Review: 2023 BMW i7 EV 7-Series petrol cribs, emerges surprisingly well

The 2023 BMW i7 is a revelation. For the first time in 10 years, a historic automaker has produced a large electric luxury sedan that brings the segment into the modern era and is significantly better than its gasoline-powered counterpart.

The feat is all the more remarkable given that the i7 is an adaptation of the gasoline-powered 7 Series, BMW’s benchmark sedan and competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Justified skepticism greeted the Bavarian automaker’s announcement in 2016 that it would build future electric cars on shared platforms with petrol and diesel models, unlike the i3 compact sedan and i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe which were its first electric vehicle entries.

This process had some missteps; the Chinese-made BMW iX3 was announced, then canceled, for North America, almost surely because its EPA-rated range would have fallen below the critical 200-mile mark. The BMW i4, positioned to compete with the Tesla Model 3, was its first electric vehicle to share its looks with a fossil fuel model, in this case the 4 Series Gran Coupé. It was fine, but not breathtaking, especially in the low-end i4 eDrive 40 version.

Now the BMW i7 shows what’s truly possible when the company sets itself the task of creating an electric version of its flagship, which is now in its seventh generation since its debut in 1977. It competes with the Lucid Air, the Mercedes EQS and the Tesla Model S.

An indistinguishable EV

You’ll have to be a BMW geek to tell the i7 apart from its petrol-powered 760i sibling. The electric car’s large double-kidney grille is mostly a blanking plate, but the heavy vertical ribs mask that. You won’t read it as an EV from 20 steps. The easiest way to tell them apart is the badges on the trunk lid.

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

The latest Series 7 evolves the model in a suitably conservative fashion. Subtly rounded panels, side creases and air-curtain vents smooth airflow on both versions of the car to reduce aerodynamic drag, but it’s still a classic BMW in appearance. The chrome outline of the “Hofmeister Kink” around the rear door glass hides a thick roof pillar, but you might even find it hard to tell this 7 Series from its predecessor.

It’s a totally different take on the Mercedes-Benz EQS, the diamond-shaped EV luxury sedan that sits alongside the Mercedes S-Class in showrooms. The i7 is even a more conservative design than the aging Tesla Model S, which was notable when launched for its classic, sleek luxury sedan proportions.

Inside, the i7 is understated but elegant, with a few unexpected touches. How about a crystal faceted horizontal trim running across the bottom of the dash that lights up in different colors depending on the drive mode? It sounds garish, but our pair of test riders didn’t find it that way at all. Likewise, the crystal-faceted seat position controls on the doors look garish, but somehow work. If there’s a moral, it’s that high-end German luxury isn’t all black anymore, and so much the better.

Much to almost everyone’s shock, BMW is offering a few two-tone paint treatments. The silver-grey-on-brown of an i7 test divided reporters: some loved it (“shades of 1986!”) while others hated it. Definitely an acquired taste.

Performance

This conservatism makes the BMW i7’s essential goodness – as an electric vehicle – a pleasant surprise. It’s the smoothest, quietest and fastest 7-Series model, although both petrol versions have their charms. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is estimated at 4.5 seconds; not fast Tesla Performance, but fast enough for this big car.

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

The usable battery capacity is 101.7 kilowatt hours (total capacity is approximately 106 kWh). Both motors are synchronous designs with no permanent magnets, meaning no rare earth metals are required. The front motor is rated at 190 kilowatts (258 horsepower) of peak power, the rear at 230 kW (313 hp), although BMW warns that they both never run at maximum power. In other words, don’t add the two together. In steady-state highway driving, the front motor can disengage from the powertrain entirely, although it returns imperceptibly when needed to maintain speed or respond to driver commands.

Like virtually all EVs, the i7 has smooth, linear acceleration that’s quick. Unless you put it in Sport mode, however, its power is graduated – no “kid punch” for this executive sedan. “D” mode on the drive selector mostly mimics the feel of a conventional automatic transmission car when lifting off the throttle, but “B” mode provides higher regen and can be used for one-pedal driving until the stop. It’s not the most aggressive initially, similar to accelerating in “Comfort” mode, but proves surprisingly effective as it brakes the car to a stop.

