New BMW i7: electric flagship brings out the tech big guns

Published: 20 April 2022

► Bold new BMW i7 EV revealed
► It’s a glowing, rolling cinema!
► Deliveries start in December 2022

Mic drop! BMW’s hitting its closest rivals where it hurts with this: the new, electric i7 limo. It’s the brand’s all-new executive saloon that acts as a front-running rival to the Mercedes EQS, and has been revealed at the same time as the all-new 7-series.

And yes, as you might have noticed, it’s rather bold to look at. Continuing its recent theme of big grilles and shallow headlights started by the X7 facelift, the new i7 flies in the face of subtlety. But BMW’s convinced it’s got the right mix of tech, design and performance to hit one of its oldest rivals where it hurts.

Bold is an understatement…

Maybe so, but don’t we all expect this from BMW at this point? As mentioned before, the new look at the front incorporates a massive, (optionally) glowing grille flanked by two-tier matrix LED headlights. The upper lights act as the DRLs and indicators and are bejewelled with Swarovski crystals, while the lower deck is for the main headlight beams.

i7 glowing grille

Beyond the brash front end, though, the i7 is relatively plain down each side and features a rear end that’s beset with bulges, creases and a chrome strip sitting between the rear light clusters. As you’d expect, there’s no exhaust here. It’s also worth noting that the i7 and its petrol counterpart will only have one wheelbase; ‘previous 7-series buyers in most markets almost always bought the long-wheelbase version,’ says vice president for engineering car products, Robert Kahlenberg – only Europe’s sales split between short- and long-wheelbase versions skewed more towards the shorter version.

i7 rear static

For the i7 specifically (comparing it to the 7-series), there’s an i badge on the grille, and decorative trim pieces are in the blue colour usually expected from the brand. Otherwise, though, there is little to distinguish an i7 from its combustion engine and plug-in hybrid versions.

On the customisation front, as well as the usual suite of paint colours and wheel choices, i7 buyers can specify two-tone paint colours. 

Is the interior less wild?

Yes, but by no means less interesting. There are many elements from the iX in here, including the two-spoke steering wheel, curved display and crystal elements like the seat adjusters and the iDrive controller. And, much like the iX, the materials on offer here are top notch, including cashmere wool fabrics as well as BMW’s trad Merino leathers.

i7 interior

But the biggest distinguishing feature on the dashboard is the ‘Interaction Bar’ – a backlit, glass-like panel that stretches the width of the entire dashboard, incorporating the few remaining physical switches. And even then, most aren’t physical anyway, as BMW opts for a pressure pad-like effect. The ambient lighting can change colour depending on your own settings, and it reacts to inputs and what’s going on around it with various animations. Among those animations, the central area of the bar will flash when you’re being called, for example.

i7 interaction bar

As well as BMW’s latest iDrive OS8 operating system, which is slick and easy to navigate, the i7 features tech like automatic doors that open and close with a button press and four-zone climate control. Elsewhere, you can spec a Bowers and Wilkins diamond audio system with illuminated tweeters, as well as an ‘executive lounge’ package that features a reclining rear seat with footrest – BMW says you can achieve a torso angle of 42.5º when it’s fully deployed, but the biggest deal is the option of your own private cinema.

There’s a cinema in it?!

Indeed there is. BMW first teased this at the time of the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show, hinting that it would make its way onto a production car soon. Now it’s made it.

i7 theatre screen

The tech is called BMW Theatre Screen, and it comprises a 31.3-inch 8K touchscreen display that folds into the ceiling when not in use with Amazon’s Fire TV built in. But it’s not just a big screen; there are touchscreen remotes in the door panels, a 655-watt, 18-speaker Bowers and Wilkins surround sound audio system and there’s a blackout curtain for the rear window. You can even include ‘seat exciters’ – points within the seat that vibrate and pulse with loud sounds.

i7 theatre screen controls

We’ve seen it in action, and it’s thoroughly impressive, though we’re curious how it’ll work on the move with those that regularly suffer from travel sickness. BMW says it’s been crash tested, where the g-forces of the crash will make the screen fold away of its own accord, and Kahlenberg isn’t convinced drivers will ever need a digital rear-view mirror.

Give me some i7 performance specs

One version of the all-electric i7 has been announced for now: the xDrive60. It features a 101.7kWh battery pack and, given it’s marked as an xDrive model, an e-motor on each axle for electric all-wheel drive and a range of 388 miles. Each i7 features 11kW AC and 195kW DC charging capabilities, with BMW saying the latter will add 106 miles of range in 10 minutes.

As for performance, BMW says there’s 537bhp and 550lb ft on tap, making the i7 xDrive60 good for a 4.7-sec sprint to 62mph and a top speed of 149mph. Much like many other of BMW’s EVs, the i7 emits sounds developed by composer Hans Zimmer. You can pick from two – one named ‘relax’, which sounds like the music you hear in a health spa, and the other named ‘expressive’ which, to us, sounds like a remixed air raid siren.

i7 nose

After that, BMW has confirmed that an i7 M70 will go on sale in 2023, with performance clocking in at 651bhp. Yowzers.

All of this battery and e-motor tech comes from the same wheelhouse as the iX, including BMW’s fifth-generation motors that don’t use rare earths and battery packs that are manufactured using renewable energy.

BMW i7: price and release date

BMW says deliveries will start in December 2022 in the UK, with prices for the i7 starting from £107,400. Of course, if the electric i7 isn’t for you, BMW’s bringing over two PHEV variants of the new 7-series to the UK in early 2023.

Read our BMW reviews

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

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