Should an EV look different than a gasoline-powered equivalent, or have we gotten to the stage where electric power is just another powertrain choice, like picking between a four- and a six-cylinder engine? Ford, with its F-150 Lightning, has chosen to make its EV version look much like the regular F-series. Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, offers an EQS that bears no resemblance to its current S-class.
With its new-for-2023 7-series, BMW has come down firmly in the camp of making electrification simply another powertrain alternative. The i7 xDrive60, as the EV version is called, differs from the V-8-powered 760i xDrive in only minor visual details: The BMW roundel on the hood has a subtle blue ring around it, the start/stop button inside is blue, the grille is solid and has a small “I” in a vertical element, and, of course, there are no tailpipes.
This all-new Seven bears a clear resemblance to the previous model. The basic shape remains a three-box sedan with a large cabin to provide plenty of room for passengers in both rows. Up front, the large grilles remain, but they retain a horizontal orientation that dominates, without overwhelming, the car’s face. BMW’s new signature split lights are incorporated with narrow running lights at the top corners and the main headlights an inch or two below.
There’s a powerful character line running along the car’s flanks, and the iconic Hofmeister kink is present in the rear quarter windows—in triplicate—echoed in the door shape, chrome trim, and in the reinforcement visible in the window. Overall, the car has presence—looking substantial, elegant, and rich.
Some of that presence comes from sheer size, as the new model is a solid increment larger than its predecessor. Overall length is up to 212.2 inches, almost five inches longer than before, though the wheelbase only grew by 0.2 inch—and there is no short-wheelbase version. Width increases almost two inches, and the overall height rises by about two and a half inches. These dimensions make the i7 the largest car in the luxury-sedan segment—by a fair amount.
Battery Size and Range
Much of this increase was motivated by the need for a battery compartment below the interior floor. This volume is 4.9 inches deep to accommodate the 4.3-inch-high lithium-ion cells. The battery operates at 376 volts and provides a usable energy capacity of 101.7 kWh. That’s enough for an EPA range of between 296 and 318 miles, depending on the wheel and tire option.
Those electrons energize a 255-hp electric motor driving the front wheels and a 308-hp motor in the rear. Combined output is 536 horsepower and 549 pound-feet of torque. Both motors use excited-field coils rather than permanent magnets to avoid the need for rare-earth elements. Of course, such motors use brushes, which BMW expects will last the life of the car.
Driving the i7
We predict this formidable powertrain will accelerate the nearly 6000-pound i7 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and the i7 certainly felt that quick. As with most electrics, the torque-rich, single-speed powertrain is smooth, seamless, and instantly responsive, particularly in urban areas.
As speed increases, acceleration falls off simply because the power-to-weight ratio is not spectacular and also because the electric motors produce peak power at 8000 rpm, less than half of their 16,700-rpm maximum, which is achieved at the car’s 149-mph top speed. That puts the power peak at a little over 70 mph, and without a transmission to keep the motors near their peak, the power starts tapering off once you exceed that speed.
BMW provides three levels of regenerative braking, as well as single-pedal driving if you select “B” on the transmission toggle. Using the single-pedal mode makes for very smooth urban driving, and it also works well when driving hard on mountain roads—at least uphill. You hardly need to touch the brakes. When you do press the left pedal, you appreciate BMW’s fine job of blending the regen and the friction brakes, with no discontinuities in pedal effort or travel.
Running hard, the i7 feels composed and capable, though you never forget it weighs nearly three tons. With standard air springs and adjustable dampers at all four corners, as well as the low-mounted half-ton battery, the car corners admirably flat when you’re pressing.
Selecting Sport mode helps a bit in such driving, as it tightens the dampers, lowers the ride height by about 0.4 inch, and provides full power. In Normal mode, the i7 motors are limited to 489 horsepower but the same 549 pound-feet. In certain trim versions, you can also flick a switch marked Boost to enable peak power and torque for several seconds.
Running sedately, the i7 rides smoothly and quietly, with a rock-solid structure. The seats are fully adjustable and superbly shaped, the acceleration is effortless, and the standard Bowers & Wilkins sound system (18 speakers, 655 watts, or 36 speakers and 1965 watts with the optional Diamond version) fills the cabin with high-definition music of your choice.
A Load of Luxury Features
The i7’s interior is a lovely place, with jeweled major controls, nicely detailed speaker grilles and dashboard surfaces, and lovely upholsteries, including a new optional cashmere/wool blend that feels particularly rich. And every car comes with a Panoramic Sky Lounge LED moonroof that is huge, can produce a subtle light show, and has its motorized shade housed in front to avoid compromising rear headroom.
The i7 also offers numerous convenience features, such as optional power opening and closing doors—front and rear—each with its own battery of sensors to avoid banging into adjacent cars, walls, or people.
You can also specify the Executive Lounge option if you plan to have a chauffeur drive your i7 for you. It provides a reclining right rear seat—up to 42.5 degrees—including a footrest and heel rest on the back of the right front seat, which slides and tilts as far forward as possible when you engage this option.
Another new feature is the Theater Screen. This is a 31-inch, 8K LCD screen that folds down from the ceiling for the rear passengers. It actually measures about 30 inches wide by nine inches high, so movies will be highly letterboxed unless you engage extreme stretch. But you can shift the screen to either side to bring the image closer to a single rear-seat passenger. Controlling the operation of this screen, as well as any rear-seat adjustments, is performed using 5.5-inch touchscreens in the armrests of each rear door.
For the person driving, a notable addition is a feature called Highway Assistant, which will both maintain speed and steer the car on a highway at up to 80 mph, without the driver’s hands on the wheel. However, the driver must be paying attention to the road, and the car monitors your eyes with a camera. If you look down or away for more than a few seconds, you will be warned to either look at the road or put your hands on the wheel. The system works very well and can even execute a safe lane change in traffic if you flick the turn signal. But if the lane markings fade or the road gets too twisty, the system will disengage.
With so many functions to operate, there’s a steep learning curve for the touchscreen interface. Almost every function is shown on BMW’s Curved Display, which includes a 12.3-inch LCD serving as the instrument cluster, along with a 14.9-inch center display, both housed in a wide, gracefully curved, thin panel.
A new, eighth-generation of iDrive controls everything and you can operate the center panel with either the traditional iDrive controller, directly through the touchscreen display, or via several shortcuts scattered around the cockpit. The shortcuts are a nice touch because if you summon the screen that displays all of the car’s apps, they total 43—all with several submenus. The i7 also offers a fairly good voice-activated system, which works better for common functions than for obscure ones.
The instrument cluster offers a variety of layouts and choices of information to display. But some of the designs are more creative than practical, with key elements such as the graphical speedometer and power displays mostly blocked by the steering-wheel rim. It would have been nice to offer a traditional layout with twin round dials and minor information grouped between them, but sadly, that is not available.
Overall, the i7 is a terrific luxury sedan. It’s comfortable, luxurious, effortlessly powerful, impressive looking, and offers more comfort and convenience features than you can imagine. Of course, all of this also goes for its gasoline-powered 760i sibling, which costs $5700 less than the i7’s $120,295 base price.
But the electric powertrain adds an additional element of smoothness and refinement. If you don’t anticipate taking long trips in the car, it’s the way to go.
2023 BMW i7 xDrive60
Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
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
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive
Wheelbase: 126.6 in
Length: 212.2 in
Width: 76.8 in
Height: 60.8 in
Passenger Volume: 112 ft3
Trunk Volume: 11 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 5950 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 4.1 sec
100 mph: 9.0 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.5 sec
Top Speed: 130–149 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 83–89/81–87/85–92 MPGe
Range: 296–318 mi
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