(Bloomberg) -- With a starting price of $105,700, the BMW i7 is considerably more expensive than similar offerings from Porsche and Tesla, and slightly more expensive than those from Mercedes-Benz.
But a week of driving Bavaria’s best electric luxury sedan around Los Angeles revealed an appeal enduring enough to overlook the high ticket price. With a powerful motor, competitive driving range, extensive luxury appointments on the interior and beaucoup user-friendly technology, the i7 is a comprehensive tool well-suited to meet the expectations of the most discerning executive.
I drove a variant called the BMW i7 xDrive 60, which offers more power and additional creature comforts. Pricing for that starts at $124,200, although with upgrades such as the supremely elegant rear executive lounge seating ($7,250) that includes reclining seats and footrests, a theater screen and rear control console, the one I tested cost $156,595.
You may not like how the i7 looks, at least at first. I didn’t. Its body evoked brutalist slabs of metal, a style further exaggerated by an exterior color that looked finished in a powder coat of matte black paint. (It’s technically called “Frozen deep gray” and costs $5,000 extra.) Its bowtie grille was punctuated by crystal headlights so slim the car might as well have been squinting.
I do try to be open-minded about these things, though, and the way the car felt and looked inside went a long way toward assuaging my reservations about its exterior. Kind of like how someone you’re not initially attracted to becomes more attractive as you discover how kind, funny and clever they are.
The i7 came lined in what the company calls “smoke white” merino leather—a beautiful and brave choice for all but the cleanest among us—with doors lined on the inside by a distinctive crosshatch pattern etched into metal. It reads oddly on paper, but the combination worked well in real life. Unfortunately the glass seat controls and center console dial—by now BMW staples—looked cheesy in this otherwise handsome cabin.
As I rolled down Hollywood Boulevard on my way to work in Century City, I pushed a button and the standard panoramic sunroof opened above me like a sky light. I availed myself of the ventilated massaging seats (they massage in the rear, too) and synced my Bluetooth, ready to imbibe my morning diet of news podcasts via the Bowers and Wilkins surround sound system that came standard across the line. The entire vibe in the cabin of this cruiser is somber, plush, effective comfort. It’s a serious sedan for serious people.
Equally restorative was the utter silence inside this big car when I cruised home. Acoustic protection and the standard Nano Particle Filtration System made it feel delightfully insulated from the chaos that is rush-hour LA traffic.
I should mention something about the battery that powers the car. It’s not actually the first thing that grabbed me about the i7, or even the second. Unlike other EVs, the i7 doesn’t present as electric. It excels so well in other ways that it doesn’t have to.
It boasts 536 horsepower and a driving range of up to 317 miles; an even higher trim level than the one I tested can hit 650 hp but at the expense of range, which drops to just under 300 miles. Zero to 60 mph is 4.5 seconds, a figure that beats the $104,400 Mercedes-Benz EQS and $90,900 Porsche Taycan. I flogged it a bit on the interstate, and it bounded forward in complete balance and control, with that familiar instant acceleration so endearing in electric vehicles. Driving the BMW i7 feels as smooth as skating on a frozen lake and as powerful as an alpine avalanche. It was enough to make me forget the thing weighs nearly 6,000 pounds, about as much as your average Ford F-250.
I drove it through LA’s most annoying traffic for sundry errands and workaday chores, but the range anxiety that normally hovers in the back of my psyche when I drive any plug-in wasn’t present. Instead I found myself appreciating its interior silence and its ultra-smooth ride, along with the heated steering wheel, heated armrests and the decadent radiant heat in the door and instrument panels. (Yes, it gets cold in LA, don’t @ me.)
Its 87-mpg equivalent in combined city and highway driving didn’t require me to charge it over a week of driving, but if I had, it would have taken 11 hours to get a full charge on a Level 2 charger.
The BMW i7 doesn’t beat all comers in every category–the higher variants of the Tesla Model S report faster sprint times, and the Mercedes EQS has better driving range. The excellent Taycan, though slower, is also quite a bit less expensive. But when you combine all the i7 offers, with its impeccable craftsmanship and high quality, BMW has given us a Teutonic sled to love for years to come. My favorite shopping aphorism well applies: “The quality remains long after the price is forgotten.”
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