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“EXPLORING THE LIFESTYLE AND GENEROSITY OF TAMPA BAY”

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One drive in the all-new, all-electric BMW i7 shows that the luxury automobile rulebook has been well and truly torn up and unceremoniously dumped in the dumpster. 

No longer is it about purring 12-cylinder engines, smooth-shifting 10-speed automatics and more leather than a Hermès handbag store.

Here is simply the new benchmark in passenger car refinement, in luxury sedan performance, in ride smoothness, and in astonishing levels of interior comfort and cosseting.

Did we mention the jaw-descending 32-inch “Theatre Screen” in the back seat? 

At the tap of a button, this mega-monitor powers down out of a recess in the roof lining and can stream your favorite programs courtesy of Amazon Fire TV connectivity, playing through the car’s 655-watt, 18-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound. 

Want a true IMAX experience? Opt for the super-duper B&W Diamond system and you get 36 speakers, 1,965 watts of power, and those integrated seat-back “exciters” that jiggle your spine in time with every cinematic explosion, earthquake or trainwreck. Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

This new i7 – or i7 xDrive60 to give the car its full title – is the flagship of a new and improved BMW 7-series line-up that includes a V8-powered 760i and an upcoming plug-in hybrid version.

But it’s this new electrified i7 that is going to fire up the imaginations of luxury car buyers the world over. 

Much of that will be down to its remarkable electric powertrain. Using similar hardware that debuted in the iX compact electric SUV, it packs a combined 536-horsepower and stump-pulling 549 lb-ft of torque from electric motors front and rear. 

Step on the throttle and this nearly 6,000-pound leviathan can catapult from a standstill to 60mph in a mere 4.5 seconds, and not stop accelerating till it hits the electronic limiter at 130mph. 

For the techies out there, the i7’s lithium ion battery pack provides 101.7 kWh of useable energy and sits tucked away beneath the floor. 

Need a road trip to grandma’s house? The EPA gives the car an official range estimate of 318 miles, though find yourself a 195kW DC fast-charger, and you should be able to add 80 miles of range in just 10 minutes. Just long enough to check emails and sip a latte. 

And BMW is providing owners with three years of unlimited charging sessions at Electrify America stations.

But this new i7 isn’t just a jaw-descending, eyes-widening, straight-line rocketship. It’s just a remarkable thing to pilot when the road turns curvy. 

A mix of standard air springs, adjustable dampers at all four corners, as well as having a half-ton battery pack mounted low, makes for near perfectly-flat cornering. 

Add to all that, gloriously-precise steering, leech-like grip from 21-inch rubber fitted to our tester, and brakes that can stop time. For a car that stretches 212 inches bow to stern – the same as a Cadillac Escalade – it’s an amazingly fun car to drive. 

And life behind the wheel is hard to better. The i7’s massive curved glass display we know from the iX, sprawls across 27 inches and looks more like a piece of art floating across the dash. 

Front or back, the new i7 is a spectacular place to spend a journey. And while leather is certainly available, I absolutely loved the gorgeous, steely-gray cashmere-wool fabric that came with our tester. 

With all this style and substance, the new i7 is certainly a deal at $120,295 though, in typical BMW fashion, all those irresistible options jack-up the final price. Our loaded test car topped out at $156,595. 

OK, it’s not the prettiest-looking XXL-sized luxury sedan out there – Mercedes’ curvy EQS and the new Lucid Air win the beauty pageant. 

But as arguably the Ultimate Electric Driving Machine, it sets a lofty new standard that others will find hard to beat. 

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