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BMW i7 review: An electric luxury sedan with a rear-seat movie theater

The German automaker decided that the i7 – with its starting price of $119,300 – will throw all the tech it has at the large luxury sedan. For the driver, there's all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, and a boost mode that kicks it up to 11 for 10 seconds thanks to 536 horsepower and 549 pound-feet of torque. It'll do zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds and does all that while eating up the bumps in the road and transferring nothing but smoothness to those in the vehicle. For passengers, especially those in the back, there's a 31.3-inch widescreen display that folds down from the roof, supporting Amazon Prime video and HDMI inputs. So you could watch a movie or play video games while lounging in the backseat.

Video transcript

ROBERTO BALDWIN: BMW's recent designs can be, well, polarizing. You either appreciate the company's willingness to go for it or you find all these sharp edges off putting. While the recent addition of the XM has taken this to another level, let's not forget the luxury sedan with the giant kidney grille, the I7.

The thing is no matter how you feel about the exterior of the I7, if you're inside, you're going to be enjoying yourself. Well, mostly if you're sitting in the back seats or in the driver's seat.

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The I7 is one of the latest entries into BMW's EV lineup. With a bank account empty and starting price of $119,300, the I7 is aiming its sights at the Mercedes-Benz EQS and the Lucid Air. So how does it stack up against the competition? Actually, quite nicely.

The biggest difference is back here in the rear seats of the I7 where-- you know what? Let's make a little room. Let's get a little comfortable. While the Lucid Air has a very comfortable rear seat, the EQS has a comfortable real seat but it doesn't have a lot of headroom. Meanwhile, the I7 goes a bit further.

For instance, right now, the vehicle is setting itself up so that I can lounge here in the rear passenger side of the vehicle. It's moving the front passenger seat all the way up to the windshield, it's lifting up my legs right here with a little thigh support, and then, in the rear seat, a little platform a pop out. So I can place my feet. Now I am 6 foot 3 and I fit.

And in addition to that, while I am sitting here lounging, I can also do this-- enable this 31.3 inch display, this huge wide display. It works with Fire TV. So you need a Fire TV account. You can also use it with HDMI input or if you just have the adapter for one of your mobile devices. This is luxury in an EV that we haven't quite seen before. This is laid back, enjoy a movie while someone else drives you to-- I don't know-- somewhere 90 minutes away, I suppose.

Behind the wheel, this vehicle is a delight. And that's because even though it is a large sedan, it is an EV, it has dual motors and all wheel drive, and it has all wheel steering which means that even though it's, well, a big car, it's actually quite nimble and quite quick. So let's put it in sport mode. You're just driving down the road and you, I don't know, slam in the accelerator, you get this.

It has 536 horsepower and 549 pounds feet of torque. That pushes the large sedan from 0 to 60 in about 4.5 seconds according to BMW. Now to get all of that power that BMW promises in its specs, there is a boost pedal. It's right here on the left side behind the steering wheel. It sits here. It says boost. You can just sort of see it.

And then when you depress it, it gives you a 10 second extra fun time everything. It even has a little countdown, so it tells you when you are almost out of boost. Making the vehicle feel smaller than it is, the rear wheels turn up to 3.5 degrees. It helps with cornering and parking lots and at high speeds, the wheels turn in parallel with the front wheels so that it feels like you're sliding over when you change lanes.

Now all that makes for a nice performance sedan but the reality is that the I7 is all about comfort and luxury. And this is probably one of the quietest vehicles I've ever been in. Do you hear that? Yeah, that's nothing. You don't hear anything.

Yes, you'll hear the HVAC system if you turned the air conditioning all the way up, and you'll will hear a little teeny tiny bit of road noise on a rough road like right now. But overall, it's just so quiet in here. You could, I don't know, get a bunch of babies and put them in the back and let them nap. And if you started to hit the corners, the steering in this vehicle is very exact. It doesn't feel tight, it doesn't feel heavy.

It feels nice and loose and free, but what you tell the car to do, it does. There is no play between your controls and the wheels. It's very, very tight and it's very nimble. Again, and that's really helped by the all wheel steering. It just sort of glides over the road for the passengers in a way that you want from a luxury vehicle without that sort of bump that you get sometimes in some older vehicles. Overall, it is a really nice, very comfortable, very serene driving experience.

In the dash, you have the latest version of BMW's iDrive infotainment system. It's housed in a 12.3 inch screen. It is a touch screen, obviously. There's really hardly any latency on this thing.

Here on the main page, you can-- you got a little carousel, you can swipe back and forth. It has all the main things you need access to the car-- route, traffic, telephone, radio, navigation. But you also have access to apps which include not just the vehicle apps, but also all the apps, including the apps that you have on your synced device. I have CarPlay set up with my iPhone. So I can see Spotify, I can see Waze, I can see Microsoft Teams. So that's nice.

