The BMW i7, the marque’s inaugural fully electric sedan, has a classic silhouette, unconventional details, and offers a remarkable seating experience.
The “crème de la crème” of vehicles often prioritise comfort for the passengers over the driver. Signs of this focus on passenger comfort include partition screens, a feature favoured by Rolls-Royce, and plush, reclining seats that are akin to first-class flight seats – a feature seen in Maybachs and Bentleys, a significant step up from the ordinary bench seat. The new BMW i7 differs by featuring the most sizable rear screen ever seen in a production car.
The BMW i7 represents another first for the Bavarian automaker. It is the initial instance of an all-electric powertrain housed within a traditional sedan body. Until the introduction of the i7, BMW had mainly focused its electric efforts on SUVs and the i4 ‘Gran Coupé’. However, the uniqueness of the i7 will soon be shared, given the recent announcement of the upcoming i5 sedan.
The 7-Series has been the brand’s flagship since its introduction in 1977. Competing with the well-established S-Class from Mercedes, the 7-Series has adopted a similar top-down tech cascade strategy, where the flagship models premier new innovations before they gradually infiltrate the rest of the lineup. In the case of BMW, the first-ever 7-Series showcased cutting-edge features like an onboard computer, anti-lock brakes, and even a dictaphone.
Fast-forward seven generations, and the 7-Series finds itself at a crossroads. Like Mercedes, which offers both a hybrid S-Class and an all-electric EQS, BMW also believes the chauffeured classes are not quite ready for a full transition to electric vehicles. Unlike Mercedes, BMW has chosen to produce the i7 alongside an almost identical ‘standard’ hybrid vehicle.
In a delightful departure from the norm, the i7 stands out with its fusion of EV and ICE design elements, creating a truly unique aesthetic that is particularly noticeable in its optional two-tone paintwork. BMW’s design philosophy often embraces an element of audacity, a strategy that consistently ushers in a new era of design as tastes transform and the avant-garde becomes the norm. The unconventional forms and panel alignments that lent such a distinctive look to the i3 and i8 have been artfully carried into the i7, merging seamlessly with more traditional proportions to craft a vehicle that genuinely stands out.
Contrarily, BMW’s current interior design approach hits the mark, although we could use more tactile buttons. The emphasis is on patterns and textures, with everything from dashboard inlays to speaker grilles offering a visually pleasing and unique feel. The lighting and materials used, including premium cloth as an alternative to leather, create a cosy atmosphere that isn’t overly screen-dominated.
Electronics still perform a majority of the work, particularly in the multitude of lighting modes that deliver what BMW describes as a ‘luxurious lounge atmosphere’. In practical terms, this refers to dynamic graphics on the central screen, subtle ambient lighting, and concealed LEDs casting a range of colours from beneath almost every surface, including the crystalline dashboard inserts and the patterned roof glass.
The i7’s crowning glory is the optional ‘Theatre Screen’, a fold-down 31.3in widescreen display for rear passengers. Standard in the Excellence Pro and M Sport Pro models, it’s also available as a £4,400 add-on throughout the i7 range.
With 8k resolution and touch controls, the screen has an HDMI input for computers, game consoles, and Apple TV, and includes Amazon’s Fire TV. Each passenger has a touchscreen in the rear door to navigate this digital realm. When you turn on the system, a short burst of Hans Zimmer’s signature cinematic grandeur plays as the rear blinds and the giant screen move synchronously.
Arles through BMW: The Artful Journey
An event not to be missed under any circumstances every summer, the Rencontres d’Arles…
The i7’s plethora of tech can be overwhelming, but as you get accustomed to the car, you’ll find many tasks easier to execute via voice commands than through the screens, like ‘close the blinds’ or ‘lower the screen’. The i7 is a substantial vehicle, measuring 5.4m in length. Therefore, its array of sensors, self-parking systems, and optional four-wheel steering are appreciated features. The size also allows for a large battery pack, giving an official range of between 360 and 387 miles, depending on the specification, translating into a ralistic range of 300 miles, alleviating range anxiety for all but the most extended trips.
The powertrain generates 400kW (544hp), enabling a sprint to 60mph in under five seconds, with all-wheel drive ensuring stability. The i7 M70 variant gets a treatment from BMW’s M Sport Division, offering more responsive steering and reducing the sprint time.
“BMW’s famed motto, ‘the ultimate driving machine’, acquires a fresh interpretation in this distinguished sector dedicated to chauffeured comfort. The whisper-quiet operation and extraordinarily smooth ride of the i7 craft a sublime journey, seemingly making time evaporate. Your sole conundrum might be deciding what to entertain yourself with next.
In conclusion, the BMW i7 marks a prominent stride in the domain of luxury electric vehicles. It amalgamates traditional design aspects with groundbreaking and unconventional features, distinguishing itself from its competitors. While the i7 may not seize immediate acclaim for its aesthetic, it compensates splendidly with its cutting-edge technology and premium comfort. This innovative vehicle paves the way for the future of electric luxury motoring, offering a tranquil, seamless driving experience that insulates you from the hubbub of the outside world. The future is indeed here, and it sparkles with undeniable excitement.”