The 2023 BMW i7: Smooth, Tricky Technology
The verdict: The electrified 7 Series sedan from BMW is large, quiet, smooth, and fashionable. It combines conventional luxury with cutting-edge technology, with largely excellent results.
Comparing the competitors, the i7 is probably more accessible than the Lucid Air, significantly more comfortable in every seat than the Mercedes-EQ EQS, and more elegant and opulent than the Tesla Model S.
Regarding the design of electric vehicles, there are two schools of thinking, according to my theory, which has recently been frequently validated. The first is, “Let’s build a typical car and just swap out the gasoline engine for an electric one that runs on batteries.” Genesis, a premium South Korean automaker, has taken this route with its electrified G80 sedan and electrified GV70 SUV. One approach is to create a spacecraft, a concept Mercedes-Benz has implemented with its EQ range of automobiles. Both the EQS and EQE have outrageous designs, are packed with bizarre, mysterious technology, and practically require a week of astronaut training to operate. However, a few manufacturers have started to err on the side of both techniques. Two of them are BMW and Lucid, whose Air sedan functions like a typical luxury vehicle but looks like a spaceship.
I drove the battery-electric i7 version of the revamped BMW 7 Series full-size luxury car, although it is also available with conventional internal combustion engine power. The two vehicles are almost identical, but for their respective powertrains; this includes the appearance, interior furnishings, passenger space, and controls. This presents BMW customers with an intriguing option: Choose between the electrification of the i7 and its similarly wild new styling, or go with a traditional powertrain with the 7 Series’ wild new appearance.
Related: BMW Reveals 2024 i7 M70 xDrive, Its Most Potent EV To Date
I’m left wondering why anyone would bother with a gas version of the BMW i7 after a week of driving it with its electric drivetrain. Electrons are superior to hydrocarbons for the most opulent driving experience. I’ll explain why.
The i7 Is Silver, Silence Is Golden.
The engine is the only significant distinction between the electric i7 and the gas-powered 7 Series. Three electric powertrain options are available to BMW i7 purchasers in lieu of the German gasoline-to-noise converter. Arriving as a 2024 model, the i7 eDrive50 is a rear-wheel drive vehicle with a single electric motor producing 449 horsepower and 549 pounds-feet of torque, which is transferred to the road via a single-speed transmission. According to the manufacturer, it can reach 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. The next step up is the all-wheel-drive i7 xDrive60, which BMW claims can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. It is equipped with two electric motors and a system output of 536 horsepower and 549 pounds-feet of torque. The 2024 i7 M70, which can reach 650 horsepower and 749 pounds-feet of torque in just 3.5 seconds, is the ultimate option if you want to go all out. I drove a silver AWD xDrive60 as my test car.
Based on EPA calculations, the i7 xDrive60’s 101.7 kilowatt-hour (usable) lithium-ion battery pack can propel the car up to 300 miles. It can receive up to 195 kilowatts of DC fast charging (therefore avoid using a 350 kW charger at an Electrify America station unless you want to attract unfavorable stares from fellow EV owners). It is quite good that it can be charged at home at up to 11 kW on a 240-volt Level 2 setup with the right circuit.
The i7’s battery pack is notable since it is just 4.3 inches thick, which means that placing it low in the chassis of the 7 Series doesn’t significantly affect interior space, unlike other cars like the Genesis G80, whose battery costs it some headroom. Due to its low center of gravity and proper weight distribution, the i7 feels incredibly heavy—which is understandable given its nearly three-ton weight—but it also handles very well and manoeuvres through turns with reasonable dexterity.
The i7 excels at acceleration, which is a key component of EVs. This is a huge car, so it’s amazing when it accelerates silently from 0 to 60 miles per hour (that’s the BMW time, but after driving it, I have no reason to question it). The more high-end electric vehicles I drive, the more I believe that this is the ideal powerplant for anything pricey and opulent: It makes no strange noises or vibrations, and it is smooth, silent, and able to supply electricity on demand. You can adjust the settings to have it generate noise, but I usually find artificial, piped-in sounds to be bothersome. I would much rather have a peaceful experience because it would add to the sense of pampered, secluded luxury that you are spending a lot of money on.
