BMW’s electric car attack continues in 2022 with a new chapter. The new generation BMW 7 Series (G70) will bring the brand’s first 7 Series electric. Borrowing the naming from the i4, the new electric limousine will be sold under the BMW i7 Monica. Production launch is scheduled for June this year (market launch November), so before the product roll-out, BMW invited me to Munich to sample a pre-prototype of the i7.
This is a common practice in the automotive industry, for several reasons. First, an early prototype drive by the media allows engineers to gather some feedback outside of their normal test cycle. Second, the marketing and press departments can further tease their products before the official market launch. In this case, the official unveiling is scheduled for April 20, and that’s when we’ll see all the glory of the new 7 Series and i7.
Driving a camouflage prototype
As was the case with the BMW i4 prototype, experimental vehicles are always covered with a camouflage tape. The BMW i7 and 7 Series petrol-powered prototypes were no exception. The morning begins in Mysore where BMW hosts multiple driving schools. On schedule I have been driving back-to-back with the petrol-powered 7 Series i7. And this is certainly interesting because the two prototypes cannot be separated. The conventional 7 Series uses the new S68 V8 4.4-liter engine with a 48-volt light hybrid, while the i7 is a fully electric drivetrain that shares some components with the BMW iX.
I’ll talk about the S68 and the new 7 Series in a separate Drive review, so in this article, the i7 takes center stage.
General convenience for a luxury limousine
From a technical standpoint, BMW did not share much with us at the briefing. I was just told that this is a pure electric 7 Series with your usual limousine features: integral steering, four-wheel steering, electronic-adjustable damper and air suspension. There was no word on battery power, range, horsepower output, or any other juicy technical tidbit. But fortunately I have covered the BMW i7 quite a bit in the past so I was able to draw some educated guesses.
For starters, the BMW i7 prototype seemed like a car that could deliver at least 500 horsepower. In fact, it feels even more powerful than the BMW iX xDrive50 that comes with 516 horsepower. So I would say that the power range is somewhere between that and 550 ponies. Furthermore, based on pushing the i7 prototype into some tight corners, I’m sure the xDrive system was part of the package.
So if I put this data together, it’s probably an early prototype of the BMW i7 xDrive60 that was recently leaked by BMW in North America. Whatever its name, however, the purpose of this test drive was to sense the driving dynamics of the new electric limousine. So the route gave me a brief stretch of unlimited automobile speed before I jumped on the picturesque winding roads around Munich.
One word: fast!
My first impression? BMW i7 very fast. Despite being a fairly large and heavy car, the i7 drives effortlessly and very quickly out of line. A soft tap on the drive paddle is enough to get you back in the seat before you reach the legal speed limit. No scientific experiments have been done, but I’m sure a 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100 km / h) must arrive in less than 4 seconds.
And just like the i4 and iX, torque delivery is instant and fun. Traveling through tight curves reminds me why electric cars can be and drive fun. Thanks to the fast power delivery not only you can push the car to the upper limit, but you can easily overcome any slow traffic. There’s also an Ebust function – just like any other electric BMW – but of course BMW sticks to those details. Nevertheless, a rocket scientist does not need to feel the extra power and torque provided by a short blast.
The two-axle air suspension behaves the same as the previous generation, but of course, it has been dialed for electric drivetrain and the size of the new 7 Series. It works together with electrically controlled shock and adjustable suspension height settings. The suspension automatically adjusts body height with low rides in sport mode. Of course, the dampness is constantly adjusted, enabling the new i7 to stabilize and smooth out all the irregularities on the road surface.
A new steering gear with standard variable ratio steering rack is also part of the BMW i7 package and works hand-in-hand with Integral Active steering. The latter comes with acoustic decoupling and HSR rear axle slip angle control. Thanks to the four-wheel steering, the rear wheel can rotate on the opposite side of the front wheel to increase the agility of the angle. Of course, this reduces the bending radius when parking. At higher speeds, the rear wheels also rotate with the front wheels to increase stability. BMW says the rear wheel angle can rise up to 3.5 degrees.
The BMW i7 Electric also has a near-actuator wheel slip that allows for fully variable power transmission between the front and rear wheels. And like all rear-wheel drive-based BMWs, the i7 has an RWD bias in normal driving conditions. Of course, pushing cars to the corners will provide extra traction on the front wheels. The overall package is certainly similar to what I’ve experienced on the BMW iX, but naturally, it’s adapted to the 7 Series platform.
The BMW i7 feels flashy on its toes and it often makes me forget about its heavy weight. The integrated braking system was paired with 18 and 19 inch M Sport brakes in this prototype which proved to be quite effective in a few close calls.
Light nose, soft steering
The steering response varies from the V8-powered 7 Series. The lack of a heavy front engine gives the i7 a lighter nose and, instead, a softer steering and reduced response from the road. I was also told that there was a slight difference in the balance of the cars, but no specification was given at this time. In my experience, the steering wheel of the BMW i7 has a lot more dead zones than the “regular” 7 Series and certainly feels lighter. Switching to Sport Mode will definitely fix some of that behavior.
Speaking of driving mode, the BMW i7 prototype has two modes enabled for me: personal and sport. The former provides balanced settings across the entire tech stack, and gives a softer ride, while the latter enhances the sport of electric limousine. And as with most recent BMWs, the gaps between driving modes are significant. Although BMW wants to offer dual-character cars according to the design.
If you ride alone in a car, I would recommend Sport Mode, but if you have passengers with you, you must ride with a balanced setup. You also need to be careful about accelerating and braking in an electric vehicle as you may experience speed sickness in an extended vehicle ride. But of course, you can also adjust the slowness through regenerative braking. The BMW didn’t actually touch the brake-reasoning issue on the i7, but I’m sure my prototype is set up in adaptive mode. And like the iX, data from the navigation system and regenerative braking can be altered by sensors on the driver support system.
The most advanced driver assistance feature
This brings me to the next point. The new BMW 7 Series, and obviously the i7, comes with a comprehensive system of sensors and radar. A camera for embedding objects is embedded in the top of the windshield, along with a front-view camera mounted on the bumper. There are two side mirror cameras and a rear-view. Two near-range radars with a long-range radar sit in front of the vehicle. Another couple has been placed behind the short-range Radar 7 series. In addition, the BMW includes 12 ultrasonic sensors, split front and rear of the car.
All of these new technologies work together to provide the most advanced driver assistance system in any BMW. The new 7 Series and i7 come with an assisted view feature that provides augmented reality extensions to the instrument cluster. There’s a new Highway Assistant (only available in the United States and Canada) with Highway Exit Assistant. The latter allows the car to change itself up to six lanes before a highway exists. The feature will notify you when you are about to leave and you can confirm your departure by tapping on the turn signal.
German customers also get Urban Cruise Control with traffic light recognition Also included are General Active Lane Guiding, Emergency Assistant, Collision Warning and Intelligent Speed Assistant. BMW labels this new driver support system as Level 2+, but features the sensor setup for implementing the new 7 Series and i7 Level 3.
Parking has been improved in the new BMW 7 Series. Now there are Remote Maneuver Assistant, Parking Assistant Professional and Reversing Assistant Professional. The latter can record paths up to 100 meters.
Rolling Noise Keep in check
Despite rolling on 20-inch wheels with winter tires, the BMW i7 was incredibly quiet on the road. There was almost no outside noise and the sound of tires was heard outside as well. As an alternative to 20-inch light-alloy wheels, there is a choice of 21-inch air performance wheels. They draw low air and can be fitted with noise-reducing tires, which have a foam layer on the inner surface.
The last part of my test route took me to the German autobahn where I had the opportunity to push the car to its top limit. The BMW i7 comes really fast at 225 km / h, but of course, at the expense of the electric range. No word on top speed yet.
The interior design is similar to iX
Naturally, some of you may be thinking about the interior design of the BMW i7, but the cabin was well camouflaged and not specially made with production-ready materials. Still, there are a few things to report. Just as we mentioned in previous articles, the BMW 7 Series, and obviously the i7, will get two large and connected curved displays from the iX. The new 7 Series also seems to drop body buttons to adjust the cabin temperature. The center console mimics one of the iX’s with a minimal iDrive controller and gear shifter. There was also the option to close the door at the touch of a button, with a new steering design featuring a flat bottom.
Unfortunately we didn’t see the new 31-inch theater screen but we will have a chance to play with it before the official unveiling.
Overall, the BMW i7 replicates the iX formula for the luxury limousine. In many ways, the two cars are the same, but of course, the driving dynamics vary slightly. Ultimately, the BMW i7 is the answer to a market looking for a high-end luxury and electric sedan, so it will bring the features that customers need. This BMW i7 prototype already looks like a well-refined product with good driving dynamics and hopefully, decent electric range. Because despite all the luxuries and high-tech features, an electric limousine has to provide a mandatory driving range, including fast charging time. And underlying, a great network infrastructure. But later we got behind the wheel of the BMW i7 production series.