If you grew up dreaming of autonomous cars, where passengers could just relax, watch movies, work, and sleep while being shepherded along at blistering speeds in silence, I’m here to tell you that at least part of the future has arrived.
It takes the shape of the 2023 BMW i7 xDrive60. With a price tag to match, the new i7 offers panache, tech, and a true glimpse of what the future of luxury might look like.
Certainly, the automaker’s 7 series (alongside the 8 series) has long held the place as the brand’s ultimate expression of luxury. But BMW recently nipped the crown for bestselling luxury brand in the US from Mercedes-Benz, only to be promptly nudged aside by Tesla. The rivalry is set, and the stakes have never been higher.
Chock full of high-tech features, like a massive 8K theater screen for rear passengers, BMW is hoping the i7 will become a segment leader in the increasingly crowded luxury electric sedan space.
Say what you will about EVs being “soulless” or boring, but the i7 is none of those things, and that’s thanks, in large part, to its underpinnings. BMW developed the i7 alongside its flagship gasoline 7-series. While many automakers tend to lower trim offerings and features in EV versions of their gasoline cars, BMW spared no expense, or luxury options, for that matter, when it built the i7.
The new i7 offers panache, tech, and a true glimpse of what the future of luxury might look like
The i7 is powered by a 101.7 kWh (usable) battery pack under the floor, which is paired with two electric motors that put out a combined 536 horsepower and 549 lb-ft of torque. BMW says that the i7 xDrive60 will do 0–60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, and it can be charged from 10–80 percent in 34 minutes on a DC fast charger. BMW says that the i7 can regain as much as 80 miles in just 10 minutes when taking in its maximum charge of 195 kW. According to the EPA, that battery pack will get anywhere from 296 miles to 318 miles of range, depending on wheel size (smaller 19-inch wheels get more range).
Efficiency is also boosted by the adaptive recuperation feature, which is also used in the impressive BMW iX SUV, BMW’s first fully electric SUV, which we reviewed last year. Essentially, if you put a destination into the onboard GPS system, it works together with the vehicle’s battery system to maximize brake regeneration based on the selected route.
Plus, the car’s onboard camera monitors traffic in front of you and activates brake regeneration when using the very good adaptive cruise control. The system also works without the active cruise control engaged and relies heavily on it in B-mode (braking mode) or one-pedal mode, which is especially lovely in LA traffic. You can also regen more power back into the battery pack and get a bit more distance on a single charge.
0–60 mph in about 4.5 seconds
I spent a week in the i7 and drove it roughly 250 miles in one go, from Los Angeles down toward San Diego and back on Southern California’s notoriously grooved freeways. Range anxiety was a distant memory as I “wafted” down the freeway in near silence. Yes, I intentionally used the term “wafted,” a word that’s typically reserved for the higher-end, BMW-owned Rolls Royce.
While Rolls hasn’t released all the details of the all-electric Spectre, due to land in the second quarter of 2023, it’s been widely speculated that the Spectre and i7 will share the same synchronous motor setup with a larger battery pack.
The luxury inside
The Rolls Royce connection doesn’t stop there, either. The interior of the i7, much like the interior of the iX SUV, is a tech-forward, comfortable, luxurious, and innovative place to be. Everything from the gem-like seat adjustments that sit on the door panel, the 5.5-inch color touchscreens integrated into passenger door handles, to the lux fuzzy floor mats in the cabin lend themselves to the experience of both refinement and technological prowess.
In the future, we don’t need buttons, at least according to BMW. Screens abound practically everywhere inside the baller sedan. The driver’s display (12.3 inches) and the infotainment display sit behind one continuous, curved pane of glass, and everything is controlled through BMW’s iDrive or the voice recognition system.
Range anxiety was a distant memory as I “wafted” down the freeway in near silence
In truth, BMW has made the iDrive and the voice assistant system so robust and easy to use that you really don’t need any buttons. Sure, you have to dig through menus to customize things like interior lighting or the welcome sequence that starts up when you unlock the vehicle, but you can also simply find the right menu by saying the wake word, “Hey BMW,” and asking, in natural, normal language, for whatever it is you’re looking for. You can get as complicated as you like, within reason, too.
