different interior treatments are available for the wood and metals. The overall effect is absolutely dazzling.
As is the much-anticipated 31.3in 8K Theatre Screen. Obviously, posh cars have had televisions in them for years, but this really is next-level. Not just because the screen folds out of a recess in the headlining, but also because it has built-in Amazon Fire TV connectivity, and runs Bowers & Wilkins surround sound (an optional version gets you 36 speakers and 1,965 watts of output, with exciters in the seat back-rests). Streaming capability varies according to territory, but we watched some ‘content’ travelling down a twisty road without regurgitating our breakfast, the rear and side sun-blinds automatically raised and the panoramic sunroof closed.
That’s done via a 5.5in digital control unit with a screen integrated into the rear door trim. Theatre is the word. Although pity the driver, whose rear view is blocked by the screen. For some unfathomable reason, BMW hasn’t fitted a rear-view camera mirror (like Land Rover’s ClearSight one). That’s a weird omission on this otherwise unimpeachable technocrat.
As in the front, the seats are fantastic. Order the Executive Lounge option and you’ll get perhaps the finest, most complex seat ever fitted in a car: the front passenger seat slides and tilts as far forward as it’ll go, leaving the rear occupant free to recline to 42.5 degrees – a record in this class – and there’s no gap in the calf support area, either. Interior design lead Henri von Freyberg tells us that the seats are the thing he’s most proud of. BMW has raised the game and then some on the new 7 Series.