BMW i7 review
You’ll either love or loathe the styling, but the BMW i7 is a supremely comfortable and capable luxury EV
BMW’s decision to offer both hybrid and pure EV versions of the 7 Series means there’s a version for all tastes. The electric i7 is a thoroughly modern take on the traditional luxury limousine, and is effectively the flagship of the range, prioritising supreme comfort and quietness, and packed with advanced technology – most of which works very well indeed. The styling is certainly bold, and might be too aggressive and obvious for some, yet there’s no denying that BMW has created a fine luxury car.
Our choice: BMW i7 xDrive60 M Sport
About the BMW i7
BMW may well have embraced the future with its new 7 Series, but it’s hedging its bets for now with both petrol-hybrid and fully electric models available. It’s the latter model – known as the i7 – we’re concerned with here, which will come in three main flavours. There’s an entry-level eDrive50 with 449bhp, the more powerful, four-wheel drive xDrive60 with 537bhp, and the xDrive M70 that constitutes the performance offering in the range, delivering 650bhp. Only the xDrive60 has been launched so far, so that’s the model we’ll concentrate on.
In the UK, there are two main trim levels: Excellence, which is the more comfort/luxury orientated trim, and the familiar M Sport, which as the name suggests is on the sportier side and features bigger wheels and racier styling. Both of these trims can be upgraded to ‘Pro’ specification, at a cost of just under £18,000, which includes the vast majority of the options available for the standard car – as you’d expect at that price.
BMW’s 7 Series has always been a fundamentally sportier take on the luxury limousine market, particularly when compared to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but the new i7 looks to combine comfort and driver appeal like no 7 Series before it. Mercedes-Benz’s EV challenger in this market segment is the EQS, which comes in standard guise and with a performance AMG variant. There are also plug-in hybrid versions of the more traditional S-Class. So far, Audi only offers a hybrid version of its A8 limousine, with no pure EV alternative.
Electric motor, performance & drive
The i7 may weigh a hefty 2.7 tonnes and have a 5.4-metre-long body, but the optional rear-wheel-steering system helps to make it far more agile than might be expected, with a noticeable pivoting feeling in tighter turns as the back wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts. This also drastically reduces the turning circle, making for easier low-speed manoeuvres. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in tandem with the fronts to aid stability.
Despite the use of this system and a variable-ratio steering set-up, it’s easy to place the i7’s vast front end in corners. There’s very little in the way of feedback from the road surface, but that’s not really an issue in a car such as this one, and in any case, the weighting of the power assistance is well-judged. What’s most noticeable is the lack of body roll: the i7 stays remarkably flat through corners, although it’s hard to tell how much of this can be attributed to the twin-chamber air suspension, and how much is down to the optional 48-volt-powered active anti-roll bars.
As is often the case with EVs, the battery pack sits nice and low in the car, giving a low centre of gravity, which helps negate some of the downsides of the i7’s weight.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
Whilst the i7 feels very comfort-focused, it can still provide a thrilling drive when you’re in the mood. The xDrive60 has 536bhp and 745Nm of torque that’s delivered instantly, ensuring that the dual-motor EV is fast despite its bulk, sprinting from 0-62mph in 4.7-seconds. In fact, it feels even faster than that figure suggests, such is the punch in the back when the accelerator is pressed down. The forthcoming i7 M70 will no doubt be extremely rapid indeed, but the xDrive60 will prove more than quick enough for most. It’s also possible to accompany the acceleration with sci-fi-like noise courtesy of film composer Hans Zimmer, which suits the i7 remarkably well.
Range, charging & running costs
The i7 features a 101.7kWh battery pack which, according to the WLTP test cycle, provides between 366 to 388 miles of range, depending on spec and wheel size. However, we only managed a 2.6 miles per kWh return from the i7 when we tested it, which would see it struggle to get to within even 100 miles of the car's official range. Although the situation wasn’t helped by our test being in cold weather. Judging by our previous experiences with the i7, three miles per kWh should be within reach, and that would provide a fully-charged range of around 300 miles.
The Combined Charging Unit in the BMW i7 xDrive60 allows AC charging at a rate of up to 11 kW, while DC power can be taken on board at a rate of up to 195 kW. This allows 106 miles (WLTP) of range to be added in just ten minutes if you use a suitably fast ultra-rapid charger.
One area where the i7 really scores? It qualifies for the 2 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band, compared to say, an Audi A8 55 TDi S-Line, which falls into the 37 per cent bracket, meaning a huge difference in the amount of tax payable. It’s also exempt from road tax (VED) and the London Congestion Charge, unlike more traditionally-powered limousine options. If you’re running the car as a business, that’s a very big deal.