For example, like most voice recognition systems, you can ask the car to turn up or down the temperature, turn on massage settings in any of the four seats, or turn on seat heaters or coolers. Most of the other systems on the market struggle to load the right menu to do something like adjust the sound settings on the stereo if you happen to pause or fumble in your verbal instruction.
Not so in the BMW. It simply does what you expect and what you ask for, even when you garble it or pause, making the technology natural to use and completely unobtrusive.
A voice assistant system so robust and easy to use that you really don’t need any buttons
BMW’s designers even went so far as to rethink how we direct, open, and close the air vents, opting for small, nubbin-like controls that move the nearly invisible vents that run along a small strip below the 14.9-inch infotainment screen in the desired direction.
They also rethought the entire EV driving and start-up experience. One of my favorite things about the i7 is the fact that when you first climb in and power it on, there’s a very slight and subtle movement that periodically makes the car feel like it’s idling the same way a gasoline car does. As a former BMW owner myself, this small detail brought a smile to my face every single time.
There’s even a quiet rumble piped through the cabin as if a gasoline engine is turning over under the hood, which is a joy to those of us who celebrate the advancement of EV powertrains but still feel nostalgic for good old-fashioned dinosaur-powered vehicles.
And, of course, the sound of all the drive modes, start-up, and shutdown sequences have been composed and designed by none other than the famed composer Hans Zimmer.
On the road, the adaptive cruise control is comfortable and easy to use, though BMW has built in a few annoyingly sensitive nannies to ensure you’re not asleep at the wheel. I lifted my phone to look at the map for an upcoming exit after some construction rerouted me on an unfamiliar road. The system immediately complained about it and threatened to end the adaptive cruise.
Lane keeping and lane tracking had a little trouble with the 405’s fluted road surface and multiple lane expansion scars, periodically noting that it had lost the lane tracking. It wasn’t alarming when it happened, just a bit niggling in a vehicle that costs well nigh $150,000.
Then there are all the bells and whistles in the back seat, which, sadly, I did not get to try while underway since I was driving. Passengers in the rear seats have tons of legroom, but surprisingly little headroom, at least when the seats are in their most upright position.
When the rear passenger seat is in a lounge position, with the leg rest lifted, the passenger seat pushed all the way forward, and the little heel rest on the back of the seat jutting out, it’s a lot like a business class seat on an airplane.
If you have long legs like I do, you’ll need to scoot all the way to the back of the seat to get enough room to put your feet up. And you’ll need to hope that the driver doesn’t have to push the passenger seat back to see the side view mirror (there’s a setting for that that pops up when the rear passenger starts to move seats around to get into lounge mode). And those soft seating surfaces and floor mats? They’re leather, merino wool, and cashmere when outfitted in the white interior like our tester.
The most notable option in the i7 is the absolutely huge 8K, 31-inch theater screen that comes with Amazon Fire capability. It folds up flat against the lined sunroof when not in use and completely blocks the driver’s rear-view mirror visibility when it’s lowered. You can control all the features of the rear seats, the screen, and even the infotainment system using those little 5.5-inch touchscreens in the doors’ armrests.
The most notable option in the i7 is the absolutely huge 8K, 31-inch theater screen that comes with Amazon Fire capability
While our test vehicle didn’t come with Amazon Fire unlocked, the start-up sequence was impressive enough when the screen was lowered. To prevent other drivers from being distracted at night (or during the day) while a passenger is watching a movie or television show in the rear seat, BMW has programmed the window screens and LED-infused (yes, it lights up) glass roof shade to lower when the theater screen is lowered.
All of this high-end technology and luxury, of course, comes with a very high price tag. Our tester, complete with the Driving Assistance Pro (Adaptive Cruise Control features plus others), Executive seating (lounge in the back), Executive Package (the theater screen plus more), special interior, and massage seats, netted out at $151,995.
While that’s a very pretty penny to spend, the i7 is one of the most luxurious and tech-forward vehicles you can currently get on the market.
A multi-lingual talent head, Allen is fluent in languages such as Spanish, Russian, Italian, and many more. He has a special curiosity for the events and stories revolving in and around US and caters an uncompromising form of journalistic standard for the audiences.