PALMS SPRINGS, Calif.—For decades, automakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have competed in collective testing for the title of “world’s best car,” an honor awarded by various magazines. The battle has usually been between the 7 Series and the S-Class, with occasional challenges from Lexus. Jaguar and Cadillac often lag behind.
Today, there’s a serious new contender for the crown as BMW’s next-generation 7-Series goes on sale.
I got hooked on cars as a technology in the early 90s, and how far have cars come since then, as powertrains pushed new limits and energy sources, and interiors became more comfortable and protective for their occupants.
The Bavarian OEM made the decision a few years ago to invest in a powertrain-independent vehicle architecture, so the new 7 Series will be available with an internal combustion engine, as a plug-in hybrid (which will arrive in the US in time), and in an all-battery electric version called the i7. BMW brought both gasoline and BEVs to Palm Springs for the first international drive, and you can read more about the 760i xDrive elsewhere on these pages today.
But the star of the show is the i7, which proves once again that if you want to make a luxury car even better, give it electric motors.
The electric version has full feature parity with its gas-powered partner, including a new advanced driver assistance system that lets you navigate hands-free on pre-mapped split-lane highways and a huge curved cinema screen for the lucky rear passengers. BMW even managed to make the car fun to drive.
The i7’s electric powertrain technology is now relatively familiar. This is BMW’s 5th generation EV powertrain, and it debuted in the i4 sedan and iX SUV last year. It uses the same family of electrically excited synchronous motors for both axles, powered by a lithium-ion battery that uses prismatic cells. (BMW is switching to cylindrical cells for its sixth-generation electric vehicle platform, which we’ll see in the 2025 Neue Klasse.)
There’s only one i7 on sale right now, the i7 xDrive60 at $119,300. The vehicle uses a 255 hp (190 kW), 296 lb-ft (401 Nm) front engine and a 308 hp (230 kW), 280 lb-ft (380 Nm) rear engine with a total combined power of 536 hp (400Nm). kW) and 549 lb-ft (745 Nm). The battery has a useful capacity of 101.7 kWh out of a total capacity of 105.7 kWh.
The i7 has an official EPA range estimate of 318 miles (512 km) on small 19-inch wheels and 308 miles (496 km) when equipped with 21-inch wheels, like this was the case for our test car. During a 2.5 hour ride with lots of elevation and very little city driving, I averaged 2.7 miles/kWh (23 kWh/100 km), slightly better than the 2.6 miles/kWh (23.9 kWh/100 km) EPA rating.
Load highs and lows
DC fast charging takes 34 minutes to bring the battery back to 80% state of charge (SoC), or 80 miles (129 km) every 10 minutes, and i7 owners will get three years of unlimited charging sessions at Electrify America. I attempted to charge my i7 test, but my quick charge attempt was partially successful. I arrived at the charger with 56% SoC remaining, but the session was terminated due to a crash or error after only a few minutes and 9.5kWh, bringing the battery to 67% SoC .
If I really needed to charge the battery up to 80%, I would have unplugged the car and plugged it back in to try and troubleshoot, but I didn’t need 80% and didn’t feel like to waste half an hour on the phone only to be told no one else knows why this is happening either.
When I got back I informed BMW engineers of the problem, and when they found out I was using an EVgo charger, they nodded knowingly and said yes, they had had problems with that bank all month. (BMW brought in waves of international media for several weeks to drive the i7; Ars and the other US and Canadian outlets were the last.) Beyond that, they didn’t know what the problem was, which only reinforces my argument about the reliability of the early summer fast charger.