So in addition to the touch screen, you also have this crystal rotary controller. You can use it to sort of turn, go up and down, select. And there's also the voice assistance. So you can do things like, hey, BMW, set the temperature to 65 degrees.

- I'm setting 65 degrees Fahrenheit for the driver.

ROBERTO BALDWIN: So there you go. One thing I really like about this area where it has the little crystal controller is that there are physical hot keys to items that are in your infotainment system. So you're not trying to sort of straight arm and hit a button here. There is a physical button that you can create a muscle memory for.

So if I want to hit navigation or if I need media or if I just need to go to the home screen, it's just a physical button push away. It's actually sort of a haptic feedback. But it's still somewhere where I can rest my arm, put my hand right here and just hit media, navigation, media, navigation, media, navigation. It's quite nice.

One thing I don't like-- and even though there is a physical button, which I am a fan of-- is the my modes, which is your driving modes. You hit this and it doesn't change the actual mode. You just hit this to open up the mode display. And then when you select the mode, it just stays on that screen.

I feel like it should go back to, say, navigation or media or whatever you were using because now that it's on-- right now it's on the efficient drive mode. It's just a weird bluish greenish something and that's not helping me. So I've got to go back over here, hit navigation, and I really feel like after a few moments, it goes back to the previous display that you were using.

As for driving tech, BMW's hands free traffic assistant has been upgraded. Now, instead of a 40 mile an hour top speed, it'll go up to 80 miles an hour. In my test, it's a bit better than what Ford offers, but not quite as nice as GM's Super Cruise. Now to reduce mode confusion-- and that is when you don't know what features are turned on with your driver assistance system-- right now, I'm in assistant plus which is BMW's hands free system. But it tells me that both in the dash cluster and in the head up display.

But in addition to that, they also have little lights that are on the steering wheel right here. There are little green lights. Now those green lights tell me that I am in hands free mode. When it start flashing amber or red, that means I need to take over control of the vehicle like right there. There we go. I need to take over control of the vehicle and it tells me that, hey, you are in control.

Now regardless of whether or not I'm using hands free or not, I'm always responsible for how this vehicle is driving. But it does reduce some of the cognitive load if the car is allowed to sort of take care of some of the acceleration and the braking. Hands free is nice, but I never know what to do with my hands. So I just end up leaving them on the steering wheel.

The rest of the vehicle is actually really comfortable including, of course, the lounge seat in the back. But the front seat, the driver's side, passenger side, the regular just back seat, they're all very comfortable. You have just enough support. In fact, if you put the car in say sport mode, it'll tighten up these side bolsters. So if you're doing some aggressive driving, you're sliding around a lot, you throw it into efficiency mode and it loosens up those bolsters to give you a little bit more wiggle room.

I really like all the design flourishes inside this vehicle, I like this sort of carbon fiber. All the materials are top notch. I really like this cut metal. And my favorite thing is just like little crystal ambient light strip that goes from the driver's side to the dash all the way over to the passenger side.

It lights up as ambient lights. You can set it to pretty much any color you want. It's nice during the day, it's a nice little touch. At night, it's cooler. But if you're not a fan of bright lights, you can adjust the brightness or you can just turn it off.

It feels like a road trip card is the I7 is a grand tour. Fortunately, it has the range to pull that off thanks to a usable battery capacity of 101.7 kilowatt hours. With that, the EPA says that the vehicle can travel 308 miles on 21 inch wheels, which is what we have on this vehicle. In our tests, we got a range of 333 miles which, of course, is more. And if you opt for these smaller 19 inch wheels, you'll get a range of 318 miles according to the EPA. But we're guessing that, well, that vehicle will beat its range number in our tests.

And when you take this to a compatible DC fast charger, BMW says that it'll top off at 195 kilowatts mostly because BMW is still using a 400 volt architecture system. But in our tests, when we took this to a DC fast charger, we saw speeds up to 205 kilowatts. So again, that's faster, which brings us to the exterior design. It's all angular and a little angry and that grille is, well, the grille.

But I actually like it. And I like it because it reminds me of "Batman the Animated Series." And the fact that it has cat eyes up front makes me think that this is Catwoman's car. It's Selena Kyle's car because she likes nice things.

The 2023 BMW I7 continues BMW's ability to impress us with EV's ahead of its new class platform. Now we started with the I4 and the IX and now we have the I7. And soon, we'll have the I5. So BMW is really going forward into the EV future. And as it does so, Mercedes and Lucid should take notice. For more automotive coverage next to Catwoman's car, be sure to subscribe to Engadget.

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