2023 BMW i7 and 7 Series review: Luxury gets edgy

The BMW 7 Series gets a generational upgrade, and with it comes an all electric variant — the BMW i7. We head to sunny California to drive it

We drive the all-new BMW i7 and the BMW 7 Series in California
We drive the all-new BMW i7 and the BMW 7 Series in CaliforniaBMW

Here’s a fun statistic — 45 per cent of all BMW 7 Series sales globally are in China. Another 20 per cent to the USA. Europe? A mere nine per cent. That pretty much explains why the new 7 Series looks the way it does, doesn’t it? No longer are the streets of Berlin and Paris as relevant to the 7 Series’ ambitions. Beijing and Shanghai have more pull. Massive grille, split headlamps with Swarovski crystals, an upright stance, — brutalism meets finesse, to create a form that is wholly unconventional. A new flagship design language, this, as you will see it on the X7 and XM as well. It doesn’t appeal to everyone, that’s no secret. I took two steps back when I saw it for the first time, but then an all-black example showed up, hiding the details up front and it made me go hmm. There are plenty that think it looks good, though. To each their own!

It isn’t every day a new BMW flagship comes along, and it has given the carmaker the opportunity to rewrite the rulebook a little bit here. The styling is just the start, the 7 Series has been reimagined from the inside out and while the focus remains providing the finest in luxury, it does so with its own quirks and character. There’s a new platform, new drivetrains, an all-electric variant, a whole new backseat concept, so much! I drove two variants — the all-electric BMW i7 xDrive60 and the V8-powered 760i xDrive.

Edgy and in your face – that's the styling of the 7 series for you
Edgy and in your face – that's the styling of the 7 series for youBMW

2023 BMW 7 Series and i7 styling

It is interesting to see the two different approaches taken by Mercedes-Benz and BMW here. Merc has launched a whole new model line for its EVs. The electric flagship EQS looks, feels and is vastly different from the standard S-Class. In BMW’s line-up, though, the i7 is but a variant under the larger 7 Series umbrella — a 7 Series with an electric drivetrain. I like the approach. It keeps things familiar, more homogenous. The differences between the two, drivetrain aside, are marginal. An ‘i’ logo on the front grille, a blue ring around the BMW roundels on the outside and on the steering wheel, the lack of a tachometer on the cluster. That’s literally it. Yes, the guts have been ripped out and that affects how the car drives, but on the face of it? That’s it.

High quality cabin with iDrive OS 8
High quality cabin with iDrive OS 8BMW

2023 BMW 7 and i7 interiors

The interiors are just as interesting as the styling — twin curved screens dominate your view, much like in the iX. Materials are top notch, with a generous use of crystal on the controls. The seats are some of the most comfortable I have ever been in, and I loved the cashmere upholstery. The infotainment screen is running iDrive OS8. It is a bit complicated at first, and I found myself fairly overwhelmed with it at first. Only when I spent more time with it in the updated 3 Series back home did I get the hang of it. The drive modes also change their approach. Instead of just changing how the car drives, the whole in-car experience changes. Sport mode makes the drivetrain and chassis perkier, but also boost the seat bolstering and add a dive-bomber-like soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer. The ‘Expressive’ mode opens up the sunroof and makes the soundscape almost musical. ‘Relaxation’ mode closes all off the blinds and cocoons the passengers in the back.

Rear seat is very comfy, gets cool tech too!
Rear seat is very comfy, gets cool tech too!BMW

2023 BMW 7 and i7 backseat

Now coming to the most important bit — the back seat. The wheelbase of the new 7 Series is now longer than the previous generation long-wheelbase variant. Which means space is generous. Like every limo in this class, you can kick back, pop out an ottoman and relax while getting massaged. The big highlight here is the 8K, 31.3-inch theatre screen which reveals itself when you ask for it from the touchscreen panels in the door. It’s neat, particularly when you’re waiting for the i7 to juice back up and can obviously be used on the go too, though it does limit driver visibility through the IRVM. Luxury is aplenty — the doors open and close at the touch of a button, a neat Rolls-Royce touch. Bowers and Wilkins packs a fine sound system. Cooling, heating, massaging — your backside can have it all. And everything save for the driver’s controls can be managed from your little door-handle touchscreen.

