The auto industry’s race towards electrification has just heated up in a major way, with Germany’s BMW revealing that the seventh generation of their flagship full-size luxury sedan, the 7 Series, will see a fully-electric variant for the first time – the i7.
The new 7 Series is a seriously lavish new vehicle. The panoramic 31-inch BMW Theatre Screen in the rear is a particular highlight – it’s like a luxury cinema on wheels – as is the giant curved dash and the sumptuous, futuristic interior made with a high proportion of recycled materials.
It’s also huge. BMW is only offering a long-wheelbase version, and it’s almost 5.4m long: 10cm linger than the previous long-wheelbase 7 Series. It’s a total luxury barge in perfect ‘screw you’ BMW fashion.
The i7 variant is particularly impressive, with its 625kms of range, 400kW power figure and impeccable all-wheel drive. The 7 Series has always been about offering a buttery-smooth driving experience, and the i7 delivers that like no 7 Series that’s come before.
In short, it’s a great car. And it should make Mercedes-Benz very nervous.
The reason Mercedes – typically the king of luxury cars, with the S-Class being the gold standard for big luxury sedans – should be worried about the i7 is because they currently have no answer to it. Indeed, none of the other German car brands has electrified their top-of-the-line luxury sedan in the same way as BMW has.
Yes, Mercedes has the EQS, but as motor1.com puts it, “the EQS doesn’t quite match the extraordinary levels of ride comfort that its sibling, the S-Class, delivers”. They also say that it’s “frumpy”, “hunchbacked” and “looks like a runny egg”. Say what you really feel…
Conversely, the new i7/7 Series looks muscular; imposing; tank-like. BMW calls the design “monolithic” and we’d tend to agree – it’s the perfect look for a luxury land yacht. The spilt headlights look very cool, as does the large grille (although we’re not sure why car brands still insist on giving electric cars grilles… But that’s another discussion.)
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But this isn’t just about looks, it’s about what the i7 represents and offers. The EQS straight-up just isn’t an S-Class. Audi’s e-tron GT sedan is an awesome car, but it’s not an A8, nor is the e-tron SUV. The Porsche Taycan is even more awesome than the e-tron GT but it’s not a Panamera. You get the picture. But the i7 is very much a 7 Series.
This all might seem like a trivial difference but the fact you can get BMW’s biggest, most luxurious sedan in fully electric guise is actually quite significant.
It’s a vote of confidence in electrification from BMW and signals that going electric doesn’t mean you have to compromise on performance or comfort. EVs don’t need to be split off; ‘quarantined’ in their own model families. It’s normalising going electric. You’re just choosing a different donk, the same way you’d opt for diesel over petrol or a V8 over an inline-6.
It’s also easier for customers to wrap their head around when shopping for a new BMW – and might help take some of the stigma out of going electric. Again, all good things.
We’re just keen to drive one. Or be driven in one, under the circumstances.