BMW's decision to give the i7 electric luxury saloon very similar styling to the 7 Series contrasts with the way rival companies like Mercedes-Benz or Audi are approaching their electric vehicles.
While this is nothing new for BMW — the iX3 SUV based on the X3 and the i4 fastback saloon based on the 4 Series Gran Coupe are similar examples — it's not a unitary approach throughout the lineup. For example, the BMW iX flagship electric SUV looks like nothing else the brand makes at the moment.
So why did BMW not make the i7 a standalone model too, just like arch-rival Mercedes-Benz has done with the EQS, which not only looks completely different to the S-Class but also utilises a dedicated EV platform? Cutting costs and the limitations of the i7's multi-energy platform are the first things that come to mind, but apparently, there's more to it.
BMW design boss Adrian van Hooydonk explained the decision to Autoblog on the sidelines of the Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance in Italy.
Gallery: 2022 BMW i7
"That was a deliberate choice. We feel that electric mobility is going to happen but nobody knows how quickly. So, we felt that if we were to combine luxury and electric in one vehicle, that would be beneficial because, otherwise, in the near future we might force our customers to make an uncomfortable choice.
'Am I modern, do I want to go electric, or do I want a certain comfort and space?' So, that's almost an unfair decision that we don't want our customers to make."
The latter part sounds a bit confusing to us as van Hooydonk seems to imply that a modern standalone electric saloon cannot offer similar levels of comfort and space as an ICE-powered equivalent. Unless we're reading it wrong, that's not quite accurate as modern EVs built on dedicated platforms are typically more spacious than their ICE counterparts and just as comfortable — the Lucid Air exemplifies that all too well.
Adrian van Hooydonk did not say whether future electric vehicles from BMW will adopt the same strategy, although we can think of two similar examples to the i7: the i3 eDrive35L recently unveiled in China, which looks almost identical to the 3 Series, and the upcoming i5. Judging from the spy shots we've seen so far, the 2024 BMW i5 will be the spitting image of the next-generation 5 Series.
This may be a short-term strategy for BMW, though. With the launch of the company's Neue Klasse of dedicated EVs in 2025, the Bavarians will most likely look to differentiate their electric vehicles from ICE/hybrid models from a design standpoint.