What Car? says...
The BMW i7 is an electric luxury car designed to take people from one place to another in great comfort – but for anyone sitting in the back, it’s more like a mobile cinema.
We’re not just talking about a couple of small entertainment screens shoehorned into the backs of the front headrests. In the i7, rear passengers are treated to an enormous 31in 8K touchscreen – called the Theatre Screen – that lowers itself from the headlining at the touch of a button.
BMW sells the Theatre Screen as an individual option, or as part of the Executive Pack, which also adds two supremely comfortable rear ‘lounge’ seats that can treat you to a massage. If you add the Technology Plus Pack, you get a 40-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system with shakers in the seatbacks for the full cinematic experience.
If you’re wondering why we’re focusing on the environment for rear passengers, well it’s because the i7 is – like the BMW 7 Series – designed primarily as a chauffeur vehicle. That's not to say the driver is crammed in. They're treated to a brilliant driving position, stunning interior quality and some of the latest semi-autonomous driving tech.
The trouble is, the BMW i7 competes against some deeply impressive luxury limos, with direct rivals including the Mercedes EQS and the Tesla Model S. Or, if you go beyond electric car models, the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-Class.
In this review we’ll tell you how we rate it, plus which trim level and options we recommend. Once you've decided which model is right for you, make sure you get it for the best price by using our New Car Buying service.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The BMW i7 is available with three power outputs. The entry-level eDrive50 offers plenty of punch for most buyers, producing 449bhp and sprinting from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. It has one motor and rear-wheel drive – unlike all the other options, which have two motors and 'xDrive' four-wheel drive.
The next model up is the 536bhp eDrive60 xDrive. All that power means that, even though this is a big and heavy car, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. That’s faster than most versions of the Mercedes EQS, although not as ballistically quick as any Tesla Model S.
At the top of the range is the M70 xDrive, which adds a beefier electric motor at the rear, for a combined 650bhp. It's the most powerful electric M car in the BMW range, and darts from stationary to 62mph in 3.7 seconds.
The i7 is very quiet on the move, so the acceleration never feels savage. Indeed, while the immediate power delivery will pin you back in your seat, there’s not much drama when getting up to speed. You’re aware of the scenery rushing past at an increasingly rapid rate, but it’s closer to the experience you’d get in a jumbo jet at take-off than the assault-on-the-senses gratification of a sports car.
Those hushed manners make the i7 a phenomenal long-distance cruiser. You can talk quietly and your passengers will hear you clearly (unless they’re engrossed in the numerous entertainment features, of course). There's hardly any road noise and only a small amount of wind noise inside.
Ride comfort is superb too, cushioning occupants from the road surface far better than in the Mercedes EQS. The i7 M70 has slightly firmer suspension than other versions, but that doesn't compromise ride comfort. In fact, some people might prefer its tighter body control over bumps, which reduces the mild floating sensation you sometimes get with the standard models.
This enormous saloon can go round corners more adroitly than it has any right to. It leans less than the Audi A8 through tight twists, and the steering gives you a good enough sense of connection with the front wheels to make you feel confident about pushing on. The tweaked suspension plus active anti-roll bars on the M70 help it feel a little more composed than the eDrive50 and eDrive60.
Rear-wheel steering is also standard on the M70 to help sharpen up the response when turning in to corners – although it's not as agile or grippy as the smaller BMW i5.
The i7's battery has a usable capacity of 101.7kWh. On the eDrive50 and eDrive60, that can officially keep the car going for up to 387 miles (it varies slightly depending on wheel size and optional extras). That drops to 343 miles in the M70, and in real-world driving we'd expect about 300 miles.
Strengths Punchy performance; plush ride; hushed cruiser; tidy handling
Weaknesses Battery range is decent, rather than impressive
The interior layout, fit and finish
Although rear passengers are clearly the priority in a limo, someone is always going to be sitting behind the wheel driving – and whether that’s you or your chauffeur we’d wager there will be few complaints in the BMW i7.
The driving position is superb, plus there’s loads of electric seat and steering wheel adjustment to help you fine-tune everything just the way you like it.
This is a saloon, so you sit fairly close to the road. If you want similar levels of comfort but would prefer a higher seating position, you might want to consider a luxury SUV such as the BMW X7 or the Range Rover.
Visibility in the i7 is excellent, and it comes with parking sensors at the front and rear, plus a 360-degree camera.
It's a step above its main rivals for interior quality, too.
There are lots of gloss-black and crystal-effect finishes to lend the inside a suitably expensive feel, along with a semi-transparent touch-sensitive panel that stretches right across the dashboard. That might sound like an example of style over function, but it works well, responding consistently to presses – which is fortunate, as it houses important controls, including the hazard lights switch.
The seats are trimmed in merino leather as standard, although for no extra cost you can have a faux-leather material called Veganza instead. Alternatively, you can pay extra for a fabric that’s part merino wool and part cashmere.
