Innovation is not in short supply in the new Mercedes S-Class rival.
President Joe Biden, the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics, and the disturbing survival drama television series Squid Game were some of the topics that made the most noise on Twitter in 2021. It seems that BMW is vying for a place on the 2022 edition of social media hot topics following the unveiling of the new 7 Series and fully electric i7. BMW's flagship sedan is such a dramatic visual departure from models that have come before that we still don't know exactly what to make of it. But the derision, disbelief, and even nausea caused by its design can't detract from the fact that it's a groundbreaking vehicle. Packed with avant-garde technologies and innovations that are appropriate for an aspirational flagship, we'll take a closer look at some of the best of them here.
The new BMW 7 Series lets you know how clever and grandiose it is before even sliding into its plush cabin. Optional Swarovski crystals in the upper lighting elements are backlit by 14 LED units. They sparkle spectacularly at all times, whether from natural sunlight or from 22 LED units at night. An illuminated surround for the monumentally large kidney grille joins these crystals in a dazzling Welcome and Goodbye Scenario that will delight the average rapper and embarrass more reticent types. When approaching the car, the grille surround lights up first, followed by the crystal headlights. A dynamic light carpet then lights your way to the doors.
At 5.1 inches longer than the outgoing model, as well as wider and taller, the new 7 Series is as petite as a grizzly bear. A sedan of this size needs all the tricks in the business to be parked safely and easily, and BMW's Maneuver Assistant is one of them. The feature utilizes GPS data and trajectory information from the steering to record and store ten unique scenarios in different locations. It records distances of up to around 656 feet (200 meters). If you frequently visit someone with a twisty and complex driveway, Maneuver Assistant will remember the starting point and all specific turns required to complete the maneuver automatically. Throttle, braking, and steering are all controlled without driver intervention. You can even control the car's path remotely.
While many of the car's advancements can be seen from the outside, you'll need to occupy one of the main seating positions to enjoy the best of what the new 7 Series has to offer. In front, there is a new Interaction Bar. It functions as both a striking design element and a means of controlling key functions. The crystalline surface structure is backlit but constantly changes its look based on which mode the car is in, whether there is an incoming call, or whether you are entering/exiting the vehicle. It spans the full width of the instrument panel and also houses touch-sensitive controls for the ventilation system. Even exiting the new 7 is done differently, with buttons for opening the automatic doors incorporated into this bar.
Ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. It shares a glass surface with a 14.9-inch touchscreen interface, and together these form the BMW Curved Display. Dual display screens are not new, but BMW has expanded what's possible with them. For the first time, the driver and front passenger can watch on-demand services like YouTube on the control display. For the i7, it's not a bad way to pass time while stopping at a charging station. More services will be added via third-party apps in the future, and these will be linked to the car's Personal eSIM. The provision of 5G connectivity in the new 7 enhances connectivity and mobile reception, too. BMW's new iDrive 8 software can be a little overwhelming at first but responds quickly to inputs.
Staying with the driver, the BMW 7 Series is available with a new Augmented View function (pictured below on the iX) that projects navigation and route guidance in a live video stream behind the steering wheel. For example, navigating a confusing or busy intersection is made easier with an animated directional arrow within the video to guide the driver on the best turn-off. Coupled with technologies like the new Highway Assistant that allows for hands-off driving at up to 80 mph on selected highways, the new 7 does whatever it can to take the stress and fatigue out of your commute.
Moving into the back seat, the new 7 Series has some astonishing tech to keep you busy. Perhaps more prominent than any other feature is the available 31-inch BMW Theater Screen that electronically unfolds itself from the roof. With 8K resolution and touch functionality, it's a dazzling alternative to dual screens embedded into the headrests of the front seats.
Paired with a top-notch Bowers & Wilkins sound system (more on that below) and Amazon Fire TV, the new 7 provides an entertainment experience like no other car on the market. At the touch of one (or two) buttons, the rear right seat will recline, the sunshades will darken the rear cabin, and you can stream your favorite shows or play games. Films can be viewed in 16:9, 21:9, or 32:9 cinemascope aspect ratios, and the screen can be tilted for optimum viewing. It's utterly excessive but undeniably cool.
What good is the most immersive cinematic screen in a production car if it isn't complemented by a sensational sound system? As standard, the 7 Series comes with an 18-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system with 655 watts of power and precision-etched metal grilles. But you can double the speaker count with the Diamond version of this sound system. It bumps power up to 1,955 watts and four of those 36 speakers are integrated into the headliner. It comes with a 4D audio function that produces magnetically controlled vibrations in the backrests to match the sound emitted from the speakers.
With the assistance of Hans Zimmer, the BMW Iconic Sounds Electric endows the i7 with unique acoustics to match the intense performance of its electric powertrain.
A standard feature, the new 7 Series comes with a Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof. It now has a single fixed glass surface with a steel surround, and the surface is transparent. Much larger than before, the roof allows even more light into the interior. The car's elaborate Welcome Scenario features a supporting act by this roof as well, with its LED-backlit light threads providing a stunning visual show.
Car doors have traditionally not been used as locations for integrated touchscreens. Because they're movable parts of a car, they're likelier to suffer wear, tear, and damage over time. This hasn't stopped BMW from fitting a 5.5-inch color touchscreen in each rear door. Using each digital control unit, rear-seat occupants can control audio, seat, lighting, and climate control settings. Despite the perceived fragility of these cool-looking screens, BMW says they've been designed to withstand the rigors of regular use. We'll report back on whether this is indeed the case five or more years from now.
The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is a digital companion that makes interacting with the car easier, at least in theory. Using voice commands, you can instruct the car to do things like open the doors or activate certain driver-assistance systems. For the first time, the system can now take instructions from passengers sitting at the back. An instant text display appears beneath the Intelligent Personal Assistant graphic to confirm whether the correct command has been processed. The voice assistant can be transformed into 20 different icons, and it can even become an "Expressive" animation with a pair of eyes that sounds positively creepy. The new personal assistant is integrated with the Interaction Bar, again underlining the visual connection between the car, its various systems, and the driver.