Even while the i7 has great body control, changing directions reveals just how heavy the car is—that battery pack is not little. The i7 wants to be a touring car, speeding between destinations on highways instead of being thrown around on a two-lane blacktop, as demonstrated by flogging this vehicle over winding roads. It understeers predictably, although you’ll definitely want to drive it more slowly than, example, a BMW M5, considering the car’s weight.
An Other Kind of Opulence
With no motor noise to cover up squeaks, rattles, road noise, wind roar, etc., the rest of the car needs to be even better than before to match the i7’s luxuriously quiet operation. The i7 has an outstanding build quality and is capable of handling the workload. Although I wasn’t expecting fabric upholstery in my test car instead of leather or vinyl, it’s excellent. The tight, luxurious-feeling weave is a pleasant diversion from the plush, leather-like seats seen in nearly every other car on the market that isn’t a basic subcompact. The inside of the i7 is most appreciated for its seating material; other than that, certain areas feel a little flimsy, such as the dash trim, which in my test car was finished in a dull gray color. Its inside is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of decor; the doors and dash have lighted panels that offer a splash of color, but they’re hidden behind some cheap-feeling translucent plastic.
Not that it really helps with the huge rectangular display on top of the dash. Yes, the left gauges can be reconfigured, and the right touchscreen is bright and vivid, but the practice of placing a large, square-off tablet above the dash lacks flair, especially when it’s being done by everyone. It also means that a lot of the i7’s controls, like the crazily intricate and challenging to understand climate control system, are now accessible through the touchscreen. Even when the device was stationary, I had a lot of trouble getting it to do what I wanted it to half the time. Trying to adjust the climate while driving is a major distracting exercise. It took a minute to even figure out how to operate each individual vent because they are touch-sensitive and not very intuitive. BMW is beginning to reach the stage where its goods become difficult to use despite their advanced technological features. As Lucid has amply shown, things don’t have to be this way, but BMW still conflates “luxurious” with “technology-packed.”
My main complaints about the i7’s interior are related to its controls and some materials. In contrast to its primary rival, the EQS, there is an abundance of space in both the front and rear seats. The i7 is an excellent executive vehicle because to its spacious rear, which offers ample head and legroom. The unique packaging of the EQS has neither in large quantities. Although the EQS is completely different from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, an attempt was made by Mercedes to keep the two cars distinct, the i7 is enough similar to the conventionally powered 7 Series sedan for the advantages of that traditional layout to transfer to the electric model. To be honest, the BMW approach appears to be more successful for customers; the i7 has a lot less of a spacecraft vibe, which lowers the entrance hurdle for buyers who don’t want to undergo astronaut training in order to drive an EV.
Technical Astronomy, Cost Astronomy
My test car started at an eye-watering $120,295 and included a $995 destination fee, which is surprisingly fair these days. If German luxury car manufacturers are known for anything, it’s making everything optional so they can charge you more for it. With $31,700 in options for a grand as-tested price of $151,995, this i7 xDrive60 was no exception. Among these choices was the Executive Package, which includes electronic technologies like Active Comfort Drive and Active Roll Stabilization as well as automatic-closing doors and “crystal” lighting. Rear Executive Lounge Seating, which includes a footrest and a reclining rear seat, was also provided. A huge 31-inch screen that folds down from the ceiling completely obscures the driver’s view out the back window. Even though this car is expensive, my test vehicle actually represents mid-range i7 pricing; if you don’t want to play around with the options, you can have a rear-wheel-drive i7 eDrive50 for $106,695, or you can max it up and get a fully loaded, two-tone-painted i7 M70 sedan for more than $207,000.
To be honest, these costs are comparable to those of other luxury EVs that are currently being offered by almost everyone. An Air or EQS will easily set you back six figures, and a Tesla Model S can also be optioned up to that level (although with considerably fewer luxury features). Wealthy consumers looking for a flagship full-size luxury sedan now have an easy option between BMW’s next-generation electric vehicle and conventional gas power.
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