Luxury cars can be powerful signifiers of their owners, conveying who they are, what they stand for, and how successful they are. Cars aren’t solely about transportation but a means to impress. So it’s little wonder they arouse in many a certain curiosity that causes them to check out the drivers to see if they fit common perceptions.
Consider the pilot of a Lamborghini, for example. It’s generally been a male, possibly an individual who craves validation and affirmation, who uses each rev of his V12 engine as an invitation for envy and awe. Behind the wheel of a Bentley, on the other hand, one might expect a paragon of refined elegance and timeless sophistication, someone who values craftsmanship over showmanship in their pursuit of perfection.
These are cliches, of course, and even more irrelevant these days since more and more women, especially, have been buying Lamborghini’s “super” SUV, the Urus, as their daily drive. I wish I could have one, too, truth be told.
But if a car can be an indicator of who you think you are in the world, owners of the all-new, all-electric i7 from BMW can rightly scream “I’ve made it!”. Which is why they’ll also probably have a personal driver. Because there really is no better place from which to enjoy this car than in the back seat.
Madam Wheels tested the BMW i7 xDrive60 M Sport, a vehicle that’s bigger, taller and wider than any preceding 7 Series in response to requests from customers seeking increasing levels of grandeur, according to a local model expert. The already imposing stance of our car was made more so by upgraded paintwork ($2600) in a matt Frozen Deep Grey Metallic. And how grand is this: as one approaches the car with the key, not only do the doors unlock automatically, they can also be opened with the push of a coded button. Presto! And in we go.
Once ensconced in the insanely comfortable “merino” leather seats with feet cushioned on a wool-cashmere carpet, there’s no need to physically close the door. A light press of the brake pedal does that for you. A myriad of internal buttons automatically opens them, too, with sensors alongside the car stopping the doors before they hit detected obstacles.
Professionals who like to work on the go or mums with a lot to juggle will appreciate the way the i7’s space can function like a virtual office. Its rear seat Entertainment Experience features a drop-down 31.3” theatre screen in 32.9 ultra-wide format at up to 8k resolution. This makes for crystal clear resolution of all your streaming services made possible by the onboard wireless capability. It also facilitates Zoom meetings that are likely to be more comfortable in transit than in an office. Complete privacy is assured by electric rear-door and -windscreen roller blinds which can be activated and detracted, like most things in the car, with a verbal command.
There’s an insane amount of technology in the i7 – it almost feels like a computer on wheels – but most of it is pleasing and useful. That’s if you know about it. Many owners of such cars don’t, unfortunately, because they skip the all-important handover session with a specialist on pickup. Don’t do that with the BMW i7. You’ll risk missing out on its many, many bells and whistles.
One of its most outstanding features is the incredibly immersive Bowers & Wilkins sound system. To say it delivers a full-body experience is no exaggeration. The 35 speakers do a great job of producing cinematic-like surround sound. But it is the astounding “4D” capability that ups the game here, transmitting the sensation of the music or on-screen action to your body through the seat. Try that with the “Top Gun” theme song on full blast and you’ll get the picture – literally – delivered to your core.
If it’s peace you want, however, you’ll get that here, too, given it has to be one of the most Zen-like interiors on the market. Lighting can be adjusted and colour coded to your mood, the panorama glass roof can be made opaque or shot through with colour and light, and multifunctional electric seats front and back can be maneuvered in so many ways that the front-passenger seat can become a footrest for a laidback rear lounger. It’s all very civilised, made even more so with the inclusion in our car of the optional Connoisseur Lounge ($9000) which extends heat seating, ventilation, and massage functions to the rear seats. And when you switch the car to sports mode, the side bolsters firm up to prepare you for what’s ahead.
In terms of ride comfort, the i7 seems to run on rails. It wasn’t quite the “magic-carpet ride” typical of cars from its uber-luxury sister company, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, but it was close.
Its lane assist capability felt much more refined than anything previously experienced. And, despite its proportions, its four-wheel steering capability makes U-turns a snap.
And it gets better. The car even has impeccable manners and is thoughtful. Each time I pulled up to start parallel parking, an elegant female voice would ask if I would like to make use of the park-assist system to position the car in the space it had identified beside us. And when I got confused about configuring the adaptive cruise control, the car provided detailed instructions on the digital display on how to get it right.
Otherwise, there’s nothing analog in the curve digital dash and why would that be? This car is not standing on tradition, but is fully futuristic without being weird. But that modern feel comes at quite a cost – $297,900 before on-roads.