Electric vehicles are no stranger to BMW. In 2014, the company launched the quirky i3 hatchback and more recently followed with the i4 and iX. But now BMW is making its flagship electric.
The BMW 7 Series is the automaker’s largest and most opulent sedan and is getting a redesign for the 2023 model year that includes an electric variant for the first time. The 2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 (to use its full name) will start shipping to US dealerships starting in November alongside petrol-powered 7 Series models (a hybrid version will also arrive later).
While all 7-Series models get dramatic new styling, a sophisticated infotainment system and an optional rear-seat entertainment system, BMW’s decision to launch an electric version of a petrol model puts it out of step with other makers of high-end limousines. Mercedes-Benz chose to design its EQS sedan from scratch rather than build an electric S-Class. The i7 will be priced close to the Lucid Air and Tesla Model S,
BMW has its own family of purpose-built electric vehicles on the way. Dubbed Neue Klasse (German for “New Class”) in reference to a family of models that saved the company in the 1960sthey will not arrive until 2025. So is the i7 just a placeholder or a worthy EV in its own right?
The i7 shares an exterior with the petrol-powered 7 Series, marking a dramatic departure from previous 7 Series models. In keeping with BMW’s recent design practices, the i7 gets a massive grille that looks like a butterfly steak, with available lighting.
BMW is also changing things up with stacked lighting elements that place the daytime running lights above the headlights, similar to a Hyundai Kona. European models get Matrix LED technology that can automatically redirect high beams away from oncoming cars, but this won’t be available in the US until new regulations are introduced.
Walking around the i7 during a media preview, the car’s gargantuan size caught our attention. It’s still a sedan with a fairly low seating position, but it still has considerable visual scope. The hood is so high that it actually sits over the grille, and the trunk lid has what appears to be a double chin to hide its height. The car we saw had 20-inch wheels, but they looked tiny when positioned in the huge sheet metal area.
Like the exterior, the interior is a major change from previous iterations of the 7 Series. Replacing the previous model’s conservative styling is a shelf-like dashboard sculpted to house BMW’s new freestanding Curved Display screen, intricate speaker grilles and ambient lighting to match the competing Mercedes S-Class. The dashboard, seat controls, infotainment system controller and shifter are also finished in a crystal material that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of the original star trek Series.
The hallmark of the i7 is not for the driver. It’s the optional Theater Screen, a 31.3-inch 8K display that folds down from the headliner and allows rear-seat passengers to stream movies and TV shows or play video games at high speeds. Videos are displayed in cinemascope aspect ratio 16:9, 21:9 or 32:9.
Amazon Fire TV and a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system are included, as are smartphone-like controllers in the rear doors. The Netflix integration will allow users to start a movie at home and finish it in the car, said Pieter Nota, BMW North America board member for customer affairs, at the i7 media preview. However, the theater screen will likely limit rear vision, and with an expected price tag of $4,750, it won’t be cheap.
On the front, the aforementioned BMW Curved Display consists of a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch touchscreen under a piece of glass. BMW’s iDrive infotainment system returns with its familiar rotary dial, but also gets a new Interaction Bar with touchpads for climate control and other functions. The i7 also gets 5G connectivity and over-the-air (OTA) update capability.
BMW also worked with Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer to develop distinctive sounds that activate when the driver starts the car or switches between different driving modes.
The i7 gets a long list of available driving aids. The main feature is Autobahn Assist, which offers what BMW describes as hands-free driving at speeds of up to 80mph, although the driver still needs to be alert and ready to grab the steering wheel. Other features include a forward collision warning, lane departure warning, speed limit assist and an automatic parking function.
The i7 starts with a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive drivetrain that produces 536 horsepower and 549 pound-feet of torque. BMW says it will do zero to 60mph in 4.5 seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 149mph.
Those specs come pretty close to the 760i xDrive, the more powerful of the two 7-Series petrol models that will be available at launch. This model’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces the same power as the i7 but with 553 lb-ft of torque. BMW also claims a slightly faster zero to 60 mph time of 4.2 seconds.
But BMW doesn’t stop there. At a media roundtable, Chairman Oliver Zipse confirmed that the automaker will also launch an M Performance version of the i7, adding that it will be the most powerful model in the 7 Series.
BMW is also targeting a range of 300 miles for the i7. The large sedan can be charged with an AC charger of up to 11 kilowatts and with DC fast charging of 195 kilowatts, the latter adding a range of 80 miles in 10 minutes. Owners also get three years of free DC fast charging from Electrify America.
“We don’t want customers to compromise when switching from one vehicle to another,” Zipse told Digital Trends of the rationale for making an electric version of a gas car instead of a clean electric vehicle. “They get a 7 either way.”
The 2023 7 Series might be well positioned against traditional rivals like the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and Lexus LS, but the i7 might not fare as well against electric competition.
A range of 300 miles is adequate, but that puts the i7 well behind the 516-mile Lucid Air, 405-mile Tesla Model S and 350-mile Mercedes EQS. It’s also unclear if EV buyers want a car that looks like a vintage gas guzzler, complete with an elongated hood designed for a V8 engine.
By making the i7 so similar to the petrol 7 Series, BMW may have stacked the deck against it as well. Until that M Performance version arrives, the i7 can only match its sibling in performance while commanding a price premium. Pricing for the i7 xDrive60 model starts at $120,295 compared to $114,595 for the petrol 760i xDrive. BMW also builds a less powerful six-cylinder 740i model starting at $94,295.
It is therefore possible that many customers will choose the cheaper petrol models, which are also not associated with charging problems. The 7 Series is an impressive car, but the i7 doesn’t seem poised to attract new EV buyers.
Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is a luxury family SUV
Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe First Drive Report: Do-it-all plug-in
Off-roading in a plug-in jeep is like hiking with air conditioning
Inside the Vietnamese giant looking to sell you your next electric vehicle
Lucid doubles the horsepower with the Air Grand Touring Performance
This article was previously published on Source link