LISBON, Portugal — I’m not one to pooh-pooh a 650-horsepower luxury sedan, but in 99% of all situations, the new BMW i7 M70 is no better than the less-expensive i7 xDrive60. For an extra $44,300, BMW will festoon your i7 with more power, more equipment and a more aggressive suspension. Well, not too aggressive; this is a 7 Series, after all. BMW’s land yacht is intended to cradle and coddle, M badges be damned.
Indeed, coddling is what the i7 M70 does best. Driving across Portugal’s Ponte 25 de Abril – which is a dead ringer for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, by the way – the M70 is as bank-vault solid as any other i7. Its M-specific dual-axle air suspension might be paired with stiffer electronically controlled dampers, but the ride is nevertheless silky and serene. The M70 is quiet, its seats are mega-plush and it has the same Highway Assistant as other i7s, so on most freeways, you can just keep your eyes on the road and let the i7 handle the rest.
Both the i7 M70 and xDrive60 have a 105.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack – of which 101.7 kWh is usable – that can DC fast-charge at a max rate of 195 kW. Both have a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive powertrain layout, and they share a common front e-motor that makes 255 hp and 269 pound-feet of torque.
The M70 gets its added oomph from a more powerful rear-drive unit, cranking out 483 hp and 479 lb-ft, as opposed to the xDrive60’s 308 hp and 280 lb-ft. Interestingly, the sedan’s driving range doesn’t take a massive hit despite this bump in output, with the EPA rating the M70 at 291 miles and the xDrive60 at 317 (opting for bigger wheels will lower the range of both).
All told, the i7 M70 makes 650 hp and 749 lb-ft of torque – or 811 lb-ft for brief moments when you’re using launch control or if you grab the steering wheel’s boost paddle. That’s an increase of 114 hp and 200 lb-ft (or 262 lb-ft) over the i7 xDrive60, which is enough to shave a second off the sedan’s 0-to-60-mph time: 3.5 seconds vs. 4.5 and increase its top speed from 149 mph to 155 mph. Considering instant torque makes all electric cars feel plenty quick off the line, is a 1-second improvement really worth $44,300 to you? And in a 7 Series?
That upcharge gets you more than just power, of course. The M70 comes standard with 21-inch wheels wrapped in 255/40 front and 285/35 rear Pirelli P Zero tires, but unlike the xDrive60, 20-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance summer tires will be available. It’s also fitted with BMW’s 48-volt active anti-roll technology and 2.5-degree rear-axle steering (for context, the EQS rotates 10 degrees). Blacked-out exterior elements give the hideous i7 a slightly, um, better(?) look, though I will say, I dig the almost Alpina B7-like appearance of this Aurora Diamond Green test car. The M70 also has a more pronounced rear diffuser, drawing your attention to where tailpipes would normally be. Because that’s a design trend now. Neat.
Inside, the M70 is essentially an i7 with all the trimmings. There are two-tone upholstery designs, glass controls that look and feel exquisite, backlit panels that’ll change to any color your heart desires and not a single ill-fitting piece of plastic in sight. For as polarizing as the 7’s exterior is, the cabin is downright beautiful. And comfortable. And so, so, so quiet – unless you crank the bangin’ Bowers & Wilkins stereo.
The M70 arrives with a new bit of cabin tech that’ll make its way to other BMW models through an over-the-air update: iDrive 8.5. Also launching in the 2024 5 Series and i5, iDrive 8.5 uses the same basic software as iDrive 8.0, but a few little UX tweaks make the system more intuitive to use – especially for the first time. The home screen overlays frequently used widgets over a huge map, and a row of controls along the bottom of the display will take you to major pages like navigation, media, climate controls, etc. Is the main iDrive menu still a haphazard mess of small icons? Yes. Do Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly so you can forget your iDrive troubles? Also yes. Thank goodness.
One large, curved display houses the 12.3-inch gauge cluster and 14.9-inch multimedia touchscreen, and it’s full of trick features like augmented reality navigation overlays and reconfigurable themes based on different “moods” (yes, that’s what they’re called). BMW’s ever-helpful AI assistant is at your beck and call, too. Just say “Hey, BMW,” and it’ll wake up to handle your laziest of requests, because why simply press the one-touch, auto-down window button when you can say, “Hey, BMW, roll down the driver’s window?” Assuming the AI understands you the first time, natch.
Yes, the i7 M70’s story is the same as the i7 xDrive60’s. “But, hang on, buddy,” you might think. “You said 99% of all situations. What about the remaining 1%?”
OK, sure, on a winding road – say, along the Portuguese coast – the i7 M70 is a more lively dance partner than the xDrive60. The steering is a bit heavier, the active anti-roll tech quells body motions and the extra boost in power gives you more authority when hustling out of corners. The Hans Zimmer-orchestrated soundtrack offers up sportier, more M-like sounds, too. It’s enough to make this 5,929-pound porker genuinely entertaining, but hardly exciting. You can turn up the wick on a 7 Series only so much before it goes against this flagship’s core mission.
Is this the type of scenario a car like the i7 will find itself in on the regular? Not likely. And even if it does, is the delta between the M70 and xDrive60 so great that it radically changes the experience? No. The i7 M70 costs $169,495 (including $995 for destination). The i7 xDrive60 is $125,195. If you simply have to have the highest number and the letter “M” to impress the neighbors, the M70 won’t disappoint. But 99% of the time, I’m willing to bet the i7 xDrive60 will do just fine.