BMW i7 review: Driving first class - MrLiambi's blog


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Saturday 5 November 2022

BMW i7 review: Driving first class

The BMW 7 Series the designed to be the pinnacle of everything that BMW does. It's fondly referred to by BMW as "the best car in the world" and that's how it was introduced to us.

The BMW 7 Series was born in 1977 and has skipped through generations with increasing sophistication. It remains a saloon body shape only, and with this latest seven-gen model, BMW is only offering it in a long wheelbase. That says a lot about BMW's ambitions for this car.

Interestingly, however, it's available both in combustion and fully-electric powertrains, with BMW saying that there's no compromise: whatever model you buy, it's still 100 per cent BMW 7 Series - it's still "the best". We slipped behind the wheel in Palm Springs, California, to put the £108,305 car through its paces.


Some car manufacturers aim to appeal to drivers by giving them exactly what they expect. From the exterior, BMW appears to be doing that with the i7. It's essentially identical to the combustion 7 Series models, unlike the Mercedes EQS and the S Class, which would be its closest natural rival.

Approaching the BMW i7, it's difficult to determine which model it might be. The profile of the 7 Series very much remains, with a distinctive roofline that some might see as rather squarer than we're used to from recent electric saloons which put aerodynamics about everything else.

It's still a big car, with the advantage of great road presence. One thing that's not too big is the kidney grille on the front. While the BMW iX and BMW i4 pushed this design, the i7 seems to have scaled it back slightly and we think it looks better balanced as a result. The kidney grille is also now ringed with illumination on some models, which looks great.

The nose of this car gives away a lot of the car's ambition. The lights are split, with the daytime running lights integrating crystals from Swarovski sitting at the top, with the actual headlights separated and lower down, slightly recessed. This split design reminds us of the design that Rolls-Royce uses. There's nothing like keeping it in the family.

That's not the only element that BMW seems to be adopting from Rolls-Royce: there are two-tone colour options, coachlines, as well as powered doors. This is the first BMW with doors that will open or close themselves - and again, that says a lot about the pitch for this car.

Overall this design is rather conservative, lending the sense that BMW was conscious of heritage when designing the exterior of this model, avoiding the temptation to go "too sleek". There's something bolder about this design, which, while not as futuristic, does make a statement.

A touch of luxury

With a car like the BMW 7 Series, it's as much about those in the back as it is those in the front. It's fitting, then, that there's loads of space thanks to that long wheelbase. It affords plenty of space to those in the second row, really allowing you to sit back and relax.

The BMW 7 Series goes further than the Mercedes EQS in offering rear-seat luxury and it's here that BMW has thrown in lots of technology - like the cinema screen and touch controllers in the doors - which we'll talk about later.

Returning to those powered doors, that sees the exterior of the car carrying extra sensors down the side and on the mirrors, designed to stop you opening the door into the cyclists or high kerbs. Approaching the car, you can press the button on the door handle to have it open itself while you step aside. We can imagine the driver or a bellboy doing this, with it all looking really slick, umbrella held aloft over a celebrity head.

The driver can also power close the doors from the touchscreen in the centre of the car, while the passengers have interior buttons to open the door normally, or use power. You can even open the doors using your voice, but no, you can't power them open when the car is moving.

But it's not all as slick as it sounds. If you're not clear of the sensors on the outside, then the door won't open, leaving you to pull it open conventionally, pulling against the motors with all the accompanying whirring noises.

The doubling up of buttons to open the door on the interior is also a bit over the top. Generally speaking, the BMW 7 Series has reduced physical controls, but for the doors, you have choices of which you need to press to get out and more often than not, we pressed the wrong one.

The interior fit and finish is undoubtedly of the highest quality, with a full range of premium materials, like cashmere for example, while there's ambient lighting all over the place - including integration into the glass panoramic roof.

But there have also been some interesting decisions made when it comes to interior styling. Much of this seems to be dictated by the popularity of the jewelled iDrive controller that BMW introduced a few years ago. There are new bejewelled buttons for the seat controls and a bar set into the dash that picks up a jewel-like theme.


That sees this angular strip backlit, playing its part with ambient lighting and looking fancy at night, but not so fancy during the day. It carries some other touch controls within it - but BMW has minimised the air vents to be more subtle, switching to more discreet controls that direct the airflow without you moving around a collection of plastic vanes.

Again there's an oddity, with a controller to turn the air vents either on or off, with 0 and one end and 1 at the other. Was this designed by a computer? The reduction of controls also leads to other oddities: the seat controls we mentioned don't control all the seat functions, just the basics, leaving the rest to be controlled by the settings on the central touchscreen again.

That's a recurring theme, and indeed an irritation, as pretty much everything you do results in the central display switching to controls for that button you just pressed. When you're following the satnav and someone adjusts their seat, you don't want to lose your map as a result.

That irritation runs deeper, because to access many functions you need to either dig into that display to make changes or you have to use voice - or you might never find out how to change that function. We said some time ago that Hey BMW is actually a comprehensive system and it is - but on the BMW 7 Series it feels essential to controlling a lot of the car.

One other omission is that the BMW 7 Series doesn't have chilled cup holders, where the BMW X7 does - do saloon drivers only like it hot?

Let's talk about the Theatre Screen

BMW's interior pièce de resistance is the Theatre Screen. This 31.3-inch 8K display lowers itself from the ceiling to give you a huge display so those in the back can watch movies while being driven. It's a $5000/£4000 option.

