Should an electric vehicle look different than a gasoline-powered equivalent, or have we gotten to the point where electric power is just another powertrain choice, like choosing between a four-engine and a six-cylinder engine? Ford, with its F-150 Lightning, chose to make its EV version look like the usual F-series. Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, is offering an EQS that looks nothing like its current S-Class.
With its new 7 Series for 2023, BMW has made a strong commitment to electrification as another powertrain alternative. The i7 xDrive60, as the EV version is called, differs from the V-8-powered 760i xDrive only in minor visual details: the BMW roundel on the hood is surrounded by a subtle blue ring, the on/off button on the he interior is blue, the grille is solid and has a small “I” in a vertical element, and, of course, there are no tailpipes.
This all-new Seven bears a clear resemblance to the previous model. The basic shape remains a three-box sedan with a large cabin to provide plenty of room for passengers in both rows. Up front, the large grilles remain, but they retain a horizontal orientation that dominates, without overwhelming, the face of the car. BMW’s new signature split headlights are incorporated with narrow running lights in the upper corners and main headlights an inch or two below.
There’s a powerful character line that runs along the car’s flanks, and Hofmeister’s signature crease is present in the rear windows – in triplicate – echoed in the shape of the door, the chrome trim and in the reinforcement visible in the window. Overall the car has presence, it looks substantial, elegant and rich.
Part of that presence comes from the sheer size, as the new model is a solid increment larger than its predecessor. Overall length can reach 212.2 inches, almost five inches longer than before, although the wheelbase has only increased by 0.2 inches and there is no short wheelbase version . The width increases by almost two inches and the overall height increases by about two and a half inches. These dimensions make the i7 the largest car in the luxury sedan segment, by far.
Battery size and range
Much of this increase was driven by the need for a battery compartment under the interior floor. This volume is 4.9 inches deep to accommodate the 4.3 inch high lithium-ion cells. The battery operates at 376 volts and provides a usable energy capacity of 101.7 kWh. That’s enough for an EPA range of between 296 and 318 miles, depending on wheel and tire option.
These electrons power a 255 horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels and a 308 horsepower motor in the rear. Combined output is 536 horsepower and 549 pound-feet of torque. Both motors use field-excited coils rather than permanent magnets to avoid the need for rare earth elements. Of course, these motors use brushes, which BMW claims will last the life of the car.
Driving the i7
We expect this tremendous powertrain to accelerate the i7 nearly 6,000 pounds to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and the i7 certainly felt that quick. As with most EVs, the torque-rich single-speed powertrain is smooth, fluid and instantly responsive, especially in urban areas.
As speed increases, acceleration decreases simply because the power-to-weight ratio isn’t spectacular and also because the electric motors produce peak power at 8,000 rpm, which is less than the half of their 16,700-rpm maximum, which is achieved at the car’s 149-rpm. top speed mph. That puts peak power at just over 70 mph, and with no transmission to keep the motors near their peak, power starts to drop once you exceed that speed.
BMW offers three levels of regenerative braking, as well as single-pedal driving if you select “B” on the transmission toggle. Using the single-pedal mode makes for very smooth urban driving, and it also works well when hard driving on mountain roads, at least uphill. You hardly need to touch the brakes. When you step on the left pedal, you appreciate BMW’s excellent job of blending regenerative and friction brakes, with no gaps in pedal effort or travel.
Running hard, the i7 feels composed and capable, though you never forget it weighs almost three tonnes. With standard air springs and adjustable shocks on all four corners, plus the low-mounted half-ton battery, the car lays admirably flat when you push it down.
Selecting Sport mode helps a bit in such a drive, as it tightens the shocks, lowers the ride height by about 0.4 inches, and delivers all the power. In Normal mode, the i7 engines are limited to 489 horsepower but the same 549 lb-ft. In some trim versions, you can also press a switch marked Boost to activate peak power and torque for several seconds.
