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BMW i7 xDrive60 Review

The BMW i7 is the brand’s first all-electric 7 Series, with an official electric driving range of up to 387 miles, it’s crammed with the latest technology, and its party trick is the Theatre Screen for rear seat occupants.

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  • BMW_i7_Chargecurve_Fastned
Green Car Guide Rating: 9/10

Key stats

  • Model/Engine size:   BMW i7 xDrive60 Excellence 7 Series
  • Fuel:   Electric
  • Electric driving range (WLTP): 365.8 – 387.5 miles
  • Maximum rapid charging rate:   195kW

Summary

  • Official electric range of up to 387 miles
  • Very refined for long motorway journeys
  • Lots of the latest technology
  • Optional Theatre Screen for rear seat occupants

Background

The BMW 7 Series was traditionally always the driver’s car choice compared to its arch-rival, the Mercedes S-Class. The 7 Series is now fully electric for the first time in the form of the i7, and it features lots of the latest technology, so is the latest iteration of the 7 Series a success?

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Design & Engineering

Let’s start with the engineering. The BMW i7 has fifth-generation BMW eDrive technology comprised of a 101.7kWh battery (usable capacity), a 313hp electric motor at the rear and a 258hp electric motor at the front, giving a total system power output of 544hp and 745Nm of torque, as well as delivering electric all-wheel drive. The electric motors have no rare-earth metals used in their rotors.

The i7 is big: it’s only available in long-wheelbase form, resulting in it being 5,391mm in length, which is 130mm more than the previous model. This means that there’s lots of space for rear-seat occupants, and a 500-litre boot, with a compartment underneath it to store the charging cables. There’s no engine, but there’s a massive bonnet, which the customer can’t open, so we’re wondering what’s underneath it apart from some electronic controls…

The i7’s party trick is its Theatre Screen – a £4,000 option. Rear seat passengers have an iPhone-like 5.5-inch colour touchscreen in the door panels on either side which gives them a number of controls, including the ability to automatically lower the 31.3-inch 8K touchscreen from the ceiling. This operation is accompanied by a soundtrack from Hans Zimmer (who is also responsible for the i7’s synthesised engine noise) which is played through the Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system. There’s also an option of ‘4D audio’ in the seat backrests. Sunblinds in the rear window, rear side windows and sunroof also close automatically when the screen is lowered.

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You can log in to your Amazon account and play UHD movies on the screen, either through speakers or by using headphones. All very impressive, but the driver’s view from the rear-view mirror is completely blocked when the screen is down – we expected that the mirror would instead switch to a digital rear view image from a camera.

If you spend all your time in the rear of the i7 watching movies then you might not see much of the exterior of the car. In which case you might not regularly be exposed to the massive grille at the front of the i7, which is even illuminated (referred to as “Iconic Glow” by BMW) when you unlock the car at night, along with the top row of two sets of lights. There’s a huge grille even though electric cars don’t need a grille; in contrast, Mercedes has gone for the aerodynamic approach with the front end of the EQS, whereas BMW has gone for the Rolls-Royce approach of a massive design element evoking memories of a radiator from a car with an internal combustion engine.

Design is a subjective thing so we asked ten other people for their views on the front-end styling of the i7. One person liked it, but the other nine people’s verdicts could be summarised by saying that the i7 “isn’t the prettiest BMW” in varying degrees of often colourful language. BMW says that the front-end design, developed specifically for BMW’s luxury models, “enables clear differentiation from the brand’s other models”.

The BMW i7 has a useful towing capacity of 2,000 kg.

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BMW i7 Driving Experience

Key visual features of BMWs used to be twin circular headlamps, two round dials in the driver’s instrument display, and a thick-rimmed M Sport steering wheel. Aside from the afore-mentioned front end, the main interior visual feature of the i7 is now the large central touchscreen, and the new ‘Interaction Bar’, which is a strip of plastic spanning the width of the dashboard and even extending into the door trims.

The 14.9-inch central touchscreen, the Interaction Bar, and the 12.3-inch driver’s instrument display all feature certain designs and accompanying colours which can be changed by selecting ‘My Modes’. Over recent years BMWs have had excellent user-friendly buttons to select driving modes of Eco, Comfort or Sport, but not any more. The i7 now combines drive modes and interior design and lighting choices in the ‘My Modes’ options of Personal, Sport, Efficient, Expressive, Relax, Theatre and Digital Art.

Efficient and Sport are hopefully self-explanatory. Sport provides an electronic futuristic sporty soundtrack (‘BMW IconicSounds Electric’) courtesy of Hans Zimmer, which is particularly evident under acceleration, as well as the two screens and Interaction Bar gaining a red and blue design. It’s also possible to access a range of further controls to adjust Sport settings for individual items such as chassis and steering etc.

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What may not be as clear is what the other My Modes are. What is obvious is that Expressive provides a yellow and blue design for the screens and bar, and produces an interesting noise when accelerating, which sounds like huge chunks of metal grinding together. Digital Art gives an arty design theme to the screens and bar, and Relax provides a more chilled out appearance.

It’s interesting that the designers of the i7 have decided that different interior colours and designs are more important than clear access to different drive modes. We’re not sure why you can’t have the good old drive mode controls of Comfort, Eco and Sport, and then separate controls for interior design and lighting effects. As it is, it’s not clear what powertrain changes you get with each My Mode other than Efficient and Sport; the danger is that the interior controls have all become quite complicated, presumably due to fashion overriding user-friendliness.

