The BMW 7 Series is intended to be the pinnacle of all that BMW does. BMW refers to it as “the best car in the world,” and that’s how it was introduced to us.
The BMW 7 Series debuted in 1977 and has since evolved with increasing sophistication. It still has a saloon body shape, and BMW only offers it in a long wheelbase with this latest seven-generation model. That says a lot about BMW’s plans for this vehicle.
However, it is available in both combustion and fully-electric powertrains, with BMW claiming that there is no compromise: whatever model you choose, it is still 100% BMW 7 Series – it is still “the best.” In Palm Springs, California, we slipped behind the wheel to put the £108,305 car through its paces.
BMW i7 Design
Some car manufacturers hope to attract drivers by providing them with exactly what they expect. BMW appears to be doing this with the i7 from the outside. It’s nearly identical to the combustion 7 Series models, as opposed to the Mercedes EQS and S Class, which would be its natural rivals.
When approaching the BMW i7, it’s difficult to tell which model it is. The 7 Series retains its profile, with a distinctive roofline that some may perceive as squarer than we’re used to from recent electric saloons that prioritize aerodynamics over everything else.
It’s still a big car, but it has an excellent road presence. The kidney grille on the front is not overly large. While the BMW iX and i4 pushed this design, the i7 appears to have scaled it back slightly, giving it a more balanced appearance. On some models, the kidney grille is now surrounded by illumination, which looks fantastic.
The nose of this car reveals a lot about its ambition. The lights are divided, with the daytime running lights incorporating Swarovski crystals sitting on top, and the actual headlights separated and lower down, slightly recessed. This split design is similar to the one used by Rolls-Royce. Nothing beats keeping it in the family.
That’s not the only thing BMW appears to be borrowing from Rolls-Royce: there are two-tone color options, coachlines, and powered doors. This is the first BMW with self-closing doors, which speaks volumes about the car’s marketing strategy.
Overall, this is a conservative design that gives the impression that BMW was conscious of heritage when designing the exterior of this model, avoiding the temptation to go “too sleek.” This design is more daring, and while it isn’t as futuristic, it makes a statement.
A touch of luxury
With a vehicle like the BMW 7 Series, those in the back seat are just as important as those in the front. It’s fitting, then, that the long wheelbase provides plenty of space. It provides ample space for those in the second row, allowing you to sit back and relax.
The BMW 7 Series goes above and beyond the Mercedes EQS in terms of rear-seat luxury, and it’s here that BMW has thrown in a slew of technology, such as the cinema screen and touch controllers in the doors, which we’ll discuss later.
Returning to the powered doors, the exterior of the car now has extra sensors down the side and on the mirrors to prevent you from opening the door into cyclists or high kerbs. When approaching the car, press the button on the door handle to have it open automatically while you step aside. We can imagine the driver or a bellboy doing this, with the umbrella held aloft over a celebrity’s head.
The driver can also use the touchscreen in the center of the car to power close the doors, while the passengers have interior buttons to open the door normally or use power. You can even use your voice to open the doors, but you can’t power them open while the car is moving.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. If you are not clear of the sensors on the outside, the door will not open, forcing you to pull it open manually, pulling against the motors and making whirring noises.
The interior doubling up of buttons to open the door is also a bit excessive. In general, the BMW 7 Series has fewer physical controls, but for the doors, you have a choice of which button to press to get out, and we frequently pressed the wrong one.
The interior fit and finish are undeniably high-quality, with a full range of premium materials, such as cashmere, and ambient lighting throughout – including integration into the glass panoramic roof.
However, there have been some interesting interior design decisions made. Much of this appears to be dictated by the popularity of BMW’s jeweled iDrive controller, which debuted a few years ago. There are new jeweled buttons for the seat controls, as well as a bar set into the dash with a jewel-like theme.
As a result, this angular strip is backlit, contributing to ambient lighting and looking fancy at night but not so much during the day. It also has some other touch controls, but BMW has minimized the air vents to be more subtle, switching to more discrete controls that direct the airflow without you having to move around a collection of plastic vanes.
There’s another oddity here, with a controller to turn the air vents on or off, with 0 at one end and 1 at the other. Was it created by a computer? The reduction in controls also results in other oddities: the previously mentioned seat controls only control the basics, leaving the rest to be controlled by the settings on the central touchscreen.
That’s a recurring theme, and an annoyance, because almost everything you do causes the central display to switch to controls for the button you just pressed. You don’t want to lose your map if you’re following the satnav and someone adjusts their seat.
That annoyance is compounded by the fact that many functions require you to either dig into the display to make changes or use voice – or you may never figure out how to change that function. Hey BMW is a comprehensive system, as we stated previously, and it is – but on the BMW 7 Series, it feels essential to controlling a lot of the car.
Another omission is that the BMW 7 Series lacks chilled cup holders, whereas the BMW X7 has them – do saloon drivers prefer it hot?
Let’s talk about the Theatre Screen
The Theatre Screen is BMW’s interior showpiece. This 31.3-inch 8K display lowers from the ceiling to provide a large display for those in the back to watch movies while driving. It costs $5000/£4000.
It’s powered by Amazon’s Fire TV platform, so when you connect the car to mobile networks, you’ll be able to stream content from all the supported services, including Netflix, Disney+, and, of course, Amazon Prime Video. It’s a fantastic platform, and it’s wonderful to see it here.
It integrates with the car’s sound system, with the option of focusing the audio on the rear, so the driver isn’t forced to sit in the middle of a movie they’re not watching. Alternatively, Bluetooth headphones are a much more practical solution.
The display is wide but not too tall, so finding content that natively fits its 32:9 aspect ratio is difficult, but zooming in content to make better use of the display is simple. Importantly, you can also move the content to the left or right to better align it with the eyes of passengers in those seats.
You can also adjust the screen’s angle and position slightly, but unless you recline your seat, it always feels like you’re looking up to watch it, rather than it falling naturally in front of you. There’s no denying the novelty value, but it may result in a crooked neck: if you sit back and do the entire Snyder Cut, you might need that massage seat afterward.
The display works slightly better when the rear seat is fully reclined, but it raises the question of whether a more traditional display mounted on the back of the front seats would simply provide a better viewing angle. You have the option to choose between the two.
When folded, the screen sits flat against the roof, so if you have a panoramic sunroof, it literally has a TV spanning it, which appears to be design dissonance. The other factor here is that BMW hasn’t included a digital rearview mirror on the 7 Series, so when the Theatre Screen is activated, you can’t see out the back of the car, which seems odd for a car this technologically advanced.
To put that aside, the ability to control functions from the rear of the vehicle is quite clever. A touch display built into the door allows you to control your seat, set themes, and control your entertainment. It’s nice and techy, simple to use, and quite slick.
Set all of the technology to one side, and the back of the car is incredibly comfortable: there’s plenty of space to kick back and relax while traveling in comfort.
The driver’s seat
When you sit in the driver’s seat of a BMW 7 Series, there is little difference between the i7 and the combustion versions. It looks and feels the same, with BMW aiming for consistency regardless of the engine.
It is still a serious driver’s car, with the curved display that debuted in the BMW iX presenting all digital information across a single seamless display running from behind the steering wheel to the center of the car. This is aided by AR navigation, which can intervene to make it clear where you should be going by superimposing instructions over a live feed from the camera.
The curved display has 12.3-inches for the driver and 14.9-inches for the main central display, and it runs BMW Operating System 8.0, which debuted on the BMW iX and is now being rolled out across new launches. Read also to learn about how an automobile works: How Do Electric Cars Work?
As previously stated, with fewer buttons and an explosion of options, losing your map view to another element of control in the car is common, and it appears that things could be better utilized, perhaps with a split screen option when driving so the driver still has that visual guide when the passenger starts fiddling with other settings.
The heads-up display (HUD) is extremely useful in this situation, allowing the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road rather than constantly looking at the larger screen.
This is also significant because the BMW i7 introduces a new level of driver assistance, which we call level 2+. This enables hands-free driving where it is legal, which is currently in the United States, and we believe it will soon be available in Germany and then China.
This brings the BMW 7 Series closer to self-driving, and it’s a joy to drive. We’ve all grown accustomed to the advantages of adaptive cruise control with steering assistance, but this feels like the next step. For many, however, you’ll need to keep an eye on local regulations and keep your hands on the wheel until things change.
To use the system, simply press the buttons on the steering wheel controls to engage Assist Plus, and green illumination will indicate that it is operational. There has never been a more relaxing way to travel on the highway – but it isn’t all about hands-free driving. Hopefully, many people will buy this car because it is also fun to drive.
This model has a number of other assistance features, including predictive breaking. This felt very natural to us, with the car slowing down as you approach traffic lights, providing a reassuring experience.
As previously stated, most buttons have been reduced, but the iDrive controls remain largely unchanged from previous BMW models. This may reduce the number of touches required on the screen (which is susceptible to fingerprint smears), while there is also a full range of My Modes, which pairs themes with sound and environmental changes in the car. It again relies on the idea of the car is more of a lounge than a vehicle.
See also; 2022 Audi A8 Interior and Cargo Review
Power, range, and performance
As with any electric vehicle, you’re probably most concerned with range and performance.
The BMW i7 has a 101.7kWh battery, which is large by industry standards. (For comparison, the Mercedes EQS has a 108.4kWh battery.) Importantly, this battery is made with green energy and can support charging rates of up to 195kW. On a charger, this will get you 112 miles in about 10 minutes.
BMW claims that the range from a full charge is between 360 and 387 miles. The actual range you achieve will vary depending on a variety of factors, including driving style, weather, and factors such as how frequently you use the air conditioning. The latter would undoubtedly have had an effect on the averages we achieved while driving in southern California, giving us closer to 300 miles of range.
However, there is plenty of power, with a front 190kW motor and a rear 230kW motor for a combined 400kW power – approximately 544hp. The torque is 745Nm and delivered instantly, with a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds. If you want to go faster, you’ll have to wait for the i7 xDrive M70, which boosts power to 600hp and reduces acceleration time to under 4 seconds.
This isn’t about breaking the speed limit. The BMW i7 is a joy to drive on the open road, and having driven the 7 Series with a combustion engine, there’s little difference in the drive other than the exhaust note. Of course, Hans Zimmer sounds can be piped into the i7, but we prefer the serenity of the refined ride.
But it’s the i7’s dynamics that really stand out. This is a big car, but it enjoys driving and is equally at home in the bends as it is on the highway. That is the lasting impression of the BMW i7 – it simply feels like a great car to drive.
Conclusion on BMW i7
The 7 Series is the pinnacle of BMW’s lineup, with the i7 offering a fully electric powertrain, so you can have all the benefits of the 7, plus the benefits of electric. This is a smooth operator, enjoyable to drive, and equipped with cutting-edge technology to get you where you need to go as comfortably as possible. The exterior is defined by a bold yet traditional design, while the interior provides space to relax as well as unique offerings for those in the back, such as the Theatre Screen. There is no lack of elegance, but the controls funneled through that display could be better optimized.