Running calmly, the i7 rides smoothly and quietly, with a rock-solid structure. The seats are fully adjustable and beautifully shaped, acceleration is effortless, and the standard Bowers & Wilkins sound system (18 speakers, 655 watts, or 36 speakers and 1965 watts with the optional Diamond version) fills the high definition music cockpit of your choice.
A load of luxury features
The interior of the i7 is a charming place, with jeweled main controls, beautifully detailed speaker grilles and dash surfaces, and lovely upholstery, including a new cashmere/wool blend in option that feels particularly rich. And each car comes with a Panoramic Sky Lounge LED sunroof which is huge, can produce a subtle light show and has its motorized shade housed in the front to avoid compromising rear headroom. .
The i7 also offers plenty of convenience features, such as electric door opening and closing – front and rear – each with its own array of sensors to avoid hitting adjacent cars, walls or people.
You can also specify the Executive Lounge option if you plan to have your i7 driven by a chauffeur. It offers a reclining right rear seat – up to 42.5 degrees – including a footrest and a heel rest on the back of the right front seat, which slides and tilts as far forward as possible when you enable this option.
Another new feature is the cinema screen. It’s a 31-inch 8K LCD screen that folds down from the ceiling for rear passengers. It’s actually about 30 inches wide by nine inches high, so movies will be heavily letterboxed unless you commit to extreme stretching. But you can move the screen to one side or the other to bring the image closer to a single rear passenger. Control of the operation of this display, as well as any adjustment of the rear seats, is carried out using 5.5-inch touch screens in the armrests of each rear door.
For the person driving, a notable addition is a feature called Highway Assistant, which will both maintain speed and steer the car on a highway at up to 80mph, without the driver’s hands on the wheel. However, the driver must pay attention to the road, and the car monitors your eyes with a camera. If you look down or elsewhere for more than a few seconds, you’ll be warned to look down the road or put your hands on the wheel. The system works very well and can even execute a safe lane change in traffic if you activate the turn signal. But if the lane markings fade or the road gets too twisty, the system disengages.
With so many functions to use, there’s a steep learning curve for the touchscreen interface. Almost all functions are shown on BMW’s curved display, which includes a 12.3-inch LCD display that serves as the instrument cluster, as well as a 14.9-inch center display, both housed in a wide panel , gracefully curved and slender.
A new eighth generation iDrive controls everything and you can operate the central panel with the traditional iDrive controller, directly via the touchscreen or via several shortcuts scattered around the cockpit. Shortcuts are a good idea because if you summon the screen that shows all the apps in the car, they total 43, all with multiple submenus. The i7 also offers a fairly good voice-activated system, which works better for common functions than for obscure ones.
The instrument cluster offers a variety of layouts and choices of information to display. But some of the designs are more creative than practical, with key elements like the graphic speedometer and power displays mostly blocked by the steering wheel rim. It would have been nice to offer a traditional layout with twin round dials and minor information grouped between them, but unfortunately this is not available.
Overall, the i7 is a terrific luxury sedan. It’s comfortable, luxurious, effortlessly powerful, impressive and offers more comfort and convenience features than you can imagine. Of course, that all goes for its gas-powered 760i sibling as well, which is $5,700 less than the i7’s $120,295 base price.
But the electric powertrain adds an extra element of smoothness and refinement. If you’re not planning long car trips, this is the way to go.
BMW i7 xDrive60 2023
Vehicle Type: Front and Rear Engine, All-Wheel Drive, 5 Passenger, 4-Door Sedan
Front motor: AC synchronous current excited, 255 hp, 269 lb-ft
Rear motor: synchronous AC excited, 308 hp, 280 lb-ft
Combined power: 536 hp
Combined torque: 549 lb-ft
Battery: Liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 101.7 kWh
On-board charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC fast charge rate: 195kW
Transmissions, front/rear: direct drive
Passenger volume: 112 feet3
Trunk volume: 11 feet3
Unloaded weight (CD east): 5950 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (CD IS)
100 km/h: 4.1 sec
100 mph: 9.0 sec
1/4 mile: 12.5 sec
Maximum speed: 130 to 149 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 83–89/81–87/85–92 MPGe
Range: 296 to 318 miles
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