There's now a 7 Series for everyone (with over $100,000 to spend on a car).
BMW finally took the wraps off the all-new 7 Series following what seemed like an exhaustive teaser campaign. We were in New York to attend the super-secret unveiling of the seventh 7.
Much of the pre-unveiling chatter was about BMW introducing yet another car with oversized kidneys, but, to be blunt, that's what BMW highlighted in the teaser images. Yes, the grille is large, and it doesn't matter. BMW's boss, Oliver Zipse, was in attendance, and, according to him, things have never been better at the privately-owned German manufacturer.
Whether we like it or not is irrelevant. BMW keeps selling them, so there must be demand. Remember when we thought the X6 was a dumb idea? Now everybody's building a sloped-roof coupe SUV…
There are some elements of the design we like, however. Cover the LED strip on top of the main lights, and you'll see more than a hint of Rolls Royce. The rear is elegant and fuss-free, while the rest of the car is generally quite slab-sided. It appears to be an homage to old-school blocky luxury cars, but with BMW's new face incorporated.
According to BMW, the 7 is the first vehicle showcasing its new design direction for high-end luxury models.
The big news is the i7, the third new-generation fully-electric BMW. Following the iX and the i4, the i7 will be followed by a fully-electric i5, Rolls Royce Spectre, and Mini Countryman in 2023. By 2025, BMW intends to sell 2 million EVs globally, and by 2030 that figure will be 10 million. That's 50 percent of all sales.
For now, BMW will provide the new 7 with three propulsion systems. A pure EV, a hybrid, and a straightforward gas engine. An M model will follow later, but it will be an M Performance derivative and not a full fat model explicitly designed by BMW's go faster department. We spoke to a product expert on hand, and he said the weight and dimensions make it a moot point. What's the BMW XM all about, then, hmmm?
At launch, three models will be available. The base model is called the 740i, and it uses the latest-generation B58TU2 turbocharged six-cylinder engine producing 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the older B58 unit, this has new intake ports, combustion chambers, and electronically controlled variable camshaft timing. It uses a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
That brings us to the two top models; both called xDrive60. One is the all-electric i7, the other equipped with the same all-new V8 as used in the facelifted X7.
The gas xDrive60i produces 523 hp and 553 lb-ft, thanks to a twin-turbocharged V8 and a mild-hybrid system filling in the power gaps.
All gas engines are paired to the latest version of BMW's eight-speed automatic transmission.
The big news is the i7. It's the first of its kind and the one we're most interested in. We know of no other automotive segment better suited to electrification than luxury saloons.
Engineers have spent more than 100 years trying to build engines that produce effortless low-down torque quietly, which is exactly how an electric motor goes about its job. Some may lament the loss of the V12, but what made that engine so special? You couldn't hear it, that's what. Negatively, it consumed an excessive amount of fuel.
Yes, it was stupid fast, but the i7 will likely feel faster due to the immediate power delivery. With 536 hp and 549 lb-ft on tap, the i7 can get from rest to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, but BMW is known for underclaiming performance figures.
BMW used the EPA's test cycle to develop a preliminary range figure. According to BMW, the i7 has a range of 300 miles, though it's unclear whether this range was measured with all the onboard toys switched on. To put that in perspective, the old V12 760Li had a claimed range of just 316 miles from a 21.1-gallon tank.
Yes, it only took five minutes to fill back up, but you only need twice that to recoup 80 miles of range in the i7. Thankfully, the new 7 is a great place to spend time, and it comes as standard with YouTube for the front. No, we're not kidding. YouTube is actually standard.
First off, we're glad BMW didn't follow the same route as Mercedes with the new S-Class. Somewhere along the line, Mercedes-Benz forgot that luxury is not about screens but rather space, light, and a sense of well-being. Sure, the 7 also has more screens than it actually needs, but they're better incorporated, and you still get physical buttons.
The driver gets a fully digital interface consisting of a 12.3-inch information display (instrument cluster) and a 14.9-inch central display. These displays are grouped together behind a single piece of glass surface and are angled toward the driver.
The two-spoke steering wheel (in the i7) comes as a surprise, but it looks elegant enough with its flat-bottom rim and integrated haptic feedback buttons. The BMW iDrive controller is carried over and is made of glass. It's a more tasteful execution of an idea introduced on the pre-facelift X7.
The rear passengers each get a 5.5-inch screen integrated into the doors. These control all the standard and optional features you add to the car, including a world-first fold-down 31-inch 8K rear entertainment screen.
The big theater screen is not meant for 7s that will be used for families. Once you fold the screen down, it separates the front and second row. It's aimed at people who like to be driven, rather than families.
We suspect BMW will also offer a more family-friendly rear-seat entertainment system that allows adults to watch the kids in the back.
As for the durability of the door screens, BMW is one step ahead. We asked, and those screens were tested for just about everything. Even a five-year-old would struggle to dismantle it.
