2023 BMW i7 Review: Seven Steps into the Future
BMW's flagship sedan goes electric.
The BMW 7 Series is a large luxury sedan that resides at the top of the German automaker’s model lineup and has done so for more than 40 years. For the 2023 model year, BMW is introducing the seventh generation of its flagship sedan, showcasing an all-new look, a long list of new high-tech features, and the expected high levels of luxury. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this new generation is the introduction of the first fully electric 7 Series model, the BMW i7.
BMW has already made great strides toward electrifying its lineup with the i4 and iX, both full-on battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). With electrification in mind, BMW designed the new 7 Series to operate with an internal combustion engine (ICE) or an electric powertrain, with almost identical styling and functionality. The company hopes that this will help in the further adoption of electrified vehicles as it looks to have fully electric models comprising half its sales by 2025.
BMW offers the 2023 i7 in a single trim level—the xDrive60. With dual electric motors, the i7 delivers impressive performance with standard all-wheel drive (AWD). The gasoline-powered 740i and 760i join the i7 in the 7 Series lineup. BMW will add a plug-in hybrid variant next year.
The i7 is the pinnacle of the 7 Series model range. It carries a base manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of about $120,000, which includes the $995 destination charge to cover the cost of shipping the 7 Series to America from its assembly location in Dingolfing, Germany.
BMW provided me with travel to Palm Springs, CA, as well as food and lodging so that I could spend time with the all-new electric i7. For this review, I drove a 2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 painted in the premium Frozen Deep Grey. This i7 came well equipped with a range of optional extras that included the Driving Assistance Pro package, Luxury Rear Seating package, Executive package, Rear Executive Lounge Seating, M Sport Package Pro, and the upgraded Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The total MSRP came to $156,595, including the $995 destination charge.
2023 BMW i7 Review: The Design
BMW introduced a new design direction with this new i7 that features the brand’s iconic kidney grille flanked by new two-piece split headlights. Slim LED running lights give the i7 a signature look while the low- and high-beam headlights reside below, set back into the bodywork, so they are almost invisible when turned off. As an electric vehicle (EV) with no need for airflow to the engine, the grille is solid, but does light up for further emphasis.
Aside from the i7 label on the trunk lid and lack of exhaust pipes, the electric 7 Series is almost impossible to distinguish from its gas-powered siblings. Even the charge-port door is in the same location as the gas filler on ICE-powered models.
Perhaps the most noticeable change in this new 7 Series is the elegantly curved screen that combines the 12.3-inch instrumentation and 14.9-inch infotainment displays under a single piece of non-glare glass. Adding to the high-tech look is what BMW calls the “Interaction Bar,” a wide strip with a crystalline surface that spans the dashboard and wraps into the doors. This strip is backlit and can display various colors, giving ambient lighting a new meaning.
The Interaction Bar allows BMW to remove practically all the hard buttons in the i7’s cabin. For example, the automaker integrates touch-sensitive controls for the defroster and glove box access into the Interaction Bar. Separately, soft-touch shortcut buttons to media, communications, navigation, and drive modes reside in the center console alongside the classic iDrive dial.
Access to most every other feature comes via the touchscreen infotainment system or the advanced voice-control system that BMW refers to as the Intelligent Personal Assistant. For the most part, the screen is intuitive and easy to use, with climate controls and access to the climate menu always appearing at the bottom of the display.
As the flagship of the BMW lineup, the new i7 features a cabin replete with the finest materials. This includes seats trimmed in full Merino leather or, my favorite, leather with cashmere inlays. The leather/cashmere combo is not only supremely comfortable, but it also gives the seats a look reminiscent of high-end furniture. Several interior trim choices include open-pore wood and polished carbon fiber that add to the car’s overall premium feel.
With leather or cashmere, I found the front seats exceptionally comfortable, even for long periods. The seats are heated and ventilated, and I was able to choose from multiple massage functions that work quite well.
BMW equipped the i7 I tested with the most luxurious rear-seat option, which provided pillow-style headrests for the reclining rear seats, which offer heating, ventilation, and massage functions. The rear row is spacious, with good legroom and headroom, although the middle seat will be a tight fit for an adult.
The i7 is available with Executive Lounge Seating, if you'd prefer your "Ultimate Driving Machine" to have the ultimate chauffeured ride. This option allows the right-rear passenger to recline while a leg rest unfolds from the seat bottom. At the same time, the front passenger’s chair folds and slides forward, deploying a small footrest for that lucky right-rear passenger.
Given the i7’s size, I’d expect a spacious trunk, but the available space is on the small side and is considerably less than the previous generation. The i7’s 11.4 cubic-foot trunk is smaller than the 18.2 cu-ft trunk of the previous-generation 7 Series. Still, the trunk can handle a few large pieces of luggage or an ample supply of groceries.
2023 BMW i7 Review: The Technology
All BMW i7s come standard with the large, curved display that includes the 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen operating the latest generation of the brand’s iDrive system. You can swipe left or right on the screen, with different features represented by large panels for easy navigation.
Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connect wirelessly in the i7; setting up my Android Galaxy S21 was seamless. When starting the pairing process, my phone displayed a BMW screen asking if I wanted to pair and if I wanted to enable Android Auto—a much nicer and cleaner interface than the typical Bluetooth setup.
Voice recognition has come a long way, and the i7’s system is impressive. Activated by saying, “Hey, BMW,” I asked it to find the closest coffee shop, and it gave me several choices; the one I selected became our destination. I was able to turn on seat massagers, change the audio source, check traffic on my route, and even lower the windows a little, all by voice prompts.
