It’s no stretch to say that the 2023 BMW i7 — the latest extension to the beloved 7-series — represents the biggest change to the automobile manufacturer’s flagship series since it was introduced back in 1977.
As conceived by the woefully underrated French designer Paul Bracq, the original 7, with its shark-nose hood and meticulously balanced lines, made BMW a serious contender in the executive sedan space, previously dominated by the likes of Mercedes and Jaguar. Through six successive generations, the 7 Series has become a showcase for the BMW’s cutting-edge tech: the (in)famous iDrive controller, experimental hydrogen fuel, satellite navigation, and more. (The remote-control function that let Pierce Brosnan’s 007 drive the 7 Series via his cellphone in Tomorrow Never Dies was, sadly, never offered to the public.)
Today’s all-new 7 makes its predecessors look a little stone-age. For the first time in its 46-year history, the 7 Series is going electric. The battery-powered 2023 BMW i7 sits alongside the gas-powered 760i. Both start at $147,000, so the choice is yours.
The high-tech razzle-dazzle starts when you push a button on the door and it swings open automatically, welcoming drivers and passengers into a cocoon of luxury. The dashboard is gorgeous — uncluttered yet highly functional, with a beautiful crystalline strip of glass encircling the cabin. The crystal glows different colours, depending on which of the many “modes” the driver selects: pale blue for efficient, red for sport. You get the idea.
The dual-motor all-wheel drive powertrain propels the mighty sedan down the road effortlessly, like a strong breeze pushing a cloud across the sky. With 512 kilometres of range, there’s no need for anxiety.
What everyone remembers most about the i7, however, isn’t its automatic doors, or even the fact it’s electric. No, it’s the screen; BMW’s gigantic 31.3-inch Theatre Screen drops down from the roof for rear-seat passengers to enjoy streaming movies on the go. Curtains black out the rear and side windows, while the Executive Lounge seat reclines deeply, letting passengers kick back through the worst of rush hour.
The exterior design is divisive, yes — a far cry from Paul Bracq’s elegant original. But riding in the back seat of any other car, new or old, simply isn’t as fun.
The only question, then, is gas or electric? For the best Theatre Screen viewing experience, it’s got to be the whisper-quiet i7.
Specs Engine: Dual-motor electric
Power: 536 HP