My in-laws, in town for the holidays, sat silently in the back seat of BMW’s new electric flagship. They are rarely so quiet, but here, laid back in the first-class massaging thrones of the all-new 2023 BMW i7, they were hushed, transfixed not by the fact the car is electric, nor by its shocking price tag, but by the screen. This thing makes the JumboTron look basic.
At the press of a button, the 31-inch Theatre Display pivots down from the roof, and moves fore and aft along a motorized track, adjusting itself to be perfectly positioned for rear-seat occupants. Motorized curtains black out the car’s glass roof and rear window – making the rearview mirror completely useless – while shades dim the side windows.
The $147,000 BMW i7 is actually a home theatre masquerading as an electric car; it lets passengers go “goblin-mode” on the go.
Being stuck in traffic is just an excuse for passengers to lie back, crack open some Doritos, binge-watch Netflix and retreat from the world into this luxurious, darkened cocoon. Its heated and cooled recliners put La-Z-Boy to shame. The theatre display has a crisp 8K maximum resolution and Amazon Fire TV built-in. It’ll stream movies and television in 4K, provided cellular data reception is good enough. The surround sound is incredible, probably better than in most home theatres. The optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond stereo system has 36 speakers, including four in the roof and two in each headrest. “Exciters” in the seats vibrate to help you really feel, say, the roar of jet engines in the new Top Gun: Maverick.
The display screen is controlled by touchscreens in each rear door, or by touching the screen itself. All this technology could have been complicated, but it’s easy enough to use. My in-laws, who admit they aren’t especially tech-savvy, managed to stream the original Addams Family television show.
Globe Drive editor Jordan Chittley went for a test drive with his two children in the back and found they never once asked, “Are we there yet?” It’ll be hard, he said, for his kids to go back to the family station wagon.
The catch, of course, is that a mobile home theatre doesn’t come cheap. The i7 costs $147,000, or more than three fully loaded Subaru Outbacks, but the BMW is within $500 of the Mercedes-Benz EQS, its closest rival.
At that price, you’d think BMW could throw in the giant screen, but no, it’s a $4,900 option. The reclining rear seat and footrest are part of the Executive Lounge package, which costs an additional $2,800. The B&W Diamond surround sound system is $5,900. Including the $12,000 two-tone paint job, our test car came to $194,200, before taxes and fees.
You’re not paying that much because the i7 is electric, mind you. The battery-powered i7 is the same price as the gasoline-burning 760i. The two cars are essentially the same apart from their propulsion systems. (At least in this rarefied automotive echelon, EVs and gas cars have already reached price parity.)
Given the eye-watering price BMW is charging here, it’s disappointing to see so much cheap-looking black plastic on the front of our test car. Not only that, but all of the fun gadgets that make this car so entertaining – the gigantic screen, lounge seat, automatic doors – are optional.
When it comes to all-important driving range, on paper at least, Mercedes and Tesla have the BMW beat. In sub-zero temperatures, the i7 was estimating just over 400 kilometres of range with the heat cranked. Officially, the dual-motor all-wheel-drive i7 xDrive60 is rated at 476 to 512 kilometres in Canada. (It varies depending on wheel size, with the 19-inch hoops offering the longest range.) By comparison, the all-wheel-drive Mercedes EQS 580 is rated at 547 kilometres, while the $135,000 Tesla Model S trumps both with a rated range of 652.
As a gadget-stuffed electric flagship, the i7 offers more for your in-laws, children or other passengers to ooh and aah about than the Mercedes EQS. And in the electric era, high-tech features are increasingly important as differentiators.
2023 BMW i7 xDrive60
- Base price/as tested: $147,000/$194,200
- Engine: Dual-motor electric
- Transmission/drive: Single-speed/all-wheel drive
- Energy consumption (litre-equivalent per 100 kilometres): 2.7 city, 2.6 highway
- Alternatives: Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz EQS, Lucid Air, BMW 760i, Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8
The i7 has more presence than the bean-shaped Mercedes EQS, but like most recent BMWs, it’s hard to love. With the i7 (and iX, updated X7, 4 Series and M3/4), the brand has gone for more imposing designs fronted by an enlarged buck-toothed grille, as seen here.
The interior, at least, is impressive. It’s a real generational leap from the old 7 Series. The cabin feels much more luxurious and expensive than both the Tesla and the Mercedes EQS with its smudge-prone all-glass Hyperscreen dashboard. The BMW’s colour-changing crystalline strip running around the cabin is a great touch.
For a 2.6-tonne luxury behemoth, it’s well-composed in corners, resisting body-roll and only understeering when the driver tries to call upon all 544 horsepower mid-turn. The i7 is no sports sedan – for that, try the Porsche Taycan or Lucid Air – but it isn’t trying to be, despite the pointless BMW M badges scattered throughout.
The doors are supposed to open and close at the push of a button, but the feature was inconsistent. Thankfully, the i7′s optional hands-free highway driving assist worked much better. (As with every other car available in Canada today, the driver is still responsible for driving.) If you take your eyes off the road for too many seconds, the car notices you’re distracted and asks you to take the steering wheel.
The gas-powered 760i has a slightly higher cargo capacity: 540 litres versus 500.
If not the best luxury EV, then certainly the best way to enjoy home theatre on the go.
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