The choice and quality of the materials are sublime. BMW has gone for a selection of timeless materials that will age well. Standard materials include glass on all the major touch surfaces, stainless steel speaker covers, and the optional open-pore wood on display on the two cars present at the unveiling. The standard interior trim is Fineline Black with Metallic inlay on the gas models and Mirror Oak High Gloss on the i7.
Then there's the whole experience of owning it daily. The car uses four individual door sill graphics and a welcome display featuring a neatly choreographed welcome. You can also opt for power doors that open and close at the push of a button. Quite nifty if you're on the frail side and don't want to open the sizeable front and rear doors.
Once inside, you notice the sheer amount of space. The new 7 is larger than the outgoing long-wheelbase model, the only one sold in the USA. Interestingly, BMW will not introduce a shorter 7 in other parts of the world.
The new car is 5.1 inches longer, 1.9 inches wider, and two inches taller. The wheelbase has only grown by 0.2 inches, but it's not like its predecessor lacked legroom. Luggage capacity is still relatively limited, rated at 19.1 cubic feet. The i7 provides only 17.7 cubes. If trunk space is a concern, you're better off with the X7.
If you are a 7 Series owner, you'll have to get used to a new way of interacting with the car. BMW is using the 7 Series to introduce what it calls the Interaction Bar. It's a crystalline surface structure that combines various existing features into one design and ergonomic feature.
The trim strip runs the entire length of the instrument panel and into the door trim. You'll find touch-sensitive controls for the climate control, glove compartment, and hazard lights within it.
This strip also doubles as the primary source of ambient lighting, and the owner can customize it to do different things. For example, you can have it play a particular animation for an incoming call from your spouse.
As you'd expect, the seats are sublime and optimized for comfort. But, being German, there are various options available. All 7s get power-adjustable multi-contour seats, while the 60i adds seat ventilation. A massage function with nine settings is optional on all models.
The i7 is the only model that comes as standard with multifunction rear seats with active seat ventilation and a massage function. The multifunction rear seats also enhance the sound experience thanks to built-in speakers as part of an optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System.
We didn't get to play around as much as we liked, but the integration of old and new seemed to work fine. BMW's standard Panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof allows more light into the cabin, and yes, you can have the fold-down flat screen and the LED roof.
The big-ass TV, otherwise known as the BMW Theater Screen, will be one of the big talking points, and it will likely be combined with the Executive Lounge option. Tick that option, and you can expect a passenger-side rear seat that reclines by 42.5 degrees, which BMW says is the new benchmark in the segment. This is the perfect setup to be driven in, as the giant TV makes for a fairly antisocial environment.
But what an environment it is. If you choose to use the Theater Screen, a few things will happen. It will fold down elegantly, and the LED roof will close. The sunshades for the side and rear windows close and the ambient lights are dimmed. As if that's not good enough already, BMW approached Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer to create a soundtrack for when this is happening. And that previously mentioned optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System plays it via a 36-speaker sound system.
The i7 takes the sound experience to yet another level, with various sounds for functions also composed by Hans Zimmer.
With the luxuries and features covered, it's time to move on to the driving experience. BMW claims it made the seventh 7 more comfortable and dynamic thanks to an adaptive two-axle air suspension with electronically controlled dampers. This system is standard on all models, and it gives the car the ability to control the damping at all four corners individually.
The resulting experience depends on the driving mode.
Other handling improvements include active steering with variable ratios and rear-wheel steering. The latter is standard on all models, apart from the base 740i. The Bimmer also uses a front-mounted camera and anticipation software to read the road ahead and the navigation system working in the background to prime the suspension for upcoming corners. In short, you can still hustle along in a 7 Series if you want.
And though it's not as sexy as the rest of the package, it's worth pointing out the safety features BMW is showcasing with the new 7. It comes packaged with the latest generation of cameras and ultrasonic and radar sensors, a new software stack, a powerful computing platform, and a 5G connection. All 7s have over-the-air updates so that these systems will improve over time.
The car boasts hands-free driving for up to 80 mph (where allowed), automated parking, and a more advanced front collision avoidance system that can pick up other cars, pedestrians, cyclists, oncoming traffic, and cyclists that are running parallel to the vehicle.
BMW claims it now runs the largest over-the-air fleet globally, and it will use this feature to update constantly.
From launch, three versions of the new 7 will be available. The all-electric i7 has an MSRP of $119,300, excluding a $995 destination fee. The xDrive 60i retails for $113,600, while the 740i will sell for $93,300. These prices undercut the direct rivals from Mercedes-Benz by a few thousand dollars.
Though pricing for the optional extras has not been announced, a product expert at the unveiling said that people can expect to pay roughly $150,000 for a fully equipped 7.
The order books will open later this month, and the 7 will start shipping in November. Customers will likely receive their vehicles in late 2022 or early 2023.