BMW i7: The Bavarian behemoth takes on Tesla

The German automaker’s 7 series makes the electric

BOSTON — Let’s get one thing straight: The BMW i7 isn’t just another luxury sedan with an electric heart. It’s a declaration of war against the Tesla Model S, and it’s coming armed with a level of opulence and technology that might make Elon do a double take.

As with many BMWs these days, the first thing you notice is the enormous kidney grille, which is large enough to swallow a small village. This is a BMW hallmark, but the 7 Series’ almost severe design gives it a presence that the Model S — now more than a decade old — can’t match.

BMW’s decision to make its flagship EV a mere variant of the regular 7 series — the interior is nigh-identical and the outside distinguished only by badging and little else — turns the choice to go electric into just that: A choice. Aha, sir would like a 7 Series. Electric or petrol?

Step inside, and you’ll be transported to a futuristic cocktail lounge. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re on the bridge of the Enterprise like the Mercedes EQS does; rather, it feels like you’re at the controls of the Heart of Gold, the immaculately designed ship from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

The doors close themselves because it’s far too much work to do it manually (and because this is a superlux feature borrowed from BMW stablemate Rolls-Royce), and you slip into some of the most comfortable seats around.

Wrapped in a fabric so soft that it makes cashmere feel like sandpaper, these thrones offer massage functions that can turn even the most stressful commute into a spa day. And if you’re lucky enough to snag a ride in the back, you’ll be treated to airline-style reclining seats and a 31-inch drop-down screen bigger than some TVs that is, coincidentally, the best place to sit while the thing recharges for half an hour.

But don’t let all that luxury fool you. The i7 is still a BMW, and that means it’s the Ultimate Driving Machine. The electric drivetrain pumps out enough power to make the i7 scoot to 60 mph in a swift 4.5 seconds, and the adaptive suspension keeps you from being disturbed by anything from the outside world. Even better, thanks to the rear-wheel steering, this Bavarian barge drives far smaller than it actually is.

As always with a 7 Series, the i7 is also packed with an eye-watering amount of tech, most of which will be ignored, but BMW has done an excellent job making the smarts unobtrusive. They’re there if you want them, or ignore all of it and just drive.

With a 300-mile range, the i7 is comparable with many of the EVs in this price bracket, but it’s not quite as good as the Lucid or the Model S — but that may not matter. BMW is spending a fortune developing its electric cars and is the only brand — aside from Tesla, it seems — seeing real sales success.

I think a lot of this success comes from BMW not treating its electrics like they’re something weird and different. The Mercedes-Benz EQS is downright ugly, shaped like a swoopy UFO in a quest for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. Meanwhile, BMW takes its elegant sledgehammer of a new 7 Series design and offers it to buyers with whatever powertrain they wish. That’s smart. Just make it a car; don’t get weird with it.

Now, all this luxury and tech does come with a hefty price tag, starting in the $125,000 range and rising quickly from there, but that’s a 7 Series for you.

At the end of the day, the BMW i7 isn’t just a car. It’s a statement piece, a rolling work of art that happens to be emission-free. It’s got the luxury of a Rolls-Royce, the tech of a spaceship and the performance of a sports car.

And while the Tesla Model S may have had a head start, the i7 is here to show that BMW isn’t just catching up, it’s ready to take the lead.

I don’t write this to say it’s a Tesla killer. It isn’t, and I don’t think anyone will be for quite a while. However, it is a worthy competitor, which is more than can be said for most cars that have been absurdly touted as potential Tesla killers. The 7 Series has consistently been one of the finest automobiles in the world for decades, and that continues here — only now you can get it with an electric powertrain.

Bavarian bravery? Nah. Just a logical progression into the future.

About Jordan Golson 186 Articles
Jordan Golson is North State Journal's automotive reporter. He covers cars - both foreign and domestic - from around the globe.