Words by: Dan Trent
"The BMW 7 Series sells in tiny numbers in the UK and Europe but has a bigger role to play as a global ambassador for the brand’s latest tech, design and innovation. Launching here as the all-electric i7 (hybrids will follow in due course), you may not be in the market for such a vast and opulent limousine yourself but where the 7 Series leads the rest of the BMW range follows. So, it still matters and you can expect its design and tech to filter down to the rest of the range in due course. From its huge grille and split headlights back, the i7 dazzles for its silent electric drive, the reach of its driver assistance technology and the luxury of its interior, the headline feature being a huge, widescreen TV that folds down from the roof so you can chill in the back with a film while the chauffeur wafts you home."
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Running costs for a BMW 7 Series
The i7 is the flagship of the BMW range and pitched accordingly, with prices starting well north of six figures. Private buyers in the market for such a car probably aren’t too concerned by running costs but the all-electric powertrain will at least make it relatively cheap on that score and if you run it through your company you could save a packet in Benefit In Kind compared with rival limos. Whisper it but most 7 Series are actually bought as posh private hire vehicles, and here the running costs and ability to cruise around city centres free of congestion and emissions charges will help the bottom line for operators for as long as these incentives last.
Reliability of a BMW 7 Series
BMW’s reliability record isn’t too hot, historically speaking. But the relative mechanical simplicity of an electric powertrain should – hopefully – present fewer risks on that score and the complex electronics controlling the rest of the car will hopefully live up to the expectation flagship status carries. If they don’t the inclusive Service Inclusive package is a small price to pay relative to the cost of the car, while the standard unlimited mileage warranty lasts three years for the car and up to eight years or 100,000 miles for the battery. All can be extended at extra cost if you feel the need.
Safety for a BMW 7 Series
Over its various generations the 7 Series has debuted many safety systems we now take for granted across the BMW range, including xenon headlights, head-up displays and even remote parking. For the i7 it’s all about getting as close to automated driving as the law permits, meaning autonomous abilities actually vary according to which country you buy your car in and how much self-driving the local regulations permit. All the usual gizmos are standard, the cost upgrade to Driving Assistant Pro taking things as far as is permitted for UK roads and using cameras, sensors and navigation info to pre-emptively configure the car for what’s ahead, be that traffic or other hazards. Control of the car remains your responsibility, which is just as well because in our hands the i7 was apparently ready to sail across a busy junction without stopping if we hadn’t intervened on the brake pedal. Perhaps of more use for such a big car an optional parking support package can even ‘record’ common manoeuvres like tight car park entrances at your luxury city centre apartment block so you can let the car take over and tuck itself into your designated space.
How comfortable is the BMW 7 Series
The 7 Series has traditionally been the limo you’d actually like to drive yourself, and true to form the driver’s seat of the i7 is an incredibly soothing place to rack up miles in town or across country. But do yourself a favour and factor the cost of employing a driver into the price to really do this car justice. Because with the suitable options packages fitted the back seat of the i7 is the place to be, your head falling back into a soft pillow as the seats recline and you enjoy a soothing massage with cooling air wafting through the upholstery. Because all i7s are now long-wheelbase there’s room to stretch out for two back there, the clever air suspension gliding over the bumps with utter disdain for any potholes or rough surfaces. This is genuinely first-class travel for the well-heeled and such a pleasant place to spend time you’ll be asking Jeeves to take the long way home.
Features of the BMW 7 Series
For such a complex car the trim structure is refreshingly simple, and broken down into Excellence with its more traditional chrome-trimmed sense of luxury and the more contemporary M Sport with its black embellishments and meaner look. Both can be upgraded to Pro status, which throws in pretty much all of the available options packages for the ultimate in luxury. Pro also includes the i7’s signature feature, this being the 31.3-inch widescreen BMW Theatre Display that folds down from the roof and turns the rear seats into a private cinema. A smartphone-style tablet in each rear door armrest lets you bring up your favourite Netflix, YouTube or other streaming services, activate your preferred massage and adjust the four-zone climate control to suit. The silent electric drive meanwhile lets you appreciate the quality of the Bowers & Wilkins surround sound, upgradeable to ‘Diamond’ level if you really want to splash out. Automatic doors you can operate from your phone are even available, though in our experience seemed tech for tech’s sake, were frustratingly slow to operate and one gimmick you can probably live without.
Power for a BMW 7 Series
Suppose you want to take the wheel yourself? Good news! The i7 may be a big BMW but it’s still a BMW, and has various tricks to make sure it drives like one if you so choose. Clever active anti-roll and rear-wheel steering means it can carve the corners like a 3 Series, the clever automatic regeneration system meaning the car recovers energy according to upcoming corners, junctions and inclines predicted by the navigation and onboard cameras. With 544 horsepower and ability to hit 0-62mph in less than five seconds the i7 can deploy violent acceleration when needed, though you probably won’t last long as a chauffeur if you choose to test this with passengers aboard. Better to waft and enjoy the refinement, the massive battery meaning a usable range of well over 300 miles between charges. Like the iX the i7 also includes BMW’s ‘Iconic Sounds’ created specifically for electric models by famous Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer. In the Sport or Expressive modes acceleration is scored by a swelling, synthesised orchestral sound that builds in volume and intensity according to how hard you press the throttle. While gliding along silently in the more comfortable modes is the i7’s real trick these settings show a fun side to what is an otherwise very, very serious car.
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