BMW i7 electric car revealed

While BMW is probably best known for its smaller 3 and 4 Series cars, the 7 Series is the brand’s masterpiece of luxury and technology. The i7 is the electric version of the new generation of the flagship BMW 7 Series that was revealed on Wednesday.

Starting at $119,300, the 536-horsepower i7 xDrive60 all-wheel drive will be capable of 300 miles on a full charge, less than the Mercedes EQS or Lucid Air rivals. It will also offer a V8-powered petrol version, the 760i X-drive, with the same horsepower and a starting price of $300 less. It will look almost identical. Pricing for the gas-powered version with the 6-cylinder engine will start at $93,300.

This new version also highlights BMW’s flexible first electric vehicle strategy, which differs from that of luxury competitors such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi. While electric cars of other luxury brands rely on a custom EV chassis with little to do with their gas-powered models, BMW is emphasizing adaptive engineering as its advantage.

BMW has designed all of its new models so that they can be manufactured with internal combustion engines, full electric power or as a plug-in hybrid that combines electric and gas power. BMW executives insist it’s not just about installing batteries and electric motors in cars that were supposed to have gas-powered engines. Instead, these vehicles were designed, from the start, to be built with any of these drive systems.

BMW executives say the main advantage of doing it this way is that it gives the company Flexibility to produce more – or fewer – electric or gas-powered cars on the same assembly lines rather than having to allocate manufacturing resources to electric vehicles only. With cars and SUVs designed to be built as well, the automaker also doesn’t risk putting millions of dollars in development costs into an all-electric model that may not find much demand in some markets.

Another benefit is that customers don’t need to choose between two completely different models when deciding whether they want an electric or gas-powered vehicle, said BMW Chairman Oliver Zipps. They can just decide they want to buy a BMW 7 Series, and then choose whether they want a petrol version or an electric version, just as they might decide whether they want a V8 or a straight-6 engine. Either way, customers get the same luxury car experience and design.

The downside of a common engineering platform is that to enable both electric and gasoline power, designers need to compromise. Cars with internal combustion engines need a lot of free space up front for the engine, usually a smaller space under the trunk for the fuel tank, and often a long tunnel down the middle to connect the engine to the wheels. On the other hand, electric cars can have smaller electric motors mounted close to individual wheels, and although there is no fuel tank or transmission tunnel, they need a large, relatively flat area, usually in the bottom of the car, for the batteries.

The electric Mercedes EQS, for example, has only a short hood that houses some electronic components, and it has a nearly flat floor that allows for more interior storage space.

Zipse insisted that the 7 Series represented a full-size luxury sedan no matter where it came from. The driving experience will be excellent, he said, as will interior comfort and technology.

“There is no second-row car that is more spacious and luxurious,” he said during a meeting with reporters.

Rear seats are a major reason to buy this type of big car. In full-size sedans, there isn’t more space (if any) in the front seats than in smaller cars. The extra space usually goes to those in the back.

As in many other large cars, the rear seats can recline while the leg and footrests rise from under the seats. (BMW claims its seats recline more than competitors’ seats, though.) The front passenger seat, if unoccupied, can move forward and fold down to allow more room.

Buyers of the BMW 7 Series can get an optional 31-inch high-definition video screen that folds down from the roof to provide entertainment for rear-seat passengers. Combined with the available high-end stereo system and powered window shades to block out light, the 7 Series could be a better place to watch a movie than someone’s living room, according to BMW. Front seat passengers can also watch streaming videos on the center screen when the vehicle is parked.

Four-wheel steering will allow the car to turn more tightly on winding roads and in parking lots and change lanes more smoothly on the highway. Inside, there are a few knobs and buttons. Instead, the buttons appear as illuminated icons on a strip that looks like decorative trim runs across the dashboard.

Dark hoods block the car’s headlights, while turn signals and daytime running lights are located above them in narrow, prominent bars. As an option, the turn signals and daytime running lights can include Swarovski crystals that sparkle in the sunlight. As another option, a large “kidney” front grille can be specified in the headlights at night.

When the driver prefers not to bother, driver assistance technologies allow the driver to let go of the steering wheel completely for extended periods of time on divided highways. The technology, which is similar to General Motors’ Super Cruise, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road ahead at all times.

The Seventh Class can drive itself automatically in and out of parking spaces even with the driver outside the vehicle using a smartphone app. It can also drive itself through a pre-programmed course, such as around pylons in a parking garage, on its own, a feature somewhat similar to Tesla’s recall mode.

An advanced Head-Up Display that displays data on a vehicle’s windshield can align images and text so they appear on the road and other real-world features. The system can also display the parking regulations in the area.

Performance is an essential part of the BMW brand image. For decades, BMW’s marketing slogan has been: “The ultimate driving machine.” Executives now say electric vehicles will take the lead in the automaker’s performance structure, running the fastest and most powerful versions of its battery-powered vehicles. With the new 7 Series, the i7 shares its rating as the most powerful version with the 760i’s V8 engine. There are no plans for a 7-series V12-powered model in this generation of the car.

The advanced air suspension system works automatically to keep the car level even in fast corners. Computers can use data from GPS maps and cameras in the front of the car to predict when the next curve will require feedback from the suspension system.

BMW has said that half of the cars the company sells worldwide will be electric by 2030. This includes Rolls-Royce and Mini cars. These two distinct British brands are owned by BMW, and they plan to sell only electric cars by 2030.

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