Driven: The 2023 BMW X7 Is Two Steps Forward, Half A Step Back

Test Drive / 1 Comment

One of the best driver's SUVs gets better in some ways and worse in others.

The 2023 BMW X7 arrives on the market with a refresh that is bound to get people talking. BMW's largest SUV was controversial from the moment it arrived in 2019 due to its enormous kidney grille, and we doubt this latest styling update for 2023 is going to quell the haters. After getting some brief seat time in the facelifted X7, CarBuzz had the chance to spend a whole week driving the entry-level xDrive40i model with the inline-six engine.

BMW improved the X7 with more power, a smooth 48-volt mild hybrid system, and new technology inside. This remains one of the most athletic three-row SUVs to drive, but not all of the changes for 2023 are positive. Is this still our luxury family hauler? Sort of.

2023 BMW X7 Front Angle View CarBuzz
2023 BMW X7 Front View CarBuzz
2023 BMW X7 Rear-Facing View CarBuzz
2023 BMW X7 Rear View CarBuzz

Not-So Split Styling Opinions

We can't remember anyone loving the X7's styling before, but BMW's odd (and sudden) decision to implement a split headlight design seems to have everyone scratching their heads. This is a design trend that has become more common lately, especially in the BMW stabe. Audi will even copy it with its upcoming Q6 and A6 e-tron electric vehicles. We honestly didn't hate the lights as much as some others, but we admit they are a bit funky.

In terms of other styling changes, the X7 doesn't look too drastically different beyond the front end, although there have been some refinements made at the rear, including three-dimensional lights. There are some new 23-inch light-alloy wheels that look great, but they are expensive, and we wouldn't relish footing the bill for replacement tires on them when they inevitably get popped by a pothole. 21-inch wheels, or even the 22s, do just fine. There are 14 exterior colors to choose from, including he stunning and inoffensive new Sparkling Copper Grey Metallic on our tester. If you want something flashier, go for Frozen Portimao Blue.

2023 BMW X7 Side View CarBuzz
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The Six-Cylinder Is Enough

Part of why we have loved the X7 since its introduction was the driving experience. This may be the largest BMW, but it is surprisingly athletic in the same way as an NFL lineman: they may not look it, but they will shock you with their speed and agility. We tested the base xDrive40i model with the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. BMW's B85 inline is a sweetheart, offering a sonorous engine note with smooth power delivery.

Speaking of which, the six-pot is upgraded for 2023 and now produces 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque (40 hp and 52 lb-ft more than before) - the automaker says that torque can be boosted up to 398 lb-ft with mild-hybrid assistance. Power goes to all-wheel-drive as standard through a faultless eight-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph takes 5.6 seconds, which we think is plenty quick for such a massive vehicle. The fuel economy isn't horrendous, at 21/25/22 mpg city/highway/combined.

All trims get the 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can smoothly stop the engine at traffic lights and restart it without fuss. We've driven some smooth mild-hybrid-assisted cars before, but the X7 takes the cake. The stop/start function is pretty much imperceptible.

2023 BMW X7 Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
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BMW also sells the more potent M60i, which has a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. It delivers 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.5 seconds. You'll also save money at the pump because the V8 drinks fuel at a rate of 16/21/18 mpg as a trade-off for all the power. After spending a whole week with the inline-six, we're not sure the M60i is necessary. The base model never once felt underpowered, and, in our humble opinion, if you leave the house a second earlier in it, you'll still get your kids to school on time.

Unless, of course, you simply want a quicker sprint time from your behemoth, and it's not really about practicality or budgets; if you have more money than sense and your family has a penchant for speed, the Alpina XB7 generates 630 hp from a tuned version of BMW's twin-turbo V8. It's the closest thing BMW will make to an X7 M, and it can top out at 180 mph.

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A Slightly Odd Driving Experience

All X7 models ship with a two axle air suspension, but while active roll stabilization is standard on the M60i, it's an added-cost option on the base model. It doesn't completely erase body roll, but it keeps the X7 in-check around corners unlike any vehicle we've driven of this size and functionality. Even a Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 doesn't feel quite as nimble, well-balanced, or connected to the driver as the X7, in our opinion. This is truly a driver's family SUV.

The air suspension is supple over bumps, even with gargantuan 23-inch wheels, but BMW's calibration of the integral active steering and rear axle steering left us a bit befuddled. The rear steering is standard, and has never been cause for concern on any BMW we've tested, including the original X7. However, when combined with the integral active steering (part of a $3,300 Dynamic Handling Package on the base model), the X7 felt twitchy when returning the steering wheel to the center. The steering wheel changes weight to make slow speed maneuvers easier and make overtaking smoother, but in our experience, there's something off about how BMW has calibrated it. Pay attention on your test drive to see if it's noticeable.

2023 BMW X7 Forward View CarBuzz
2023 BMW X7 Rear Angle View CarBuzz

Don't Get The Captain's Chairs

The X7 can be a decently practical vehicle, but less so if you opt for the $850 second-row captain's chairs. These seats are incredibly comfortable with power adjustment and pillows on the backs of the headrest, but they severely hinder cargo capacity. With these seats equipped, you can not fully fold the second row, limiting the trunk to a little over 48.6 cubic feet. If you get the standard bench seat, the X7 can accommodate up to 90.4 cubic feet with that folded down, which is more than the Mercedes GLS.

As for passenger space, the GLS holds the advantage in rear legroom for both the second and third rows. Compared to something like a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator, the X7 actually feels cramped in the back. We like how the second and third row seats are heated, but mainstream models like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Mazda CX-90 offer ventilated second-row seats at a fraction of the cost. This seems like a major oversight from BMW.

2023 BMW X7 Rearmost Seats CarBuzz
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2023 BMW X7 Trunk Space with Third Row Folded CarBuzz

Technology Galore

It was already advanced in terms of tech before, but the X7 takes some nice leaps forward in technology with the 2023 facelift. The X7 now comes with the latest iDrive 8 software, which lives on a 14.9-inch gauge cluster and 12.3-inch touchscreen, courtesy of BMW's Curved Display. Voice command is intuitive and repeatedly easy to activate, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available wirelessly. The gauge cluster can even display Apple Maps while navigating, a rare feature that's not found in most competitors.

There's also a new Ambient Light Bar on the dash that lights up in your chosen ambient color and plays an animation when you receive a phone call. It's not as impressive as the light bar in the new 7 Series, but it still looks pretty cool.

2023 BMW X7 Dashboard CarBuzz
2023 BMW X7 Instrument Cluster CarBuzz
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Verdict: Impressive But Flawed

The X7 remains one of the more impressive luxury SUVs on the market, but it's far from perfect. American options like the Escalade and Navigator are far more practical and cheaper to purchase. BMW still makes a strong case for the X7 with a truly nimble handling experience that isn't matched anywhere in this class, though. The technology is cutting edge, but there are few luxury features (like a ventilated second row) that should be available at this price point.

You can nab a 2023 X7 xDrive40i starting at $77,850, but our tester's options brought the price up to $97,195. That's still cheaper than even a base M60i, which starts at $103,100. Save the money from the V8 engine and take your family on a fun vacation. You could blow your savings on the Alpina XB7, which costs $145,000, but for most of us, that's over the top.

The full-size luxury SUV segment is more saturated than ever, but the X7 is still one of the best balanced vehicles on the market. It may not be our favorite one on the market anymore, but for sheer driving pleasure, it remains one of the best.

2023 BMW X7 Open Trunk Space CarBuzz
2023 BMW X7 Third Row Seats CarBuzz
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2023 BMW X7 Open Trunk Lid Window
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