BMW i7: it’s got huge presence, but wait until you step inside

Published Jun 15, 2023


Johannesburg - Say what you want about the styling of the new BMW 7 Series and i7, but there’s one thing you can’t deny: out on the street they’ve got huge presence.

Perhaps I should avoid weighing in because styling is a subjective thing, but I think it looks somewhat better in the flesh than it does in pictures. Yet beautiful it is not.

Now, as a rule and because I’m not a fan of abundant attention, I usually avoid using these kinds of vehicles to run everyday errands while I have them on test. But I decided to take a chance and park the BMW i7 at my local Builder’s Warehouse on what seemed like a quiet day.

The Bavarian behemoth became an instant celebrity, with every car guard, security officer and bystander within a two mile radius suddenly descending on it.

But you want know what the telling thing was? When I got back to the car, there was a Ferrari 458 Italia parked behind me, but the guard informed me that despite the presence of that exotic red Italian, the BMW i7 remained “Number One”.

What it’s like inside the i7

But that’s enough about styling and presence for one day, as the real surprise comes as you step inside the new 7 Series.

In fact, even that process is something different as the doors open and close at the touch of a button.

Once inside, you’re greeted by a cabin that is futuristic, to say the least, and best appreciated in low light or at night.

Below the huge 14.9-inch (37.8cm) Curved Display infotainment system, you’ll find the BMW Interaction Bar that is not only useful for things like accessing the climate control but it also creates a theatrical ambient lighting experience as you switch between the vehicle’s modes.

BMW describes its “My Modes” function as an “interplay of light, sound and climate optimised to match your mood”. Select Sport Mode and you’re surrounded by virtual volcanic lava, and things are equally dramatic when you select the Digital Art or Expressive Modes, with the latter also bringing a soundtrack by composer Hans Zimmer. Of course, you can also choose Relax Mode, which prompts the occupied seats into massage action while treating your ears to serene sounds.

There’s also a Theatre Mode, for which you’ll really want to be in the back seat. Activate this and suddenly the 31.3-inch (79.5cm) BMW Theatre Screen for rear seats passengers folds out the roof, while the blinds, seat positions and interior lighting are swiftly adapted to make you feel like you’re in a private cinema on wheels. The screen has built-in Amazon Fire TV and can also play your favourite Netflix shows. You can see some of the cabin theatrics in the video below:

The rear door armrests have built-in 5.5-inch (14cm) touch screens that look like cellphones, and which can be used to control the aforementioned screen as well as climate controls and seat positions.

Our BMW i7 test car came with the Executive Lounge Seating, a R36 100 option that provides a rear seat which fully reclines like a Business Class airline chair, as the empty front passenger seat shifts forward into a position of intimacy with the dashboard.

My wife got to enjoy this experience on a trip to Pretoria, where I reluctantly took on the role of piloting the i7 like an obedient chauffeur.

I could honestly write a whole book about all the technology and features that you find in the new 7 Series and i7, and if I’m honest I don’t think I figured out all of it in the week that I had it on test.

But it’s worth mentioning that a lot of the nice stuff does cost extra. The Rear Seat Entertainment Professional with iDrive Control will set you back a further R78 000. Want that all-important massage function? That’ll be a separate R19 700 outlay for the front and back seating areas, while the automatic doors cost an additional R24 700.

I’m only scratching the surface here, as BMW also offers a wide range of packages that incorporate a lot of the cool gadgetry. Even the BMW Crystal headlights with Iconic Glow, which dazzle onlookers as you approach the car, costs an extra R34 500, although the glowing grille is, at least, part of the deal.

Other standard features on the i7 include a non-opening panoramic glass sunroof, Bowers & Wilkins Surround Sound System, My Modes, four-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting and automatic tailgate operation.

What’s it like to drive the i7?

When it comes to power, BMW clearly believes in the power of choice, with buyers getting to select between 740i and 740d petrol and diesel models, or the all-electric i7.

The latter is what we had on test recently, available locally in xDrive60 all-wheel drive format with outputs of 400kW and 745Nm.

The driving experience is serene but you’ll certainly feel a gentle shove if you floor the pedal as this 2.6-tonne ship can accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.7 seconds, while the top speed is listed at 240km/h.

Depending on the mode you’re in, there is some Hans Zimmer speaker trickery to give you a sensation of engine noise but, thankfully, it doesn’t mimic a normal petrol engine. The sound I heard was somewhat aeronautical, so much so that I wished there was a nearby air show to attend.

The ride quality, on top of its two-axle air suspension, is supremely comfortable. Buyers can also opt for an Executive Drive Pro package which includes an active roll stabilisation function powered by a 48V electric motor.

Given the vehicle’s size and weight, you’d expect a massive battery. The i7’s unit, with 101.7kW of usable energy, doesn’t disappoint. BMW claims a range of up to 625km, in ideal conditions that is, with consumption of around 19.6kWh/km.

Europe’s EV Database website estimates a highway range of 480km in warm weather at 110km/h, and up to 715km in city driving, where you get to take advantage of its adaptable braking recuperation. But that does sound a little optimistic to me.

For what it’s worth, the 140km round trip that I did on the N1, where I mostly stuck below the speed limit to preserve battery life, took the battery down from 72% to 46%.


The BMW i7 revolutionises the luxury sedan in ways that will dazzle owners and their passengers for years to come. But you do have to tick a lot of options, above the car’s R2.82 million starting price, to get the most out of it. It’s also worth noting that the i7 commands a R653 000 premium over the petrol-powered 740i.

IOL Motoring