2023 BMW i7 performance and drivetrain

Let’s talk about those guts, though. The i7 xDrive60 get a 101.7kWh battery pack that is wired to two motors — one on each axle. Total outputs are mighty — 537bhp and 745Nm, putting it on par with the V8 in terms of outputs. Performance? Expectedly rapid. 0-100kmph comes up in 4.7 seconds. Gentle reminder that this sedan weighs in at 2.7 tonnes. It feels it too — there’s an immediacy from the throttle that you’d associate with EVs, and the big numbers on this one make themselves felt. Sport mode is punchy. It is plenty adequate in every other mode. But the highlight of the drivetrain has to be the silence. Luxury cars pile on the insulation to make the experience as quiet as possible and an electric drivetrain is inherently suited to that sort of motoring. The i7 feels like a natural. It may be the first ever electric flagship from BMW but you get the sense that it knows what it needs to do to impress. Effortless performance. A hush in the cabin no matter how fast you’re going. Nailed it.

2023 BMW 760i performance and drivetrain

This is a little more familiar. Under the hood of the 760i is the familiar 4.4-litre V8, now putting out 537bhp and 750Nm — very similar to the i7’s outputs, and it gets a mild hybrid system added in there for good measure. Responses are sharp, but not as telepathic as the i7’s. The inherent lag that an engine has is apparent when you drive them back to back, but the turn of speed is immense. 0-100kmph is dispatched in 4.2 seconds, and that’s down to the fact that this car is approximately 500kg lighter than its EV counterpart. It still moves with a similar degree of effortlessness on the go, though. The faint rumble from the V8 is omnipresent, and it gets louder when you hot foot it. No enthusiast will ever complain about that, but it must be said that the silence in the i7 is far more relaxing.

Like all BMWs, terrific handling on the new 7 series
Like all BMWs, terrific handling on the new 7 seriesBMW

2023 BMW 7 Series and i7 ride and handling

Ride quality you ask? Well, I don’t really know what to say except that I felt the cat’s eyes on the read a little more than I wanted to. We drove the car in the USA where the roads are impeccable and its impossible to get a clear picture on how the car will deal with Indian roads. However, on the arrow straight highways, it remains as planted as ever. At speed, it remains confidence inspiring and solid. Beijing can’t get enough of it, but the i7 is very obviously engineered to take on Autobahn-like driving.

Handling! That BMW forte — has it been watered down? Not in the slightest. BMW picked a town at the foot of a mountain for its global press drives for a reason. A quick blast up and down is revelatory. The chassis beams such clarity to the driver. I don’t want to make that cliched athlete-in-a-suit metaphor, but that is exactly what it is. Rear wheel steer lends it an agility that you wouldn’t think possible of a leviathan this size. There’s an active anti-roll system that counters body roll so the boss in the back can’t feel you hot footing it. With twin motors / AWD, traction is hardly a scarce resource and you can catapult the i7 out of corners with stomach-churning acceleration.

The new 7 Series puts more distance between itself and the S than ever before
The new 7 Series puts more distance between itself and the S than ever beforeBMW

2023 BMW 7 Series price and verdict

As far as flagship electrics go, the i7 impresses and how. Fast, comfortable, luxurious. It makes no compromises in a bid to be different, and is all the better for it. BMW’s traditional handling chops remain while comfort is undisputed. The best bit? You don’t have to look at it when you’re inside it. And there’s nowhere else you would rather be.

While the S-Class and the 7 Series have been traditional rivals for decades, this 7 Series puts more distance between itself and the S than ever before. They may fight in the same space, but I don’t see a traditional S-Class buyer ever buying this 7. This new 7 Series is edgy. Right from the time you lay your eyes on it, is screams ‘look at me’. The interiors are a refreshing take on what is otherwise a stagnant format. It may not be up everyone’s alley but the ones who bark up this alley, will want nothing else. And good on BMW for reaching in to that space!

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