It’s hard to know where to start with a car as epic as the BMW i7. It’s not just its size, but it’s also a technological tour de force. For the record, it’s 5.39 metres long and 1.95 metres wide. And just to put those dimensions into perspective, it’s longer than the Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz EQS and Tesla Model S – its three main rivals.
More luxury limo than executive saloon, the i7 oozes space inside – and rear seat passengers are treated especially well. Not only can they lounge around in comfort, but they get to benefit from the i7’s (optional) party piece – the “BMW Theatre Screen”.
At the touch of a button, a 31.3-inch panoramic screen drops down from the ceiling, the seats automatically recline and blinds cover the side and rear windows.
The system has built-in Amazon Fire TV, features a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system and there are touchscreen remotes in the door panels, so it’s perfect for watching movies, gaming or video conferencing.
Starting at £113,970, the i7 is an investment. First impressions are mixed. BMW still dares to be different and the i7 is a classic case of a car that polarises opinion.
To be fair, it looks softer in the metal, but that bluff front end with the oversized kidney grille and ultra-slim stacked headlights is challenging, to say the least. Thankfully, the rest of the i7 is more conventional. In fact, more so than the futuristic-looking Mercedes-Benz EQS, for instance.
Visually, the i7 is almost identical to its plug-in hybrid 7 Series sibling. The easiest way to distinguish it is to look out for flashes of bright “i blue” trim and blanked-out air intakes.
Inside, it gets BMW’s latest curved, dual-screen infotainment system (just like the i4, iX and X7). Elsewhere, it’s beautifully finished with a classy look and feel.
In other words, behind that chunky new steering wheel, there’s a 12.3-inch driver’s display paired with a 14.9-inch central touchscreen.
Elsewhere, there are hidden air vents and touch-sensitive buttons under crystal-effect panels on the dashboard that control essentials such as climate and heated seats (without using the touchscreen).
Under the i7’s floor, there’s a slim but big 101.7kWh battery pack which, partly thanks to integrated heat pump technology, results in an impressive range of up to 387 miles.
Compatible with 195kW fast charging, it’s possible to add 106 miles of range in just 10 minutes using a sufficiently rapid connection.
There are currently two versions of the BMW i7 – the “entry-level” i7 xDrive 60 (536bhp) or the 651bhp i7 M70, which starts at an eye-watering £161,963. Both versions benefit from two electric motors and xDrive four-wheel drive.
We tested the i7 xDrive 60 M Sport, and frankly, from the moment you open the power-operating doors and settle into the super comfy driver’s seat, it feels like a very special car.
There’s ample adjustment, so I could have the seat as low as I like (for a change). This is no doubt helped by the fact that the battery pack below has a depth of just 11cm.
Once you’re away it’s clear that the i7 is quick. Officially, it can sprint front 0-62mph in only 4.7 seconds, which is remarkable considering it weighs 2.7 tonnes.
It’s also super smooth and whisper-quiet, meaning that the cabin is wonderfully relaxed. If it’s too quiet for you, you can choose some of the BMW IconicSounds created by composer Hans Zimmer. Personally, I prefer my EV driving au naturel and space-age whooshing is too gimmicky, but everyone to their own.
The sheer size of the i7 takes a bit of getting used to. Tackling country lanes is only for the brave, while multi-storey car parks with high kerbs are best avoided.
Needless to say, it’s much easier to helm out of town on A roads and motorways, where it’s a totally composed cruiser.
There are three modes (Eco, Comfort or Sport), but Comfort suits the i7’s serene character best.
You might think it handles like a barge, but here’s the thing. Amazingly, it stays pretty flat and feels weirdly agile if you hustle it in more challenging corners. The brakes are up to the job too, but psychologically, pushing a big car requires an enormous amount of confidence.
Parking and other low-speed manoeuvres are fairly easy too, despite its bulk. Cameras and sensors help, but so does the decent turning circle of 12.3 metres and four-wheel steering.
There’s so much tech in the i7 that you’d need a few weeks to get used to it all, but ultimately, it’s a seriously clever car.
In practical terms, there’s a respectable 500-litre boot capacity too, so holidays and runs to the airport should be no problem.
Real-world range is closer to 300 than 387 miles, which puts it close to the top of its class and a serious everyday proposition for anyone with six figures to spend on an awesome new EV.
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