Can you imagine what it would feel like to travel in an Earth-bound spacecraft? I’ve experienced the closest approximation as BMW’s latest battery blaster – the full-electric i7 M70 flagship – is what I imagine flying in a UFO at low altitude must feel like.
Driven by ever-tightening environmental regulations – especially in Europe – BMW is embarking on a primarily electrified path, and even the brand’s high-performance M-badged models will be almost exclusively battery-charged by the end of the decade.
The ballistic i7 M70 is a precursor of what’s to come, as it leverages every ounce of EV expertise and chassis-tuning wizardry at the company’s disposal. The result is the fastest and most powerful electric vehicle BMW has rolled out to date.
Herculean outputs of 660hp and 1,100Nm provide a clue to the searing acceleration of the luxury-lined limo, but one needs to experience the car’s jet-fighter thrust first-hand to fully appreciate what a rocket it is. BMW quotes a 0-100kph split of 3.7 seconds and top speed of 250kph, but numbers convey only half the story.
The lack of a combustion engine means there’s no exhaust note or sensation of revs rising and falling. What you have instead is a synthesised spaceship-mimicking soundtrack from the speakers that increases in intensity as you up the pace and put pressure on the throttle pedal. Or you can mute the artificial sound and cruise in near-silence, with only a trace of wind noise and tyre roar disturbing the cocoon-like ambience in the cabin.
My drive route at the car’s international media launch in Portugal consists of narrow, winding roads that appear tailor-made for a nimble hot-hatch. Yet, here I am, in a 5.4-metre-long chariot that weighs a Toyota Land Cruiser-matching 2.7 tonnes. Even so, sheer mass proves no handicap as the big BeeEm seemingly shrinks around its occupants and devours the sinuous stretch of tarmac at warp speeds in a way that belies its gargantuan girth.
Lotus founder Colin Chapman famously said weight was the enemy of performance, but the i7 M70 makes a mockery of this statement. This is largely through features such as dual-axle air suspension, adaptive dampers, four-wheel-steering and active roll stabilisation. It still required the deft touch of the M Division engineers to collectively calibrate all this tech to yield such a cohesive and engaging driver’s car.
The question you may ask is: does anyone really need an ultra-opulent limousine that goes this fast? Probably not, but since when has logic been a dictating factor in the super-premium end of the car market?
As with other variants of the i7, energy for the dual electric motors is provided by a 101.7kWh battery pack that sits under the passenger compartment. Touring range on a full charge is quoted at between 488km and 560km, so you could conceivably do a couple of back-and-forth trips between Dubai and Abu Dhabi before needing to recharge.
A scintillating driver’s car it may be, but the fact remains the i7 is piloted primarily by chauffeurs, while the car’s well-heeled owner basks in the comfort of the cavernous rear compartment with fold-out leg rest or Executive Lounge, in BMW-speak.
Adding to the appeal of riding in the back is a 31.3-inch theatre screen that’s complemented by an 18-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system to transform the rear compartment into an exclusive private cinema on wheels.
Distinguishing the M70 from lesser i7 variants are features such as illuminated M door sill trims, M Merino leather upholstery in Black/Atlas Grey, an M leather steering wheel and M-specific screens on the expansive BMW Curved Display that sits on top of the dashboard. Automatic doors that open and close at the press of a button are also standard.
There’s plenty of scope for personalisation, as optional extras include the BMW Individual Interior package, and there’s a choice of various trim materials and nine upholstery colours.
On paper, the i7 M70 xDrive seems like an exercise in pure excess – almost the answer to a question nobody asked. Even so, it’s a brilliant – if not beautiful – limousine that overdelivers on any expectations one might have had of it.
The fact it’s sumptuously equipped and immaculately built is no surprise, but the real eye-opener is that it’s such laugh-out-loud fun to drive in spirited fashion.