From the June 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
Given BMW’s trajectory, it’s only logical that the brand’s latest flagship is a three-ton behemoth with a movie-theater screen and a hands-free driving mode. But we’re not wringing our hands over this couchification, because a 7-series doesn’t claim to be a sports sedan. Plus, if you want a sporty BMW, you can still get an M2. The 7-series is the Bavarians’ Mercedes S-class fighter, and it has often struggled to find footing against its rival, which has come to define the term “flagship sedan.” Could battery propulsion offer the opportunity to turn the tide?
The two automakers’ divergent approaches to EVs have already shifted traditional roles. Mercedes, typically sober and conservative, has gone all science fiction with its stand-alone EQ blob-shaped electric models. BMW, meanwhile, after retiring the carbon-fiber-intensive i3 and i8, appears to be moving away from the strategy of giving EVs dedicated platforms. So, the battery-powered i7 shares its body, underpinnings, and platform with the latest-generation gas-powered 7-series.
While the spaceship-like Mercedes EQS hatchback never stops reminding you that you’re motoring on electrons, the i7’s conventional three-box sedan shape is innocuously familiar. That’s not to say inconspicuous. The blunt front end incorporates enough discordant styling elements to make the old Bangle-designed 7-series look conservative. Bizarre split headlights and a massive kidney grille combine with a slab-sided profile and slim taillights for a less-than-cohesive look. Still, our test car garnered lots of looks, especially in its optional $5000 matte gray paint, and you can’t deny the i7’s Rolls-Royce-caliber presence.
It’s sized like a Rolls too. This 7-series is considerably larger than before, with an overall length of 212.2 inches exceeding both the S-class and the EQS by several inches. Fun fact: The new 7 is the exact same height as the first-generation BMW X1 SUV. The 101.7-kWh battery pack under the floor contributes to a significant portion of the i7’s prodigious 6067-pound weight. A 650-hp M70 and a 449-hp eDrive50 are coming soon, but for now, the sole model is the xDrive60, in which a 255-hp front motor and a 308-hp rear motor combine for 536 peak horsepower.
For a car like this, an electric powertrain makes a lot of sense because it’s ultrasmooth and supremely quiet. The i7’s is especially so, providing a strong, seamless shove as it pushes the sedan to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. We measured a tomblike 60 decibels at a 70-mph cruise. The equivalent Mercedes, the 516-hp EQS580, was quicker, with a 3.7-second run to 60 mph, no doubt aided by its 261-pound weight advantage.
And yet, the i7 hides its heft well, furthering our suspicion that BMW has reassigned its best chassis engineers to work on EVs. Composed and imperturbable, the i7 wafts along without floating. It inspires confidence when pointed straight ahead, but the steering lacks feel when you change direction. Wheel control is impressive, body motions are well damped, and ride quality is impeccable. Riding on Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires and optional 21-inch wheels, the i7 also outperformed the EQS at our track by significant margins, with a strong skidpad result of 0.93 g and a short (for three tons) 70-mph stopping distance of 159 feet.
We didn’t use the brake pedal much on the street, though, opting instead to shift into B, which enables one-pedal driving. The level of regen in D is also configurable, and there are numerous driving modes that adjust the air springs, adaptive dampers, and accelerator response. Some modes even automatically activate the massaging seats, open or close the sunroof shade, and change the interior displays and ambient lighting.
BMW wants the i7’s cabin to provide an immersive experience, and it’s almost too successful. Theater mode deploys the 31.3-inch screen for the rear seat and raises the rear-window shades to create a cocoon for watching Netflix. Unfortunately for the driver, the screen obscures the rearview mirror entirely, and there’s no digital-camera mirror available to help you see what’s behind you. The $7250 Rear Executive Lounge Seating package includes a reclining passenger’s-side rear seat with an ottoman function that shoves the seat in front of it all the way forward to serve as a footrest. A warning pops up in the central display, prompting the driver to ensure that the seat is not blocking the view of the side-view mirror, but it’s not immediately clear what to do to remedy the situation.
Of course, there are many cameras and sensors to see for you, and the i7 is capable of hands-free driving on the highway under certain circumstances. The system works well, although the car occasionally wanders in the lane.
But you won’t be using hands-free for too many miles at a time. We measured a 75-mph real-world range of 260 miles against an EPA estimate of 308 miles. That’s significantly short of the EQS’s 350-mile result in the same test; credit the Benz’s ultraslippery 0.20 drag coefficient and larger battery pack. But there’s often a give-and-take with EVs, and BMW fitting summer tires shows it’s willing to take a range hit for the dynamic boost that more aggressive rubber provides.
The i7’s pricing is ambitious, starting at $120,295. Entry to the EQS is considerably less, with the base 329-hp, rear-wheel-drive EQS450+ opening at $105,550, while the more comparable EQS580 begins at $127,100. Our generously equipped i7 test car stickered for $156,595—well into AMG EQS territory—and it felt worth every penny. In what one might interpret as an admission of its lesser prestige, the gas-powered 7-series is still less expensive than the S-class, but a look at the electric matchup reveals the tables have turned.
2023 BMW i7 xDrive60
Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Tested: $120,295/$156,595
Options: Rear Executive Lounge Seating package, $7250; Executive package, $6550; BMW Individual Composition, $5450; Frozen Deep Grey paint, $5000; Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound, $4800; Driving Assistance Professional package, $2100; 21-inch wheels with summer tires, $1300; solar-reflecting laminated glass, $1300; M Sport Professional package, $950; Parking Assistant package, $900; Luxury Rear Seating package, $600; interior camera, $100
Front Motor: current-excited synchronous AC, 255 hp, 269 lb-ft
Rear Motor: current-excited synchronous AC, 308 hp, 280 lb-ft
Combined Power: 536 hp
Combined Torque: 549 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 101.7 kWh
Onboard Charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 195 kW
Suspension, F/R: control arms/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 15.6-in vented disc/14.6-in vented disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4
F: 255/40R-21 102Y ★
R: 285/35R-21 105Y ★
Wheelbase: 126.6 in
Length: 212.2 in
Width: 76.8 in
Height: 60.8 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 58/54 ft3
Trunk Volume: 18 ft3
Curb Weight: 6067 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 4.1 sec
100 mph: 9.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.5 sec @ 114 mph
140 mph: 22.3 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 4.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 1.9 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.6 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 150 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 318 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.93 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY AND CHARGING
Observed: 90 MPGe
75-mph Highway Range: 260 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 87/85/89 MPGe
Range: 308 mi
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Despite being raised on a steady diet of base-model Hondas and Toyotas—or perhaps because of it—Joey Capparella nonetheless cultivated an obsession for the automotive industry throughout his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. He found a way to write about cars for the school newspaper during his college years at Rice University, which eventually led him to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for his first professional auto-writing gig at Automobile Magazine. He has been part of the Car and Driver team since 2016 and now lives in New York City.
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com