Launch Report: BMW electrifies the luxury saloon market

20 January 2023

bmw i7

The BMW 7-Series is the Munich-based carmaker’s new flagship and the seventh generation of a model with a tradition that spans more than 40 years. Alongside mild-hybrid diesel and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrains, it is also available as a purely electric i7 for the first time.

As BMW has dropped short wheelbase versions, the 7-Series has grown considerably in length (by 13cm to 5.39m). Consequently, the i7 is more spacious in the rear than the Mercedes-Benz EQS, making it more suitable as a chauffeur-driven vehicle. It also has a much higher towing capacity (two tonnes) than the Mercedes (750kg) and a higher top speed (240kph versus 210kph). However, it has lower boot capacity and practicality than the EQS, and charges slightly slower with a shorter electric range.

The design of the new BMW 7-Series and i7 is clearly oriented towards the tastes of its core markets, namely China and the Middle East. But this may not appeal to potential European buyers. The steep, angular front, with a BMW double-kidney grille and narrow, horizontally split headlights, may polarise opinion.

The interior exudes a feel-good atmosphere, where the curved display (featuring a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 14.9-inch touchscreen) featuring BMW OS 8 can be found. The curved display is available in the 3-Series and even the new X1, however, reducing the value differentiation of the 7-Series. Luxury gadgets include curtains in all three rear windows and an optional 31-inch cinema screen with a sleeper seat. In addition, the car is already equipped with the necessary cameras and sensors for SAE Level 3 autonomous driving in countries where this is permitted. The fit, finish and material quality are of a very high standard, with almost no plastic.

Changing habits

Buyer habits are changing in the luxury segment. On one hand, the trend is moving away from classic saloons to SUVs such as the Audi Q8, BMW iX, and Range Rover. List prices are high for luxury saloons and so potential buyers are increasingly considering other solutions, especially SUVs. Competitor brands offer very high-quality cars in the luxury segment too, but there are few alternatives apart from the Audi A8, Lexus LS, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Secondly, preferences are changing towards PHEVs and, especially driven by the Tesla Model S, pure electric powertrains. Alongside the diesel (740d xDrive) and two petrol plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions (750e xDrive and M760e xDrive) of the 7-Series, the i7 is equipped with a 101.7kWh battery and achieves a range of around 625km (WLTP).

There is a lack of eight-cylinder and 12-cylinder versions, which add to Mercedes-Benz’s brand image. However, offering all three fuel types – two of them electrified – with indistinguishable exterior design, will reduce the inhibitions of more conservative buyers to switch to electromobility.

The latest 7-Series is not a car for everyone as it has been specially designed for those travelling with a driver. This aligns with BMW’s plans to sell the most units in China (45%), the Asia-Pacific region (26%) and the US (20%). This only leaves 9% to be sold in the European region, although the share of electric i7s should exceed the 33% expected globally, especially in central European markets.

There are more electric competitors in the luxury segment, including the Porsche Taycan, the Audi e-Tron GT, and the Mercedes-Benz EQS from a German perspective, as well as the Tesla Model S – the first BEV in the segment.

Nevertheless, this new BMW high-tech luxury sedan should be able to build on the successes of previous generations. With its monumentally bold design, the i7 is a good alternative to aerodynamically optimised competitors, the Mercedes-Benz EQS and Tesla Model S.

View the Autovista Group dashboard, which benchmarks the BMW 7-Series/i7 in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK for more details. The interactive launch report presents new prices, forecast residual values, and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis.