2023 BMW i7

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2023 BMW i7 & 7 Series First Drive Review: A New Type Of 7

Bavarian Motor Works. For years this name meant an internal combustion engine under the hood, but with the EV era looming, it will soon stand for electric motors. The seventh-generation 2023 BMW 7 Series arrives with the most significant change in the flagship's history, the introduction of the closely-related, all-electric 2023 BMW i7. BMW expects around 30-40% of 7 Series sales to be all-electric, so it's crucial that the i7 lives up to 7's high standards.

With Mercedes already getting a one-year head start with the EQS Sedan, Tesla continuing to dominate the EV segment, and new entrants like the Lucid Air poised to steal sales from early adopters, the i7 could not come at a better time for BMW.

Meanwhile, the classic 7 Series stays put in the lineup with either an inline-six or V8 engine for buyers that just aren't quite ready to take the EV plunge. CarBuzz flew to Palm Springs, California to drive both the gas and electric versions of BMW's latest flagship. After driving both cars, we are convinced this new 7 is the best BMW has ever produced, but we do have a clear favorite among the two.

2023 BMW i7 Models

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Styling: Regal, But Controversial

You know the story with modern BMW design; the kidney grille is humongous. Moving on, the 7's design is actually quite regal. It sits 212.2 inches long, giving it a dominating stance when viewed in-person. BMW increased the wheelbase to 126.6 inches, which is 5.1 inches longer than the outgoing long wheelbase 7 Series. Unlike the S-Class and EQS, which look completely different from each other, there's very little separating the 7 Series and i7 in terms of appearance. We think BMW made the right move here, as the i7 looks more conventionally grand than the EQS.

Color makes a tremendous difference here, as some combinations draw too much attention to the sizable grille. Of the cars BMW had on-hand to drive, we gravitated towards the simple but elegant Oxide Grey Metallic i7 without the M Sport package and the Frozen Deep Grey option that gives the car a stealthy look. As for the 7 Series, the Mineral White Metallic accentuates the black kidney grille too much on the M Sport Package and there's zero chance we'd fork over $12,000 for the two-tone Adventurin Red Metallic and Black Sapphire Metallic combo.

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Performance: Gas Or Electric

For buyers who aren't ready to make the leap into an EV, BMW will offer the 7 Series in two gasoline configurations: the 740i and 760i xDrive. The former uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine sending 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. 0-60 mph takes a leisurely 5.2 seconds but the fuel economy is a rather impressive 25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. That's great for such a large sedan.

Stepping up to the 760i xDrive rolls in a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 developing 536 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque routed to all-wheel-drive. The added power and additional drive axle drops the 0-60 time to just 4.1 seconds, though fuel economy takes a sizable hit to 18/26/21 city/highway/combined. Both gas engines include a 48-volt mild-hybrid setup, creating more instant acceleration and smoothing out the stop-start system.

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At launch, the i7 will only come in one configuration called the xDrive 60. Two electric motors combine to generate 536 hp and 549 lb-ft, matching the 760i on power and barely falling short on torque. The i7 is heavier though, so 0-60 acceleration is slightly slower at 4.5 seconds. If you live on the German Autobahn, it's worth noting the i7's top speed is "only" 149 mph compared to the 7 Series at 155 mph. Though the 760i feels quicker off the line, the i7 delivers more immediate response since it doesn't need to wait for a transmission to shift through cogs. A range-topping M70 will arrive later with over 600 hp, 737 lb-ft, and a sub-four-second 0-60 time.

As for the range, the i7 packs a massive battery pack with a 101.7 kWh usable capacity. Depending on which wheels you chose, the car will travel up to 318 miles on a charge (or 296 at the low end). BMW says the i7 can recharge at 195 kW with a flat charging curve, meaning it can add around 80 miles of range in just 10 minutes and go from 10% to 80% charge in around 35 minutes.

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Interior: BMW's Best

Prior to this latest 7 Series, the iX possessed the most luxurious interior BMW has ever put into production. Not anymore. The 7 Series strikes the perfect balance between cutting edge and tech overload. A 14.9-inch touchscreen is powered by BMW's latest iDrive 8 software, with a few new additions like the ability to watch YouTube (a handy feature for longer charging sessions). It pairs with a 12.3 inch gauge cluster with an augmented reality camera display and compatibility with Apple CarPlay to show navigation prompts.

You could get lost trying to count all of the dazzling details in the cabin, including the glass controls, configurable BMW interaction light bar, and doors that can open or close automatically at the push of a button or via voice command. Extended and full Marino leather options are available, but buyers who want more unique upholstery should penny up for the $6,450 Smoke White Full Merino Leather with Light Grey Cashmere Inlays (which requires other options). This combination both looks upscale and feels sumptuous to the touch. We particularly love how BMW managed to keep heating, ventilation, and massage on the cashmere seats.

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Though the front seat is impressive, true VIPs belong in the back. The $7,250 Rear Executive Lounge Seating package adds an electric reclining seat on the passenger side that's large enough for a six-footer to spread their legs comfortably. The package also includes a massive 31-inch 8K resolution theatre screen with built-in Amazon Fire TV to watch 4K streaming services. BMW managed to package the screen in such a way that car can still have the Sky Lounge Panoramic Roof with built-in lightning effects.

Adding this impressive rear seat requires several other options totaling $16,350. But if you are already spending 7 Series money, we can't imagine skipping these features. You passengers deserve the best. The optional features list includes the $4,800 Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System (which has actual diamonds in it) packing 36 speakers and 1,965 watts. We've heard some amazing audio systems before, but in our short time with this B&W setup, it could be our new favorite on the market. Audio quality is crystal clear and the On Stage mode adds some echo to the music to make it sound like you are attending a concert in person.

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Driving Impressions: A Driver's Flagship

BMW may pride itself on building the ultimate driving machine, but the 7 Series has always skewed more towards a luxury experience than a sporty one. This latest 7 is much the same, though it easily ranks as the most "fun-to-drive" executive sedan. Whereas the S-Class attempts to isolate drivers from the outside world, the 7 Series wants the driver to arrive in comfort, but with a smile on their face. BMW only had the V8-powered model on-hand, and as with our previous experiences with this engine, it delivers heaps of torque in an instant with smooth shifts from the eight-speed automatic.

An adaptive dual-axle air suspension comes standard, cushioning occupants from road imperfections and providing commendable control over the body despite the high curb weight. This body control comes courtesy of active roll stabilization, which keeps the car level. Steering is on the heavy side, in typical BMW fashion, but rear wheel steering makes the car feel agile even in tight parking maneuvers. As with past generations, the 7 Series blends supreme comfort and a fun-to-drive experience. For long trips, a new hands-free driving assist works at speeds up to 80 mph.

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Most buyers would hop out of the 7 Series and believe there's no way a car could be smoother. And then the i7 would come along and blow away those conceptions. The V8-powered 7 may win off the line, but in any other situation, the i7's instant acceleration would leave it for dust. Even though the ZF transmission shifts smoothly, the split-second it takes to downshift feels like an eternity when driven back-to-back with the i7. Sure, there's no V8 rumble, but BMW's Iconic Sounds composed by Hans Zimmer offer a pretty decent substitute.

Through the corners, it's obvious that the i7 is heavier than it's gas-powered sibling, but the distribution of the weight helps it feel even more controlled on the limit. The steering feels a bit lighter in the i7, but the sharpness is still there. Though the 7 Series feels as refined as a gasoline car can be, the i7 exists in another realm of luxury serenity. The moment that V8 engine fires up at red light after a stop-start, you'll wish you were in the i7.

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Pricing: A Flagship Price

As the flagship in BMW's lineup, we didn't expect the 7 Series to come cheap. Pricing starts at $93,300 (plus $995 destination) for the 740i model, while the 760i xDrive starts at $113,600. With all of the options tacked on to our test cars, the prices all exceeded $150,000. This is cheaper than the S-Class on the low end, and comparable at the high-end. Sadly, BMW says no faster M7 will arrive to challenge the AMG-tuned Merc.

As for the i7, the xDrive60 starts at $119,300, a significant but not necessarily meaningful premium over the 760i. That $5,700 difference should be erased in fuel costs though, especially since BMW will offer the i7 with three years of unlimited charging sessions from Electrify America. According to the EPA, the 760i will drink approximately $3,300 worth of gasoline in one year, meaning an i7 driver could earn back the EV premium pretty quickly.

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Verdict: Better Without The Engine

BMW took a very different approach than Mercedes when redesigning its new flagship. Rather than introduce them as entirely separate models, BMW embraced the fact that the 7 Series and i7 are both part of the same family. They look similar, they have an identical interior, and they both live up to their nameplate's heritage. One just happens to use electricity instead of gasoline. The S-Class still offers a flashier cabin and equally impressive tech, but the 7 Series remains the better option for people who prefer to drive over being driven.

As for the i7, it doesn't go as far on a charge or offer as much trunk space as the EQS. In all other regards, we prefer the Bimmer. It's more exciting to drive, offers superior rear seat comfort, and doesn't look like a rolling egg. In our opinion, the i7 delivers a more peaceful driving experience than the 7 Series with peppier acceleration on-the-go. For us, it would be an easy choice to go electric. The i7 is now one of the premier EVs on the market, and the competition must take notice.

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