It's powered by Amazon's Fire TV platform, so when the car is connected to mobile networks, you'll be able to stream content through all the supported services as you would at home - like Netflix, Disney+ and of course, Amazon Prime Video. It's a great platform and it's great to see it here.

collection: threatre screen

It integrates with the car's sound system, with the option of having the audio focused on the rear, so the driver doesn't have to sit in the middle of a movie they're not actually watching. Or you can connect Bluetooth headphones, which is a much more practical solution.

The display is wide but not too tall, so finding content that natively fits to its 32:9 aspect ratio is rare, but it's not too hard to zoom content to make better use of the display. Importantly, you can also shift the content to the left or the right to make it fall more naturally into the eye line of passengers in those seats.

You can also adjust the angle and position of the screen a little, but unless you recline your seat, it always feels as though you're looking up to watch it, rather than it falling naturally in front of you. There's no doubting the novelty value, but that might lead to a crooked neck: if you sit back and all of the Snyder Cut, you might really need that massage seat afterwards.

The display works a little better if you fully recline the rear seat, but it raises the argument of whether a more traditional display mounted on the rear of the front seats would just give a better viewing angle. Both are options, so you can make your choice.

When folded away, the screen sits flat against the roof, so if you also have a panoramic sunroof, it literally has a TV spanning it, which, again, seems like a bit of design dissonance. The other element here is that BMW hasn't put a digital rearview mirror on the 7 Series, so if the Theatre Screen is deployed, you can't see out of the back of the car either, which seems strange on a car so well equipped with tech.

Putting that to one side, the control of functions from the rear of the car is pretty clever. There's a touch display set into the door which means you can control your seat, set themes and control your entertainment. It's nice and techy, easy to use and is pretty slick.

Set all the tech to one side and the rear of the car is amazingly comfortable: there's loads of space so you can kick back and relax, travelling in comfort.

In the driving seat

Slip into the driving seat of the BMW 7 Series and there's little difference between the i7 and the combustion versions. It looks and feels the same, with BMW pursuing consistency regardless of what powers the car.

It remains a serious driver's car, here picking up the curved display that made its debut in the BMW iX, presenting all the digital information across one seamless display running from behind the steering wheel and into the centre of the car. This is boosted by AR navigation which can swing in to make it clearer where you are supposed to be heading, overlaying instructions over a live feed from the camera.

collection: interior

That curved display gives you 12.3-inches for the driver and then 14.9-inches for the main central display, running BMW Operating System 8.0, which made its debut on the BMW iX and is now pushing out across new launches.

As we mentioned, with a reduction in buttons and an explosion of options, losing your map view to some other element of control in the car is common and it feels as though things could be better utilised, perhaps with a splitscreen option when driving so the driver still has that visual guide when the passenger starts playing around with other settings.

The heads-up display plays a crucial role here, allowing the driver to keep eyes on the road, without always looking at the bigger screen - and this HUD is big and loaded with information, so it's really useful.

That's also important because the BMW i7 makes a move to a new level of driver assistance - which we're calling level 2+. This allows hands-off driving where that's legal, which is currently in the US and we believe it will also be coming to Germany and then China in the future.

This takes the BMW 7 Series closer to self-driving and it's a pleasure to use. We're all getting used to the benefits of adaptive cruise controls with steering assistance, but this feels like the next step. For many, however, you'll have to keep your eye on local regulations and until there are changes, you'll have to keep your hands on the wheel too.


To activate the system you just have to press the buttons on the steering wheel controls to engage Assist Plus and you'll get green illumination to show you it's working. There's never been a more relaxing way to travel on the motorway - but it's not all about hands-off driving. Hopefully, many will be buying this car because it's great to drive too.

There are a range of other assistance features on this model, including predictive breaking. We found this to be really natural, with the car slowing itself down as you approach traffic lights, giving you a reassuring experience.

As we've mentioned, buttons have mostly been reduced, but the iDrive controls remain much the same as they have been for a number of years on BMW cars. That might reduce the touches needed on the screen (which is prone to fingerprint smears), while there's also a full range of My Modes, which pairs themes with sound and environmental changes in the car. It again leans on the idea of the car being slightly more like a lounge than just a vehicle.

Range, power and performance

As with any electric car, you're mostly going to be interested in the range and the performance, right?

The BMW i7 is equipped with a 101.7kWh battery and by industry standards, that's big. (For reference, though, the Mercedes EQS has a 108.4kWh battery.) Importantly, this battery is produced using green energy and it will support up to 195kW charging rates. That will see you get 112 miles in about 10 minutes on a charger.

The range that BMW cites is between 360 and 387 miles from a full charge. The actual range you achieve will vary depending on a lot of factors - driving style, weather and things like how much you need to use the aircon for example. The latter would have undoubtedly had an impact on the averages we achieved while driving in southern California, which would gave us closer to 300 miles of range.

There is plenty of power, however, with a front 190kW motor and a rear 230kW motor for a combined 400kW power - about 544hp. There's 745Nm torque, all delivered instantly, with a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds. If you want to go faster, you'll have to wait for the i7 xDrive M70 version, which ups the power to 600hp - and pulls that acceleration time under 4 seconds.

Out-and-out speed isn't what this is about. On the open roads, the BMW i7 is a dream to drive - and having also driven the 7 Series with a combustion engine, there's little difference in the drive apart from the exhaust note. Of course, you can have Hans Zimmer sounds piped into the i7, but we prefer the tranquillity of the refined ride.

But it's really the dynamics of the i7 that impress. This is a big car, but it loves being driven and it's as adept through the bends as it is wafting along on motorways. That's the big impression that the BMW i7 leaves us with - it just feels like a great car to drive.

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