It has built-in Amazon Fire TV and 5G connectivity for media streaming, and you can get a 36-speaker 4D sound system that vibrates your seats.
For the past few decades we've seen myriad concept cars pitched as fancy autonomous lounges, with furniture-like seats and wild infotainment screens for commuters of the future to be able to work or relax while on the go. Rear-seat screens have been common since the 1990s, too, though usually those are relegated to small displays in the seatbacks or dated tablet setups. BMW is now taking rear-seat entertainment into the future, and on Wednesday debuted a 31-inch Theater Screen in the new 7 Series sedan that puts some home theater setups to shame.
Measuring 31.3 inches diagonally, to be precise, the deployable Theater Screen has an 8K resolution and can show media in 16:9, 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios. The 7 Series has a 5G wireless connection and Amazon Fire TV is built in so passengers can stream content in 4K UHD on apps like Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Twitch and YouTube. You can also stream music, play games, watch live TV, view information about your journey or watch predownloaded media. Two sets of Bluetooth headphones can be connected, and different viewer profiles let you pick up from where you left off at home in your movie or show.
The Theater Screen is a touchscreen, and it can electronically slide fore and aft for a better viewing angle or to be easier to reach. Rear-seat passengers can also control the system with voice commands or by using the 5.5-inch touchscreens built into each rear door. Those screens not only control the infotainment system and volume but also the climate controls, seats, lighting and other infotainment functions. When the Theater Screen is deployed the sun shades for the rear doors and rear window will automatically raise and the interior lights will dim.
Obviously a screen like this needs high-end audio to back it up, and every 7 Series comes standard with an 18-speaker, 655-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system. But what you really want is the optional 4D Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, which packs 36 speakers in total and a 1,965-watt amplifier. Four of those speakers are in the headliner, and each headrest contains two surround speakers. The 4D system also uses exciters in the seats that vibrate in conjunction with the audio that's playing, and BMW worked with Hans Zimmer to design all sorts of unique noises for the car, including the acceleration sounds for the fully electric i7.
When the Theater Screen isn't in use, it folds into the roof, just looking like a thick cross bar dividing the glass. This isn't just some regular ol' panoramic sunroof, though. The 7 Series comes standard with what BMW calls the Panoramic Sky Lounge, a single fixed piece of glass spanning the entire roof that has built-in LED light threads. The pattern of the lights mirrors the quilting on the seats, and the color can be configured to an individual scheme or matched to the selected My Mode environment. There are also animations such as a welcome effect when you step into the car, or one that BMW says "intensifies the feeling of acceleration" when the car is in motion. It's all very over-the-top, which we like, but an electronic sunshade can be closed if you so desire.
The back seat experience is mega important for a large luxury sedan like the 7 Series, especially in markets like China where being driven around by a chauffeur is way more common than the US -- and BMW expects around 70% of new 7 Series sales to be in China. To that end, the less digital aspects of the 7 Series' cabin look just as nice. When fitted with the Executive Lounge package the rear seats get massage functions and can recline up to 42.5 degrees, and they also have adjustable neck cushions, heated arm rests and a fold-out glass infotainment controller. The seat behind the front passenger has an integrated, extendable calf rest, and the front seat has a heel rest and can be moved and reclined all the way forward to give the rear passenger as much room as possible. The 7 Series also is offered with a fabulous mix of wool and cashmere upholstery, as well as sumptuous leather.
Look, I love driving, but there are so many times on long road trips when I just want to kick my feet up and relax while someone else slogs through hundreds of boring highway miles. And the Theater Screen will be available on the fully electric i7 version of the new 7 Series, too, which makes it the ultimate solution for what to do when you have to stop and charge. The 7 Series and i7 will go on sale at the end of the year, with the Theater Screen costing around $5,000.