Let's start with the basics: in the US, the 7 will be available in two configurations at launch. The base model is the 740i with a 3-liter, 320-horsepower TwinPower inline six starting at $81,300; above that is the 750i xDrive with a redesigned 4.4-liter, 445-horsepower twin turbo V-8 starting at $97,400. The 740e xDrive plug-in hybrid joins the range in 2016, with pricing to be announced. Both the 740i and 750i xDrive will be sold only in long-wheelbase configurations in the US. That means that, at least for the moment, we'll be losing quite a few US configurations: the current 7 is available in a short-wheelbase version, a diesel, a hybrid, and a V-12.
So, yes, to recap: your key, should you tick the Display Key option when you order your 7, is effectively a smartphone minus the phone. But there's more, of course.
YOUR KEY IS EFFECTIVELY A SMARTPHONE MINUS THE PHONE
And when those passengers look up at night, they'll probably get a kick out of the optional "Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof," which projects light across etchings on the sunroof's glass to show a "starlit sky" in your choice of six colors. (BMW division Rolls-Royce offers a similar option, but it's done through fiber optics wired directly into the headliner and costs a hilariously large amount of money.)
For drivers, meanwhile, there's a bunch of technology: a much larger heads-up display, for instance, that can show considerably more information. (It's basically an augmented reality windshield at this point.) Cameras outside the vehicle automatically scan road signs and upload the information to BMW's servers, which feed back into updated navigation data that's beamed back to all cars.
"But wait, that's not all," as they say. (News of this car was delivered on a 24-page press release, and it's difficult to decide which wild features warrant discussing here.) This car also debuts iDrive 5.0 — BMW's oft-maligned connected car system that has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Here, iDrive gets touchscreen support for the first time (but still maintains the traditional iDrive controller in the center console) and introduces gesture control. Sensors in the headliner track the driver's hands; there are only a small number of gestures supported, presumably to limit distraction and prevent the system from getting confused; you can raise or lower volume with a circular finger motion, wave your hand left or right to accept and reject calls, and configure one additional gesture to control one of several different functions.
In the front, BMW's various methods of interaction with iDrive (as mentioned earlier, there are no less than three different ways to control the infotainment system) are a bit overwhelming. The gestures to control the system did work as advertised, but they don't feel natural and it's generally just easier to do the same thing with the steering wheel-mounted buttons. Also confusing is BMW's complete lack of support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which will undoubtedly be a growing customer demand over the coming years. (BMW tells us that it is still evaluating those systems, but there's no news as to when it might support them.)
The 740i and 750i xDrive arrive in dealerships this fall; just remember to bring a driver when you buy it so you can sit in the back.