BMW’s i7 M70 xDrive flagship sedan tips the scales at 5929 pounds while still capable of sprinting to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph.
BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel says the prospective customer is someone who would have been drawn to the V12 7-Series while it was available.
The i7 M70 is undeniably fast but also feels heavy and ponderous on certain types of roads, even with the M-specific adaptive air suspension.
While recognizing the prodigious 650 hp from BMW’s newest and most groundbreaking battery-electric vehicle, the i7 M70 xDrive flagship sedan, it’s also necessary to recognize the elephant in the room, figuratively. It’s a huge vehicle, tipping the scales at 5929 pounds while still capable of sprinting to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph.
Which raises the question, who buys a car like this and for what purpose?
We test drove this Bavarian beast this past weekend in Portugal, along coastal asphalt south of Lisbon snaking through the Sintra mountains. Some of these two-lane winding roads were so narrow that the right tires often strayed from pavement, negotiating the soft shoulder, especially when trucks were coming the opposite way. I’ve experienced wider American sidewalks.
These roads were not ideal for this high-performance variant of BMW’s i7, which launched a year ago as part of the fully redesigned 7-Series range, including internal-combustion models.
But get this luxury EV out on the open road—preferably a highway without speed limits—and the i7 M70 xDrive is much more comfortable cruising in near silence, unless you and your passengers want to switch on the “iconic sound” of two electric motors spooling up when the accelerator pedal is pinned for overtaking in Sport mode and this portly sedan with up to 811 lb-ft of torque moves without hesitation.
Yes, the driver can determine how much powertrain sound enters the cabin, but changing those sound settings requires multiple clicks with the iDrive rotary controller in the center console or via taps on the touchscreen.
BMW’s latest operating system 8.5 infotainment architecture is a sophisticated (if not onerous) hub for changing dozens of settings, from enabling a personal WiFi hotspot and processing parking payments to finding the nearest charger and scheduling vehicle service. That’s in addition to the usual stuff like changing climate controls and using navigation.
Interior as a Sanctuary
Buying this car will require that you embrace this type of user experience, for better or worse.
Most functions demand extensive menu searching because the i7 M70’s cabin was purposely designed to be a sanctuary—visually and physically—with barely any hard buttons on the instrument panel and in the center console.
The lack of internal combustion means very little cabin noise, and the design team clearly wanted “noise” of any sort to be minimized. In general, the interface works well and quickly but takes a little time and patience before the functions become second nature.
Our test vehicle, painted Aurora Diamond (forest green), sported a supremely comfortable two-tone gray and saddle leather interior that would be the pride of any aspiring chief executive.
It’s that demographic and level of income that BMW is targeting with the new i7 M70 xDrive, which carries a base price of $169,495.
BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel tells Autoweek the prospective customer is someone who would have been drawn to the V12 7-Series while it was available (from 1987 until 2022) atop BMW’s sedan portfolio. In the same way, van Meel sees the i7 M70 xDrive as the pinnacle of BMW sedan performance.
This is where the conversation seems to run a bit astray, as the smaller and lighter M3 and M5 are among Munich’s sedan offerings that dynamically torch the i7 M70. Yes, that big BEV has more horsepower and torque, but the best BMWs have never been about brute strength and straight-line acceleration.
So, back to the question: Why do a vehicle like this? Because Tesla, with its smaller and older Model S Plaid, has proven there is loads of demand for battery-electric performance sedans and—potentially—room for other players, BMW and its corporate sibling Rolls-Royce included.
When the i7 M70 xDrive goes on sale in the US in November, it will offer Highway Assistant, a Level 2 system that allows for hands-free and pedal-free driving on expressways with the help of 12 ultrasonic sensors, six cameras, five radar sensors, and an infrared sensor tracking the driver’s eyesight.
Hands-Free Active Lane Changing
New this year, the system offers active lane changing, which allow the driver to confirm a hands-free lane change by looking at the right or left mirror once the vehicle identifies an opening in traffic and sounds an audible alert.
Based on testing on Lisbon highways, the system works well, executing lane changes smoothly and then keeping the vehicle confidently between the hash marks without annoying micro-adjustments of the steering wheel.
The i7 M70 is undeniably fast but also feels heavy and ponderous on certain types of roads, even with the M-specific adaptive air suspension with automatic self-leveling and electronic dampers. Does this reality partially explain why BMW never produced an M7?
The engineers in Munich understand very well that mass is the enemy of high performance, and yet BMW’s most popular vehicles in the US are their biggest ones—an unfortunate inevitability as crossovers and SUVs sweep the luxury and mainstream markets.
Following in this trend, the i7 M70 sadly forsakes Bavaria’s legacy for lithe, agile, glorious driving machines. If “Ultimate” can describe the i7 M70 xDrive, the term is a reflection of size rather than dynamic capabilities.
For the foreseeable future, will battery weight prevent automakers from delivering truly agile (and affordable) sports cars? Please comment below.