Whether it was the universally acclaimed E38 that Jason Statham car-chased to stardom on the silver screen or the Bangle-penned E65 (offered with the first-ever production direct-injection V12), the BMW 7 Series has never shied away from making a statement, and this latest seventh-generation model is certainly no exception.
The massive kidneys and split headlight design (shared with the top-of-the-line X7 SUV and the coming-soon ultra-luxury XM) present an imposing image for the company’s flagship car, and much ink has already been spilled on its unique front end. The styling, however, is only a small part of what makes this seventh-generation model so remarkable; the real watershed moment for BMW is the new i7, which marks the first time BMW has fully electrified its flagship luxury sedan.
The i7 is in a unique position versus the clean-sheet EVs it competes against; it needs to appeal both to BEV enthusiasts as a worthy competitor to the Mercedes-Benz EQS, Lucid Air, and Tesla Model S, while also convincing longtime 7 Series buyers that making the move from internal combustion to electrification will be worth it. Fortunately, underneath that bold sheet metal are the same bonafides that have kept buyers coming back for 46 years. BMW has done a fantastic job of bringing that performance and opulent comfort to the EV era.
|Quick Stats||2023 BMW i7 xDrive60|
|Motor:||Two Synchronous Induction Motor|
|Output:||544 Horsepower / 549 Pound-Feet|
|Battery:||101.7 Kilowatt-Hours Lithium-Ion|
|EV Range:||310 Miles (EPA)/388 miles (WLTP)|
Gallery: 2023 BMW i7: First Drive
Stats Aren’t The Whole Story
The i7 is not a stat-sheet darling. A pair of synchronous induction motors at the front and rear pump out a combined maximum of 544 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, resulting in a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 149 miles an hour. While definitely quick, that trails quite a few competitors, with the Lucid Air and the Tesla Model S both clocking in more horsepower and faster acceleration in their cheaper base models. Speed demons with six figures in checking may want to look elsewhere.
Moving past raw power, though, the i7 makes its case more clearly. Those induction motors are 93 percent efficient, and the lack of rare-earth magnets means that the i7 won’t be as beholden to the materials shortages that have stymied other manufacturers. Those motors are also bundled directly into their control modules and single-speed transmissions as one piece, helping to reduce weight.
Under the floor of the new i7 resides a 101.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack rated by the EPA for 310 miles of range, which puts it roughly midpack in its class. That battery is fed by a 400-volt underlying architecture, although BMW has taken pains to ensure the system still recharges rapidly, at up to 195 kilowatts using a DC charger. That allows the i7 to go from 10 to 80 percent state of charge in 34 minutes – impressive, but again, no record-setter.
Just as with the motor, however, battery performance is more than what shows on paper. The i7 features predictive thermal management that helps preserve the overall life of the battery pack; when the i7’s nav system is set to a nearby fast charger, it automatically heats or cools the battery for the most efficient charging. The batteries stay efficient at a wide range of temperatures, too; BMW targeted 70 to 85 percent of its rated 310-mile range to still be usable in the real world at temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
In my real-world testing, I found that the battery range rating was, if anything, conservative; the massively efficient regenerative braking (which routes all power back to the batteries at a deceleration of up to .22 G) seemed to add a mile of range for every quarter-mile of downhill coasting. Although the first drive wasn’t quite long enough to fully gauge its performance all the way down to 0 percent charge, I feel confident saying i7 buyers will find all 310 EPA miles – potentially more – residing in the i7’s battery pack.
The i7 achieves this overall efficiency despite its 5,917-pound curb weight by putting a heavy focus on aerodynamics. The undercarriage is streamlined, front vents are optimized for low-drag airflow across the lightweight wheels, and even that massive pair of kidney grilles at the front feature active shutters that only open when cooling is needed. The whole car has a coefficient of drag of just .24, which is excellent for something with such monolithic styling.
The Imposing Looks Are Worth It
But wow, that styling works once you get rid of the chrome. I realized this when I saw two different specs in front of me: The traditional “Pure Excellence” package, with chrome trim framing its massive kidney grilles and stately silver paint covering its sharply-drawn beltlines, and the downright sinister all-black M-Sport. I walked straight up to the Frozen Deep Grey Metallic model and never looked back.