Another issue is that when you select a mode, you’re left with just a design on the central touchscreen – you have to press a button such as Navigation to get any useful information back on the screen.

There’s also a head-up display, which is excellent, providing clear information such as for navigation, but if you select Sport mode the navigation information bizarrely disappears from the head-up display.

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But what about the supposed most important quality of a BMW? – the driving experience? Well, after trying to work out what all the My Modes are, one of the next things that you’ll notice is that the normal traditional BMW gear selector has gone – replaced with a small switch. You can pull this towards you for D, and if you pull it again, you get B, ie. increased brake regeneration. There are no steering wheel-mounted paddles for adjusting the amount of regeneration, however the i7 does have adaptive recuperation, when the car decides itself how much regen to apply.

Performance is impressive, particularly in Sport mode (the i7 has a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds) which is especially quick for a car that weighs 2,715kg. Handling is also as good as it could be for a car weighing this amount. All-wheel drive delivers good levels of grip. Ride quality is excellent, with the adaptive air suspension being a key reason for this. This system also allows you to raise the ride height by 20mm if needed for uneven roads. The i7 is a very comfortable and quiet way to travel long distances on motorways.

Unlike the iX1, the i7 retains the iDrive rotary controller in the centre console, along with a few shortcut buttons for home, navigation, media and phone. It’s easier to reach the iDrive controller than the central touchscreen, and twisting the rotary dial allows you to zoom in or out of the map, which is much better than systems without this ability.

The touchscreen has a home button, along with an icon with four small squares at the right-hand top of the screen that allows you to access a secondary screen containing lots of additional car controls, grouped into vehicle apps and infotainment apps. This is all part of the latest technology in BMW Operating System 8, which also allows you to manage car functions via voice control.

You’ll also need to switch off the lane departure warning system before you drive anywhere, unless you enjoy the car intervening in your steering every time you drive near a white line – this can be done via a shortcut button marked with a vehicle symbol and three lines on the centre console, which brings up a window on the touchscreen allowing you to switch off the LDW.

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BMW i7 Electric Range and Charging

The BMW i7 xDrive60 has an official combined WLTP electric driving range of 365.8 – 387.5 miles. During a week of mixed driving in winter we averaged a real-world driving range of 290 miles, which is a fair way short of the official figure.

The i7 has an official maximum rapid DC charging rate of 195kW (although Fastned says that the i7 charges at up to 200kW at its sites, see below), which should give a 10% to 80% charge in 34 minutes, equating to 106 miles (WLTP) of range being added in just ten minutes. It has a maximum AC charge rate of 11kW for use with a three-phase electricity supply, typically found at commercial premises in the UK.

The BMW i7 comes with a model-specific climate control unit featuring efficient heat pump technology. The high-voltage battery is heated using a dedicated 5.5 kW electric flow heater, helping to control the temperature of the high-voltage battery more precisely.

Electric cars do not charge at their maximum charge rate for an entire charging session – their charge rate typically starts off high with a battery with a low state of charge, then the charge rate decreases as the battery charge increases. See the charge curve for the BMW i7 from Fastned below.

BMW says that the i7 has a new charging process aims to ensure the charging rate drops smoothly instead of following the traditional ‘stepped’ curve. This produces a more rounded charging curve overall, resulting in shorter charging times.

BMW Charging is included with the i7 as standard, giving access to almost 16,000 charging points in the UK and Ireland.

How to charge an electric car

BMW_i7_Chargecurve_Fastned

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Price And Model Range

The BMW i7 xDrive60 Excellence costs £107,400. Our test car had the options of BMW Theatre Screen (£4,000), Sky Lounge Pack (£850), 20-inch alloy wheels (£1,500), CraftedClarity Controls (£750), Sun Protection Glass (£450) and Parking Assistant Pro (£400), taking the total price of the test car to £115,404.

The BMW i7 has a choice of Excellence and M Sport trims, offered exclusively in long-wheelbase form.

The BMW i7 M70 xDrive, the future flagship model with 660hp, is due to go on sale later in 2023. There’s also the plug-in hybrid 750e xDrive and M760e xDrive.

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Conclusion

The BMW i7 is a very impressive car to drive, offering good performance, a useful official range, and an extremely refined and comfortable experience on long journeys. However you’re left with the feeling that the i7 is primarily designed for people who want the latest technology experience, with My Modes, the Interaction Bar, and of course the Theatre Screen. And then there’s the i7’s appearance: that’s one large grille for an electric car.

Overall the BMW i7 pushes forward the 7 Series into the electric age, but it pushes it even more forward into the next phase of car technology (all for a £100,000+ price of course). The BMW i7 is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.

Car facts and figures BMW i7 xDrive60 Review

  • Test electric driving range: 290 miles
  • Consumption (WLTP): 19.6 – 18.4 kWh/100 km
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0 g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED):   £0
  • Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2022/23): 2%
  • Price:   £107,400
  • Insurance group:   TBC
  • Power:   544 hp
  • Torque:   745 Nm
  • Max speed:   149 mph
  • 0-62 mph:  4.7 seconds
  • Weight:   2,715 kg
  • Towing capacity: 2,000 kg
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor