When you hear Swarovski crystals, a 30+ inch foldable cinema screen and ambient lighting that switches to suit your mood, you might expect the conversation to be about the latest cocktail lounge. These are, in fact, just a few of the bells and whistles Bavarian automaker BMW has added to its latest i7, an all-electric rendition of its flagship sedan, the 7 series, which goes head-to-head with the likes of the Audi A6, and the Mercedes-Benz S Class. The i7 is the first full size entrant to the electric bandwagon from the BMW stable.
How does one reposition a flagship product while retaining its DNA and setting new standards for the segment it plays in? After all, the 7 series flagship that sits at the top of BMW’s offerings hasn’t been revamped in a while. That’s something that BMW’s engineers would have undoubtedly grappled with at the time they engineered their big electric car. The result is a large luxury limousine.
Right off the bat, one can’t miss BMW’s oversized and aggressive kidney grille. The new grill has had a mixed response from most car-lovers but on the i7 it sits right, thanks to its overarching dimensions. Observed from a distance, the sweep of the car and design line bears slight resemblance to the Rolls Royce Ghost, especially around the A and C-Pillar. Rolls Royce is part of the BMW group and it’s no secret that historically the 7 series and the Rolls-Royce Ghost have been built on similar platforms.
Step inside and you’ll see why the i7 is so new. The auto giant has used automatic doors that can be opened with the press of a button, or a tap on your BMW smartphone app. Those concerned about safety will be pleased to know that the function works in conjunction with ultrasonic sensors that detect there’s nothing in the way, so there’s no risk of accidental impact. The interiors are all luxe, from leather swaddled upholstery to wood panels but what jumps out are the fancy crystal buttons and controls to adjust seats and the idrive function. It doesn’t stop there: BMW partnered with Swarovski to infuse crystal elements in its headlights.
Another innovation is the curved display—a 12-inch digital layout that is accompanied by a 15-inch touchscreen for BMW’s Operating System 8 infotainment. An unusual feature is efficient but invisible air-con vents, a departure from BMWs of the past. While most cars today come with automatic safety assistance features driven by software, many become too aggressive in terms of how they interplay with driving conditions.
On this metric BMW scores high for the following reasons: alerts for nearby cars or pedestrians are flagged by muted buzzing and not shrill sounds that can actually cause driving disturbance. More importantly, the car’s systems don’t override the driver’s actions—more of a disruption than a solution in India’s cluttered city streets.
How does the i7 drive given that it’s powered by a new electric engine drivetrain? For starters, the lack of sound means that one can floor the pedal harder than normal, which will throw up impressive initial acceleration and reveal a car that is fast by any standards despite its size, bulk and weight. It’s also super comfortable especially in the rear seat where there is ample leg room, loads of cubby holes and compartments and the novel drop down foldable large screen TV, something Netflix junkies will appreciate on long rides.
To return to the handling, despite the i7’s kerb weight of almost 2,700kg, it feels surprisingly light, nimble and easy to fling around corners and twisty roads. Having driven the car across the city and for long stretches of time one can testify that the i7 holds up well when it comes to range and battery life efficiency, something that a lot of EVs fall short on when the rubber actually meets the road.
Of course, battery life is one constant concern when it comes to any electric vehicle. No doubt premium luxury cars come with the added advantage of being ahead in the E game given their product roll out in Western markets but even so BMW has pushed the envelope on battery-life, range and service warranty. The i7’s battery, when fully charged, offers a range of over 600km, which is enough to travel from Pune to Mumbai twice over. The warranty covers up to eight years or 160,000km. BMW claims “fast charging”, which translates to zero to 100% in around five hours when hooked up to a 22Kw AC charger. Customers get a complimentary wall charger and the company offers charging support through its dealerships in 32 cities nationwide.
The i7 is not a cheap car. Priced at a shade under ₹2 crore, it is taking swings at competitors such as the S class but its new design and tech offerings means it is likely to get more than a few takers in the near term. Think of it as a dream boat for the roads. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org