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

The electric power steering is light, and some drivers found it needed minor corrections on long turns. The i7 weighs 950 pounds more than the 760i, that’s around 3 tons, but it carries that weight well. The battery under the cabin floor keeps the weight low, allowing it to dive surprisingly well into turns. A next-generation stability control system acts 10 times faster and can use the brakes for torque vectoring. Vehicle software can also direct the front motor to add additional regeneration, adding to the front end and creating more tire contact patch. Standard rear axle steering shortens low-speed turns by turning the rear wheels up to 3.5 degrees away from the fronts.

Gas models have a more “natural” feel when cornering. They gather their weight better for quick direction changes and stay top of the class for agility. The effects of the stability control are less felt, but the steering is just as light. Both electric and petrol models get standard four-corner air suspension with adaptive dampers, which keeps them relatively level in the corners while maintaining a silky-smooth ride quality.

Big, smooth and quiet

There is only one size of the Series 7 line sold in North America. What the rest of the world considers the long-wheelbase version, we get as standard. The rear seats are remarkably roomy, although the underfloor battery requires rear-seat EV drivers to sit with their knees about an inch higher than in gas-powered models. Four 6-foot passengers could lie comfortably.

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 2023

BMW i7 xDrive60 2023

BMW i7 xDrive60 2023

BMW i7 xDrive60 2023

BMW i7 xDrive60 2023

Widely adjustable seats are comfortable, and our test car’s smoked white merino leather interior lightened the interior’s black trim, as did the full glass roof. An electric sunshade for the roof protects occupants from direct sunlight when needed, a feature not all large electric vehicles have.

Thanks to the various electronic magics, the ride is impeccable. Noise cancellation is good, better, in our unscientific judgment, than the Model S or Lucid Air. This reviewer doesn’t like most synthesized cabin sounds in EVs, so I was surprised by the i7’s rich roar. It’s both nice and suitably cut, good enough that I didn’t feel the need to dive for the “off” button (unlike the i4’s). Hard acceleration brings back the rumble, like in a petrol car, but otherwise the i7 is noticeably quieter than its petrol siblings inside and out.

The flashiest feature of the i7 is the optional 31-inch drop-down monitor in the ceiling, allowing rear passengers to view the high-definition video they’re controlling from the small video screen on their armrest (about the size of a older cell phone). It’s quite a setup, and has impressed viewers who have seen it.

Autonomy and load

During our two-hour test drive, we couldn’t determine much about the car’s range and efficiency. BMW executives, however, are very confident that the car will meet or exceed its range ratings for most owners in mixed driving. We heard “under-promise and over-deliver” more than once during the presentations. We can’t wait to test this on longer trips.

The company quotes a fast charge time of 34 minutes to recharge from 10 to 80 per cent capacity, with the usual caveats about a preconditioned battery, appropriate temperatures and other ideal conditions. The company’s stated charging curve starts at 175kW, peaks at 195kW below 50% state of charge, then drops steadily down to 80%.

BMW i7 xDrive60 2023

BMW i7 xDrive60 2023

Our test car was a 2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 with optional 21-inch wheels ($1,300) and an EPA range rating of 308 combined miles. While the base price was $119,300, the car we drove had 11 separate options that added just over $30,000 to the price. Among them were the Executive Lounge Rear Seats ($7,250), an Executive Package that included automatic doors, crystal headlights and massaging front seats ($6,550) and the hands-free Driving Assistance Pro highway driving up. at 80 mph ($2,100) with park assist features. ($1,250). The Bowers & Wilkins sound system added $4,800. With a mandatory destination charge of $995, the net result was $151,995.

The 2023 BMW i7 goes on sale in December 2022, but reservations have been strong enough that an i7 ordered today will ship in the summer of 2023.


BMW provided airfare, accommodation and meals to enable
Green Car Reports to bring you this first-person driving report. Kirk Bell provided detailed notes on handling the 7 Series gasoline models.

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