Cars > Electric

The BMW i7 is the ultimate waftmobile from the future

This P10.39-million luxury EV is worth every peso

The 7-Series is the pinnacle of BMW's traditional lineup. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

I’m on record as saying that I love old cars, and that I think everyone should learn to drive in one. There’s nothing like feeling that direct connection between man and machine, having to do all the hard work, and getting rewarded with shots of octane-infused dopamine in return. But time stands still for no man, and cars have moved on a bit since I grew up.

Or a lot in the case of BMW. The first time I experienced a 7-Series was in the back of an E32 750iL that a relative owned. That’s a pretty decent reference point to compare how the number that represents ultimate luxury in the BMW lineup has evolved over the years.

Now that the “i” is in front of the “7,” and the V12 has made space for electric propulsion, is the BMW i7 still the flagship every self-respecting businessman will want in his driveway?

The point of the car's design is to get people talking about it. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Let’s get the looks out of the way right at the start. Yes, they are divisive, and I’m not the biggest fan of whatever the Bavarians were trying to do here either.

Maybe they had a few weissbiers too many over lunch, or maybe they just wanted to be bold. Who knows?

What I do know is that it kind of grows on you in real life, and it manages to stand out of the crowd as an unmistakable, unapologetic BMW. It has the kind of presence that will make valets sprint toward you and leave drivers of lesser marques waiting.

The interior quality is top-notch, as to be expected from a 7er. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

I am also absolutely convinced that somewhere in the BMW product development team, there’s a person whose only job is to ensure all BMW cabins smell the same, regardless of the model series or the year they were built.

It’s almost freakish how sitting in the back of the i7 for the first time brought back memories of little me trying out its predecessors at a local dealership in Bavaria 30 years ago.

The materials may have changed (sustainability and all that), but that BMW smell is still there. If you could bottle it, you’d call it eau de qualité and sell it next to other luxury perfumes at Rustans.

This i7 was fitted with all the bells and whistles, including electric massaging seats all around, doors that open and close at the touch of a button, an amazing Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system, beautiful leather upholstery, and loads more things that are easier to read off the brochure than to see me listing here.

This is as close as it gets to a Rolls-Royce. After all, BMW does own the luxury marque. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

What the BMW website can’t tell you is what it feels like to drive this machine. Did I say driving? I meant wafting. Gliding. Floating. All those words accurately describe the comfort and the serenity that passengers experience in this German castle on wheels.

The one thing you notice in this limousine is how little you notice. Of the outside world, that is. It almost ceases to exist. The loudest noise while driving back to Metro Manila was the air-conditioning, and that was already in a low setting.

It’s eerily, insanely, Rolls-Royce-level quiet, and shows just how perfect electric drivetrains are for luxury cars—provided you combine them with excellent engineering and high-end build quality.

This model was fitted with the Hans Zimmer-designed “iconic sounds,” a feature that was intriguing for all of five minutes before I switched it off. Total silence is preferable to electric Hollywood spaceship sounds while journeying in this automotive cathedral.

There's also a crazy amount of tech in this car—some not even suited for Philippine roads. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

The voice control worked quite well, too. No need to search through various menus when you want to change something. Just tell the car and it usually gets it right. The “getting it right” bit also applies to the many driver-assistance features that give the i7 quasi-autonomous driving capabilities.

Trusting a P10.39-million car (that you don’t own) to drive itself in EDSA rush-hour traffic is an activity that will quickly get your pulse going, but my blood pressure also came down again equally fast. Surprisingly, the tech even works reasonably well in Metro Manila chaos.

The only mistake the car made was to leave too much space for vehicles in front of it. The 2m gap the safety-conscious Bavarian motorwagen tried to maintain was quickly filled by two busses, three jeepneys, and a taxi. Maybe BMW could send an engineer over to fine-tune this function with a more assertive EDSA setting.

It still has some of that Ultimate Driving Machine DNA for the lucky driver to enjoy. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

While the best seats might be in the back, this is still a BMW, and that means it must be fun to drive or you can legally give it back (or at least you should be able to). Luckily, there’s no need to ask for a refund as the big seven is no slouch, and the 544hp can hold its own.

It’s miles away from the giggle factor of the i4 M50 that I drove earlier in the day (it was a good day), but it will still make you swear if you floor it. Instant electric acceleration does that to people, no matter how many times you’ve experienced it.

With over 500km of range, plenty of power, and ultimate refinement, the BMW i7 combines everything you could ever wish for in a luxury car. If it weren’t for the price tag, I’d order one today.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.