Wow, where do we begin? The press release for the new plug-in hybrid BMW 7 Series and the all-electric version, the i7, runs to 29 pages. Put it this way: it's a far cry from the G12 M760i xDrive we reviewed against the new Audi S8 a couple of weeks back. One of the old model's redeeming features was that it felt so analogue in a world that's obsessed with touchscreens and an aversion to buttons. Predictably, the new one isn't analogue. It's basically a big one and zero on wheels. As the press pack says "Digitalisation enables the number of buttons, switches and controls in the cockpit to be significantly reduced.' I don't mean to sound prejudicial but, oh dear. Anyway, we'll get on to the inside in a bit.
First, let's look at the engine options, starting with the Mercedes EQS-rivalling i7 xDrive 60 version. This comes with a 101.7kWh slimline battery - the battery cells are just 110mm high - and a WLTP combined range of up to 388 miles (the EQS's 107kW battery claims a range of up to 488 miles). From a DC charger the i7 charges at up to 195kW. That's roughly the same as the EQS and, as we mentioned in the review of that car, it's okay but somewhat off the pace of other all-electric models already available, such as the Kia EV6. Still, it's claimed to provide 106 miles of range in as little as ten minutes from a suitably powerful charger.
The battery is temperature is controlled using a dedicated 5.5kW electric flow heater and the charging process is optimised to even out the typical drop off in charge rate as the battery charge level increases to full. It's also claimed the charging time is helped by alternating between partial and full cooling during a fast charge, which keeps the cell temperatures from dropping too low. BMW says this also extends the life of the cells.
Adaptive recuperation takes information from GPS to increase the recuperation down hills or when coming up to junctions and roundabouts, but also from the traffic lights - if they're red, it will add more regen to slow the car down instead of wasting the energy through normal braking. This works regardless of whether the sat nav is operating. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when the car is on open roads, it will freewheel if the driver lifts off and cut power to the motors completely.
Right, the motors. As with the AMG EQS 53 there is one on each axle, and rather than using fixed magnets in the i7 they are electrically excited synchronous motors. This means it's a precisely controllable electrical feed that sets the rotor in motion, which avoids the use of rare-earth metals in the manufacturing. The front motor has a peak power output of 258hp and the rear motor 313hp. Together, that's a combined output of 544hp with peak torque of 550lb ft. That's enough to get the i7 xDrive60 from 0 to 62mph in 4.7 seconds and on to an electronically limited 149mph. To help extract maximum accelerative performance 'near-actuator wheel slip limitation' feeds into the stability systems to provides a quick response and finite regulation of traction loss in slippery conditions.
A 660hp i7 M70 xDrive will arrive in 2023, along with two plug-in hybrids. These come with an 18.7kWh battery (that's 50 per cent larger than the outgoing PHEVs) that allows for a WLTP all-electric range of 50 miles. The charging rate has also been increased to 7.4kWh, so a full charge is available in under three hours from a home wall box. Both PHEVs use straight-six petrol engines. The 750e xDrive has 490hp and 516lb ft while the M760e xDrive pushes that to 572hp and 590lb ft - someway shy of the outgoing M760i xDrive, with its mighty twin-turbo N74 V12 shoving out 610hp.
When we drove the old M760i we noticed a little flex in its long body. Well, the new car is longer still at 5,391mm (+130mm) and the wheelbase has grown to 3,215mm (+5mm). However, it's said to be more ridged and more agile, with increased tracks (+47 front; +4mm rear) supported by double wishbones at the front and a five-link arrangement at the back - as per standard for CLAR-based offerings. Here, the steering gear is mounted to the front subframe (the i7 has a different EPAS motor than the 7 Series versions) and the rear axle is fixed to the body with hydro mounts. This is likely to the benefit of ride and refinement. The air springs will drop the body by 10mm at 87mph (75mph for the i7) and can also be raised manually by 20mm to help climb steep ramps.
All cars come with variable ratio steering and the option of rear-wheel steer that moves the back wheels up to 3.5 degrees. 48-volt active roll stabilisation is also available. This props up the body in corners, decouples the anti-roll bar in a straight line (to make each wheel truly independent). Also, when one side of the car raises as it rides a bump, a new addition called Active Roll Comfort will raise the other side of the car by the same amount to even out lateral disturbances.
Moving on to the interior. As you can see in the pictures, there's a completely new look that mimics Mercedes' multiple screens under a glass panel, which BMW has curved towards the driver. Here the digital instrument screen is 12.3 inches and that sits next to the 14-9-inch central iDrive screen. Thankfully, there's still an iDrive rotary controller to work through the menus, but that's about the only physical interaction. Everything else - climate control, hazard lights etc. - is operated from touch controls on the BMW Interaction Bar - a 'crystalline surface structure' with 'visually interesting backlighting' that runs along the width of the dash.
Naturally, leather and wood abound - or other materials of choice including vegan leather - and the front and rear seats can heat, cool and massage you. In the rear you can select the Executive Pack which brings individual chairs that can recline to 42.5 degrees with a calf support on the back of the passenger seat. Legroom has been increased, although that wasn't an issue before. Headroom was a bit tight but that's said to have been improved, too.
One highlight that marks the new 7 Series out is its rear Theatre Screen with in-built Amazon Fire TV for streaming on the move. This is a 31.3-inch 8K touchscreen display running the width of the rear compartment that lowers from the roof lining. It does this to a soundtrack by Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer, and closes the blinds and dims the lights at the same time.
It's combined with a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system and optional in-seat exciters, with built-in 5.5-inch touchscreen remotes in the door panels. As well as watching movies, you can also play games, surf the web or just listen to music, with or without headphones. The standard sound system features 655 watts, a seven-band equalizer and up to 18 speakers, or there's the option of a 36-speaker system powered by 1,965 watts.
Other features that will either wow or make you go "what the hell?" depending on your disposition include the Sky Lounge pan roof that uses LEDs to create a light show, and power-opening and closing doors. There's the latest semi-autonomous driving that works at up to 130mph but no mention of Level 3 autonomy that the EQS will soon adopt. Oh, and in and among all this tech-blaze, the press pack also says the boot in the plug-in hybrid models is 525 litres (an increase of 105 litres) and 500 litres in the i7.
So that's your rundown of the all-new G71 7 Series, which in i7 form will set you back £107,400. We'll let you make your own mind up on the looks - both inside and out - but it's fair to say they're the most controversial for a new 7 Series since the Bangle-designed E65. And to help you compare with what's gone before, here's a link to the E38 spotted we did recently, which, if nothing else, shows how far the world has turned in just 30 years.
1 / 32