Of course, I could have easily lowered the windows via buttons on the door, but the whole premise of voice recognition is to keep the driver’s hands on the wheel and focus on driving. The system even has a sense of humor; I told it I was bored, and it suggested putting the car in Sport mode.
Rear-seat passengers certainly don’t miss out on the cool tech. Buyers can equip each rear door with a 5.5-inch color touchscreen display that allows passengers to control audio, climate functions, seat adjustment, ambient lighting, and the BMW Theater Screen. Yes, I said theater screen.
Unique to the luxury car market, the BMW i7 is available with a 31.3-inch, 8K touchscreen connected to a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround-sound audio system. Integrated with Amazon Fire TV, the entertainment system can stream video from various sources, including Netflix and Sling TV. The large screen folds into the headliner when not in use, and when deployed, the rear sunshades automatically close.
File this under unnecessary, but still cool: BMW equips the i7 with available power doors. You can open the doors individually or all at once via buttons on the door latch, key fob, or inside the cabin. Sensors built into the doors ensure they’ll stop if there’s any obstruction to opening or closing. As a further novelty, it’s possible to open or close the doors via voice control—certainly a fun party trick, but perhaps a bit unnecessary.
On certain divided multi-lane highways, you can drive the 2023 BMW i7 hands-free using the available Highway Assistant. This doesn’t mean the driver can recline the seat and read a book. Rather, this level of autonomy still requires the driver to pay attention while the system monitors the person driving the car.
Engaging Highway Assistant is similar to activating adaptive cruise control: just set the speed and following distance. When approaching a slower vehicle, you activate the turn signal, and the car changes lanes on its own, continuing at the selected speed. Highway Assistant can operate at speeds up to 85 mph. I tried it at 80 mph, and it worked flawlessly.
With a long list of advanced driver assistance and safety features, I expect the i7 would protect me well in a crash, but I’m basing this assumption on the feature list. Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has tested the crashworthiness of this car or any previous generations of the 7 Series.
2023 BMW i7 Review: The Drive
BMW equips all i7s with the same powertrain, which includes two electric motors. A 255-horsepower unit powers the front wheels, while the rear wheels get their motivation from a 308-hp motor. Combined output is 536 hp and 549 pound-feet of torque—almost the same as the V8-powered 760i. To eliminate the need for rare-earth materials in its electric motor construction, the i7 uses electrically excited synchronous motors with an electrical feed to turn the rotor rather than fixed permanent magnets.
Acceleration in the BMW i7 is quick. According to BMW, the car sprints from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. While I didn’t perform instrumented tests, based on my experience, I wouldn’t argue against that figure; the car feels properly quick. The i7 weighs about 1,000 pounds more than its V8-powered counterpart, but is only four-tenths of a second slower to 60 mph thanks to the instant torque delivered by the electric powertrain.
According to the EPA, the 2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 with 21-inch wheels (the car I drove) is rated at 87 MPGe combined with a range of 308 miles between charges. When I departed Palm Springs, the i7’s driver information display indicated I had 92% battery left with a range of 301 miles, closely matching the EPA’s estimate.
After an 80-mile drive consisting of both high-speed highway testing and twisty back roads, the trip computer showed the battery charge down to 58%, and the remaining range was 239 miles—only 62 miles less than when I started. This would indicate the real-world range may be a bit better.
Electric cars are generally quiet, but the i7 takes it to the next level with an almost perfectly peaceful cabin—one of the reasons an electric powertrain is ideal for powering a luxury sedan. Cruising the highway at 80 mph feels effortless, while the ride remains smooth and quiet with no discernable road or wind noise. Suspension and damping systems are new in the i7, designed to excel in both driving dynamics and ride comfort. Based on my experience, I would say BMW’s engineers nailed it.
I tested those improved driving dynamics by taking the winding mountain road toward Idyllwild, CA. The best compliment I can provide is that the i7 drives like a BMW. Weighing in at almost three tons, the i7 is no small car, but with a low center of gravity, AWD, and precise four-wheel steering, the i7 is enjoyable on a twisty road. The brakes are good, and the instantaneous torque makes it possible to accelerate quickly out of the corners.
BMW allows the driver to choose different levels of battery recuperation. Selecting ‘B’ on the gear selector provides the maximum amount and allows for one-pedal driving. Lifting off the throttle will slow the car without applying the brakes, eventually bringing it to a complete stop. During spirited driving, this allows for quicker reaction time with no need to move from throttle to brake and back again—just lifting off the throttle is enough to slow for the corners.
Is the 2023 BMW i7 a Good Car?
As the brand’s flagship, the BMW 7 Series has always married high levels of luxury with the latest technology, and the new 2023 BMW i7 carries on that tradition. The premium materials and advanced tech are evident with one look at the cabin, from the soft cashmere-trimmed seats to the curved digital display across the dashboard. Rear-seat passengers will enjoy the refinement and comfort expected of a flagship luxury sedan, especially with the seat massager in action and a movie streaming on the big screen.
More importantly, the i7 features an advanced electric powertrain that provides performance to match the traditional V8, but fits better for a luxury sedan, delivering a quiet, peaceful ride while at the same time reducing emissions and fuel costs. With a price that starts well above $100,000, the i7 isn’t for everyone. But for those with the means, the i7 may be the ultimate choice for the luxury-performance-car buyer looking to take a step into the future.