BMW is gearing up to launch its answer to the upcoming Jaguar XJ and Mercedes-Benz EQS electric luxury saloons, as the all-new i7 has been spotted testing for the first time.
To be sold alongside petrol, diesel and hybrid versions of the next-generation 7 series from 2022, the i7 will sit atop BMW’s flexible CLAR platform and likely take its power from a variation of the electric powertrain featured in the new iX3 SUV.
The iX3 features BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive system, which comprises a rear-mounted motor that drives the rear axle only through a single-speed gearbox and takes its power from an 80kWh lithium ion battery for range of 460 kilometres.
The more upmarket i7, however, will likely pack significantly more power to bring it into line with its Jaguar and Mercedes rivals, both of which will place a heavy emphasis on performance and offer a range of nearer 650 kilometres.
BMW recently claimed the electric 7 Series would be “the top, most powerful” model in the line-up, suggesting it could be offered as a performance variant that would approach the V12-powered 760Li’s 448kW output.
A brief glimpse of the interior suggests the i7 will feature a similar cabin layout to BMW’s iNext electric SUV, with a prominent central infotainment display and curved digital gauge cluster. This prototype, however, doesn’t appear to feature the larger car’s polygonal steering wheel.
The i7 will likely offer similar autonomous driving functions to the iNext, however, which is described as the first BMW in which the driver is no longer required to take care of the task of driving.
Although under heavy wraps, this i7 prototype gives clues as to the styling of the seventh-generation 7 Series. It looks like the current car’s controversial large kidney grilles are here to stay, in line with BMW product boss Peter Henrich’s recent affirmation that customers want “strong characters and bold design”, although those on the electric model will be blanked off, as is customary.
The next-generation 7 Series’ proportions are also familiar, with a long wheelbase, extended front and rear overhangs and a low ride height.
The i7 forms part of BMW’s drive to electrify a quarter of its fleet by 2021, a third by 2025 and half by 2030. It will be joined in showrooms by the iX3, i4 saloon, iNext and upcoming electric variants of the X1, 5 Series and 3 Series.
The latter won’t be called the i3, given the electric hatchback of that name remains on sale.