BMW 7 Series and i7 review: promising prototypes

Despite weighing 2.5 tonnes and measuring more than five metres in length, the electrified i7 limo is surprisingly nimble

'The National' tested the BMW i7 prototype in Maisach, Germany, in March. Photo: BMW

The opportunity to test a car that’s yet to go into production doesn’t present itself every week. The offer becomes all the more intriguing when the car in question is the forthcoming seventh-generation 7 Series, as well as the fully electrified i7 limo that will debut alongside it as a new model addition.

For this, The National travelled to Maisach – about an hour out of Munich – to sample heavily camouflaged prototypes of both flagship sedans, which are underpinned by a newly developed mixed-material platform designed to accept a range of combustion engines (petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid), as well as fully electrified power trains in the case of the i7.

“Every 7 Series generation is a challenge; this one even more so. It offers [another level of] comfort and luxury, but still with the familiar BMW DNA,” says Bernhard Santer, spokesman for the 7 Series and i7.

Interestingly, there will be very little visually different between the two newcomers, in contrast to Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class and electrified EQS, which look nothing like each other.

The new-gen 7 Series and i7 go into production in July and are expected on sale in the Middle East in November. While the petrol-powered 7 Series line-up will include a six-cylinder and V8 (both turbocharged), there will no longer be a V12 – that will be replaced by a range-topping version of the i7 that’s due on sale later.

The i7 is equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving up to 60kph and can self-park. Photo: BMW

All models in the 7 Series and i7 ranges will come standard with dual-axle adaptive air suspension that provides virtually magic-carpet ride quality, while high-end variants up the ante with active roll stabilisation (Executive Drive Pro in BMW-speak) that quells body roll under hard cornering, yet without sacrificing ride comfort. Also on offer will be four-wheel steering that boosts manoeuvrability as well as high-speed stability.

Other tech highlights include Level 3 autonomous driving, which enables the driver to read or catch up on emails, but this system functions only on congested highways at speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour.

There is also Level 2 parking assist, which can self-park the car – either with you in it, or controlling it from outside via a mobile app. It’s particularly handy for those with tight, tricky garage entrances, because you need to drive the car into the garage once, and the car then memorises the precise path in and out to subsequently carry out the procedure.

The 7 Series and i7 go into production in July and are expected to be on roads by November. Photo: BMW

BMW for now isn’t revealing any detailed specs pertaining to either the 7 Series or i7, apart from what we’ve outlined above, but real-world impressions are in any case more valuable than on-paper stats.

We first set out in the i7, which features dual electric motors – one for each axle – and a battery pack that’s likely to be similar to the 105.2kWh unit used by the iX xDrive50, which puts out 524hp and 765Nm.

Immediately evident after a few kilometres is that the i7 has masses of instant urge, even though it weighs about 2.5 tonnes. Also surprising is how nimble the vehicle is for something of its heft and dimensions (it’s well over five metres long).

The four-wheel steer and active roll stabilisation play a key role here, enabling the big limo to carve up twisty back roads with an eye-opening degree of precision and composure.

We can’t comment too much on the cabin (most of it was cloaked beneath black sheets), other than to note that there’s acres of legroom in the rear compartment. I took up the offer to recline in the rear seat while being chauffeured for about 10km, and refinement levels appear on par – or perhaps even superior – to Merc’s latest-gen S-Class.

A subsequent stint in the combustion-powered (six-cylinder) 7 Series also proved enlightening. Although missing out on the mountainous torque of the i7, as well as the ultra-flat cornering characteristics due to the absence of active roll stabilisation, it seems a noticeable step forward from the existing 740 Li, in terms of comfort and dynamics.

Updated: April 08, 2022, 6:02 PM
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