The black elements of the M-Sport package, the 21-inch wheels, the optional Swarovski crystal-imbued running lights, all combined with the satin paint, give the 212-inch-long sedan the gravitas it deserves. Sure, the Mercedes EQS has a lower drag coefficient (at .20), but it also looks like a polished egg designed by computers. This i7 with its black paint and carbon interior accents would look right at home in the latest Statham gun-fu flick, and I’ll take the slight aerodynamic hindrance in exchange for some attitude.
This focus on style carries through the car, as well, with BMW giving the i7 optional fully automatic doors; push a button on the touchscreen, the dash, or your phone, and the doors of your choice will robotically swing open and shut at your beck and call. (A set of sensors will keep them from striking anything nearby, so no mechanically automated door dings here.)
It might seem like an extravagant feature (I assure you, it is), but with a hulking 126.0-inch wheelbase, the i7's doors are so massive and swing so far open, they're awkward to close manually. Given the overall demeanor of the 7 Series, though, a push-button door-slam fits the character of the car—especially in my full-evil spec—perfectly.
A 7 To The Core
Once inside, the i7 gets even more compelling for one reason: It’s a 7 Series. Whether equipped with cashmere and open-pore wood or leather and carbon fiber, the cabin of the i7 is downright sublime in traditional BMW flagship fashion, with fantastic material choices and phenomenally comfortable seating.
In the driver’s seat, that BMW ethos was supremely evident with the car in motion. The i7 was supremely relaxed in city driving. In addition to traditional 7 Series comfort and handling, the i7 features adaptive regenerative deceleration that uses a mixture of map data and sensor input to predictively increase or decrease regenerative braking based on upcoming stop signs, sharp corners, or traffic ahead.
Normal one-pedal driving can still be switched on for EV drivers that enjoy it, but I found the adaptive system so unobtrusive and smooth I usually left it on. On the highway, BMW’s fully automated Level 2 cruise control allowed for even more relaxed hands-free driving.
This ethos could be found in spades in the back seat, as well; my test car had the optional cinema package, which offers a 31.0-inch 8K resolution touchscreen that folds down from the ceiling, along with a litany of surround-sound speakers and subwoofers to accompany it. BMW calls it the Theatre Screen, and with the automatic window shades up and the Bowers and Wilkins speakers shaking my headrest, that seemed like an accurate name.
In the front, the tech underpinning the i7 is BMW’s iDrive 8. The slickly designed newest version of BMW’s in-house operating system fills the curved touchscreen dash display and offers a variety of modes that change the appearance and style of the instrumentation. A set of buttons in the center console allows quick navigation between some key features, although sadly, climate control is not one of them; those controls stay entirely on the infotainment screen. The traditional BMW iDrive click-wheel remains if you don’t want fingerprints on the 14.9-inch center touchscreen. Thankfully, whichever way you use it, iDrive 8 remains fantastically responsive with seamless transitions between screens and tasteful graphics in every mode.
But relaxing isn’t the only point of a 7 Series. A BMW flagship sedan should always remain at heart a driver’s car, and the i7 delivers on that, too. A quick tap into Sport Mode crouches the standard air-ride suspension a few millimeters lower, tightens up the steering response, hugs your sides a little tighter with the adjustable bolstering, and heightens the throttle sensitivity.
On a 0-60 launch with the “boost mode” engaged, the i7 accelerated in a violently fun, typically EV way. But it was more shocking when I threw the nearly 6,000-pound behemoth into a corner and it remained perfectly flat, while exiting at full-throttle with nearly perfect poise. It did this in part because my test car had optional active roll control – which uses electric motors to literally fight the forces of gravity and inertia in corners – and in part because the electric motors do a phenomenal job of routing all 553 pound-feet of torque exactly where it needs to go.
While the i7’s paper performance is weaker than some competitors, it offers real-world performance I found more than sufficient. BMW’s long history with the 7 Series, combined with its attention to battery longevity, regenerative performance, and motor sustainability will all reassure buyers who remain skeptical of more recent startups, and its driving dynamics will convince ICE 7 Series devotees that EVs can still be plenty fun.
Above all, the i7 puts a sharp focus on traditional opulent luxury that I believe hasn’t been matched in the segment, and it pairs that with styling that I find more striking – and intimidating – than nearly any of its polished egg–styled competitors.
2023 BMW i7 xDrive60