All i7s come with the latest BMW iDrive infotainment system, with what appears to be one giant display that stretches across more than half of the dashboard. It is in fact a 14.9in touchscreen butted up against a 12.3in digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel. The whole arrangement is curved slightly towards the driver to make it easier to see.
The operating system isn’t as intuitive as earlier versions of iDrive (mainly because of how many features have been crammed in), but it’s still better than the systems in the Mercedes EQS and the Tesla Model S. That’s largely because BMW has decided to shun the trend for touchscreen-only infotainment systems (in its more expensive models, at least).
You can control the screen by touch when you’re parked up, but there's also a rotary controller between the front seats, which is a far less distracting when you're driving. There's also a voice-control function.
The optional Theatre Screen is a 31in display that folds out of the ceiling to give rear passengers a cinema-style experience. Thanks to built-in Amazon Fire TV and a 5G aerial on the roof, you can stream on-demand TV or watch YouTube on the move. Parts of the display are touch-sensitive and it's not too tricky to use.
If you add the Theatre Screen, you’ll probably also want the 40-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system (part of the Technology Plus Pack). It sounds fantastic and you get shakers in the seatbacks for a more immersive experience.
Strengths Intuitive infotainment system; impressive Theatre Screen option; strong build quality
Weaknesses None we've spotted so far
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
At 5391mm in length, the i7 is one of the longest cars on the road – and is longer than the Audi A8 (and A8 L), the Mercedes EQS and the Tesla Model S.
That length translates into enormous amounts of rear leg room. Even if you’re sitting behind a really tall chauffeur, you’ll have several inches between your knees and the back of the front seat.
Head room is impressive too – despite the i7 coming with a panoramic glass roof as standard. However, if there’s no one sitting in the front passenger seat, you’ll want to sit on that side of the car. That’s because you can slide and fold the front seat to use it as a footrest.
The optional Executive Pack replaces the outer rear seats with ‘lounge’ alternatives that can be turned into a business class-style bed and have extra adjustment options plus a massage function.
The i7's boot has a respectable 500 litres of volume, so trips to the airport won’t be a problem, although the saloon opening is relatively small. The EQS and Model S have considerably bigger load bays and hatchback tailgates for more convenient loading. There's a fold-down ski hatch in the centre of the backrest, allowing you to thread longer items in between the two rear seats.
Strengths Impressive space for all occupants
Weaknesses Some hatchback rivals have more convenient boot openings
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The BMW i7 is priced roughly in line with the Mercedes EQS, so it's an expensive car. Plus, some of the most alluring features – including the lounge rear seats, the Theatre Screen and the surround-sound system – cost extra.
The i7 will still work out much cheaper as a company car than a petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid alternative because fully electric cars are currently taxed at a very low rate benefit-in-kind tax rate of 2%.
Big saloon cars have a tendency to depreciate quickly, and the i7 will lose its value faster than a Range Rover. However, compared with petrol or diesel alternatives, the i7 is a pretty sound investment, and is also predicted to depreciate at a slightly slower rate than the EQS.
Standard equipment is generous, with entry-level Excellence fitted with 19in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, ambient lighting, illuminated front grille, panoramic glass sunroof, heated front and rear seats, wireless phone-charging and a head-up display. M Sport models add black exterior highlights and 20in wheels for a sportier appearance.
The M70 comes with visual differences, including blue brake calipers, M logos and a different 21in wheel design. Considering it costs significantly more than our preferred eDrive60 in M Sport trim, we don’t reckon it’s worth the extra cost for slightly better handling and staggering acceleration.
Reliability is something of an unknown quantity for the i7 specifically, because it was too new to feature in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. As a brand, BMW came 12th out of 32 car makers in the manufacturer league table, a couple of places below Tesla but well ahead of Mercedes.
The i7 hadn’t been appraised for safety by Euro NCAP at the time of writing, but it comes with loads of active and passive safety equipment.
Semi-autonomous driving aids that come as part of the Driving Assistant Professional pack include adaptive cruise control and a self-steering system that’s generally very smooth but can struggle if the road doesn’t have clear lane markings or you encounter a tight corner. It’s best left for motorway driving.
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Strengths Plenty of well equipped trim levels; wide range of luxury options
Weaknesses Options very quickly drive up the purchase price
Officially, the i7 can travel a maximum of between 343 and 387 miles on a full charge (it depends on the spec). Don’t expect to get that far in real-world driving, though.
The fastest i7 is the M70, which can officially do 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds. That’s fast, especially for an enormous luxury limo, but the Tesla Model S is even quicker.
The i7 is built in Germany at BMW’s Dingolfing factory. Many other BMWs (including the 4, 5 and 6 Series) are built there too.
|RRP price range||£100,205 - £181,963|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric|
|Available doors options||4|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£200 / £364|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£401 / £728|