In the not-so-distant past, V12 engines ruled the roost in the big executive sedan segment. These paragons of smoothness and torque were mesmerizing creatures, capable of propelling multi-ton lounges down highways with astonishing pace and serenity. Now though, they’ve been all but killed off for something even quieter, even smoother, and even more rich in torque — electric power. The all-electric BMW i7 M70 is the new king of the 7-Series range, and it brings big power, chassis tweaks, and a whole lot of customization options. The i7 M70 replaces the old V12-powered M760i xDrive and sits above the i7 xDrive60 as the quickest new 7-Series money can buy.
Let’s start with the exterior. Sure, you can opt for a whole load of black accents, but the basic cosmetic alterations to the i7 M70 are fairly restrained. M-style mirrors and fresh side skirts with black accents bulge out of the flanks, while a revised rear valence with diffuser-style inserts offers some added visual aggression around back. That being said, those are subtle changes that most people are likely to miss completely depending on what paint color is specified. Or should I say, what paint colors are specified.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the pictures, the i7 M70 can be ordered in Tony the Tiger black-and-orange two-tone that’s louder than the sound system at Madison Square Garden. In fact, the two-tone treatment can be applied to heaps of colors in BMW’s extended Individual palette, some of which are properly outrageous. How would you like a mint green 7-Series?
Oh, and there’s a minor change on the inside that’s worth noting: The i7 M70 will come with iDrive 8.5, an updated infotainment system that promises an easier-to-navigate top menu than what the current iDrive 8 offers. While you can still use the iDrive knob to make inputs, this new infotainment system is supposedly designed more for touchscreen inputs rather than rotary controls.
Right, let’s talk exciting stuff. While it’s easy to think that 650 dual-motor electric horsepower is 650 dual-motor electric horsepower, the i7 M70 takes a novel approach of extreme rear bias with the most powerful electric motor BMW’s ever made. Instead of a customary three-phase electric motor, this single motor uses six phases to pump out 483 horsepower, or more than an entire M3.
As for the front motor, it cranks out 255 horsepower, or roughly the same horsepower as a 330i. Now I know that the power figures of the two motors add up to way more than 650 horsepower, but different electric motors can have differing power curves just like different gasoline engines can have differing power curves. That peak figure of 650 horsepower is the most these motors can push out when working together, but the area under the curve also holds promise. I suspect the real benefits of the 483-horsepower rear motor won’t be experienced until higher speeds. How hard do we reckon the i7 M70 will run into its 155 mph top speed limiter?
So how about torque, then? Well, that peaks at 748 lb.-ft., unless you press the right button. By either activating launch control or getting into M Sport Boost mode, torque leaps to 811 lb.-ft. which helps click off a claimed zero-to-60 time of 3.5 seconds. That’s not Model S Plaid quick, but it’s still objectively a very good time, especially for something that isn’t a full-on M-car. It’s even quicker than the XM Label Red, of which the less is said, the better. What’s more, range is expected to be excellent, with an estimated 295 miles on a charge using the EPA cycle. That’s barely less than the standard car’s 318 miles of EPA range.
Regarding suspension, the i7 M70 still uses air suspension at all four corners, but the physical air springs are unique to the M70. They feature smaller air chambers than their cooking-grade equivalents, along with re-shaped contours for a firmer ride. Of course, with new air springs comes revised damping, but the anti-roll bars aren’t changed. See, the i7 M70 uses the same active anti-roll bars as the regular i7 that can slacken off or firm up resistance depending on conditions, so only recalibration was necessary. However, don’t think of this as just a spring and damper job – BMW’s made some additional hardware alterations that should make things interesting.
In fact, one hardware alteration is a structural change: BMW’s installed an extra panel between the cowl and front strut towers to stiffen up the front end on the i7 M70. This also marks the first time proper summer performance tires are available for the electric 7-Series. Oh, and four-wheel-steering come standard. It all adds up to the promise of a sharper, more engaging 7-Series, which feels pretty important as far as history goes.
In the past, people typically bought the 7-Series over the equivalent Mercedes-Benz S-Class because it was a slightly more engaging drive. An old E38 from the ‘90s is an easy thing to sling around like an oversized sports sedan, and even the previous-generation 7-Series didn’t quite act its weight. While the plug-in age produces plenty of questions about whether or not electric powertrains can get under the skin of die-hard traditional car enthusiasts quite like V8s and V12s could, the promise of a sharper 7-Series is something we can all get behind. Pricing for the BMW i7 M70 haven’t been released yet, but expect to hear more closer to the car’s on-sale date in the second half of this year. Whether combustion-powered or electric-powered, long live the sports barge.
(Photo credits: BMW)
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