All i7 models fall into the highest insurance category, group 50. However that's almost expected at this price point, as the Mercedes-Benz EQS also sits in group 50.
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The BMW i7 looks set to retain anywhere from 47-52 per cent of its OTR price after three years and 36,000 miles, which compares favourably with a ‘conventional’ hybrid 7 Series, but is slightly less than achieved by the Mercedes-Benz EQS (roughly 55 per cent depending on the model variant).
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Interior, design & technology
Any discussion of the i7’s interior has to start with the basic task of opening the door. The i7 has the option of automatic doors, but we’ve found their operation to be a little unreliable at times. On the inside of the back doors, there are two small touchpads that rear-seat passengers must use for myriad functions including climate control and seating position. While easy enough to navigate, they could do with being a little more responsive.
Occupants enjoy a lot of space in the rear of the cabin, helped by the fact that the i7 is even bigger than the previous-generation ‘G12’ long-wheelbase 7 Series. The only downside is a broad transmission tunnel running through the middle – inevitable given this platform is shared with the ICE-powered 7 Series. Up front, there’s the ‘BMW Interaction Bar’ spanning the dashboard and onto the inner door panels, which serves three roles. Firstly, it displays fancy ambient lighting graphics based on different themes, such as ‘efficiency’ and ‘sport’. Secondly, it can provide visual feedback for safety reasons (a proximity warning, for example). Thirdly, it also acts as a surface for come controls, including the front and rear window demisting buttons.
You’ll find the hazard light button in the middle, but ideally it would be elsewhere – it requires a surprisingly hard push to engage or disengage, causing the plastic lens of the Interaction Bar to creak. It’s one of the few areas where we can question the quality of the car; in the main, the i7 feels like a very well made and premium offering.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The infotainment system of the new BMW i7 is dominated by the presence of the Theatre Screen, fitted as standard on Excellence Pro and M Sport Pro models. It’s a giant, 31.3-inch screen with 8K resolution that spans partway across the rear passenger compartment, and a £4,400 option on regular i7 variants.
We were underwhelmed by the screen, however, because there isn’t much content you can run on it that can take advantage of the width. Beyond BMW’s own demo videos, most TV series and films will have to be watched with massive black bars on either side, meaning each rear-seat passenger will need to turn their heads a fair way to see the content properly.
If you look straight ahead, the bezel of the screen unit itself is directly in your eye line. Two smaller screens may look less impressive but are far more practical, so you might be better off choosing the far cheaper option of tablet holders.
You can also upgrade to the Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, which is available either in the Technology Plus pack (£5,775) or – wait for it – the £30,500 Ultimate Pack. The list of features to this hi-fi upgrade is hugely impressive, with a sound quality to match.
Otherwise, there’s every piece of modern connectivity and functionality you would expect from a premium manufacturer’s flagship model.
Practicality, comfort & boot space
It’s large and spacious and very comfortable – and can be made all the more so with the addition of either the Rear Comfort Pack or the Executive Pack, the latter turning the i7 into something akin to a living room.
The i7 is a large car at 5,391mm long, 1,950mm wide and 1,544mm tall. To put it into perspective, that compares with a Mercedes EQS at 5,216mm, 1,926mm and 1,512mm. Step down a class, and the current BMW 5 series measures 5,060mm, 1,900mm and 1,500mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The BMW i7 is a supremely comfortable place in which to spend time. For rear seat passengers, the experience can be made all the more lavish by specifying either the £5,250 Rear Comfort Pack or the £11,025 Executive Pack. The former brings heated, massaging and multi-functional rear seats, whereas the latter provides the full luxury experience: executive lounge seating turns the i7 into a four-seater, with reclining seats and the ability to move the front passenger seat out of the way.
With 500 litres of boot space, the BMW i7 should be more than capable of carrying the sort of luggage required by a luxury limousine.
Reliability & safety
The BMW i7 is too new to generate much in the way of reliability data. Having said that, BMW struggled to make much of an impact in our Driver Power ownership satisfaction survey, with only the now-discontinued i3 scoring highly. The i7 hasn’t been given an Euro NCAP rating yet either, but with a very comprehensive complement of driver assistance and safety technology, it should score very highly.
The i7 benefits from a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, with the battery receiving its own eight-year/100,000-miles warranty.
BMW offers an inclusive service programme, which covers a minimum of the first four years of the car’s life for an upfront contribution. In addition, servicing can be paid for by a monthly fee, which in the case of the i7 is projected to be £17.99 per month.