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2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 Road Test: Exceeding expectations, and then some

Bynewsmagzines

May 24, 2023
2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 Road Test: Exceeding expectations, and then some


The 2023 BMW i7 xDrive60 is just the latest in a growing line of new BMWs that are as startlingly good to drive as they are startling to look at. Given the company’s history, you’d expect any all-new 7 Series to be a great car, but getting the electric version so right on the first go-round is worthy of commendation.

And yes, I know enthusiasts may turn their nose away from the new 7 after one glance at that strange schnoz, but don’t think for a minute that it’s going to sink the car. In a week of driving, I received tons of praise for “that sharp car” from random passersby. It may be difficult for those who wish for a return to the old BMW styling, but this bold way forward is catching people’s attention. 

Outside of the ill-proportioned light-up kidney grille up front, I’m a huge fan of this new 7 Series’ look. Its general enormous height and length projects Rolls-Royce vibes, which is the highest praise when it comes to full-size luxury sedans. Walk up to the beast, and forget about yanking open a door to get in — just press the button on the recessed door handle, stand to the side, and wait for the auto-opening doors to do their thing. The auto function works well once you get the hang of where you need to stand, as it’s understandably cautious about opening the door into another object or human in its way.

This interior has about a million party tricks, and the gorgeous cashmere/wool blend seats are assuredly one of them. Leather alternatives are all the rage these days, but of the ideas presented by various OEMs so far, this one’s the best. The material doesn’t get cold in winter months, nor does it get too hot in the summer. It’s super-comfy, soft to the touch and great to sit on. Plus, it just plain looks cool.

Once settled in the comfy but supportive front buckets, you can either press the brake pedal or tap a button to close the door automatically, a clue to the minimal effort this vehicle requires of its driver. Take a look around the dash and center console, and while the design and execution is very different from the Mercedes-Benz EQS, BMW’s approach to interior luxury is arguably better. Almost every item you might come in contact with is beautiful crystalline glass, metal or a pleasing-to-touch plastic. The screens are futuristic, but also provided room for interior designers to have some fun with interesting materials such as wood and glass on the dash. The flowing, angular glass that spreads from the doors to the dash is one of the most impressive bits, especially at night as lights make it come alive, feeling far richer and more sophisticated than the myriad strips of LEDs that adorn Mercedes products. The beautifully cut speaker grilles for the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond audio system bring even more panache to a panache-filled interior. Even the incredible McIntosh system in the Grand Wagoneer would have its hands full to try and beat the 36-speaker sound system in this i7.

The back seat can’t be beat by anything when it comes to audio and visuals thanks to the 31.3-inch 8K “Theater Screen” that drops down from the ceiling and runs Amazon Fire TV. Photos and video simply cannot convey how impressive this wide screen is in person — there’s nothing else like it. Make use of the i7’s HDMI port to play the latest video game consoles at the highest quality possible or watch epic movies with a friend. Combine the wild speaker setup — in-seat “4D audio” that creates vibrations in the seat to a song’s bass — and the i7 will very likely rival the home audio setup in many people’s homes.

Of course, what good is a rolling tech and audio lab on wheels if it isn’t actually good to drive? Thankfully, the i7 drives exceedingly well. BMW dialed in the ride and handling balance to a degree that my notes literally read: “No notes.” The worst roads you can throw at the i7 aren’t going to phase it in the least — anybody who drives one regularly will quickly lose touch with how terrible our road infrastructure is thanks to the air suspension and electronically-controlled dampers working to tune it all out. I threw everything that Michigan had to offer at it, and the i7 never once came out a loser.

The same can be said for handling prowess, as just like 7 Series in the past, the i7 is sneaky fun to drive. Stick it in Sport Mode, and body motions are controlled, predictable and conducive to scything your way through a twisty road with both ease and a smile. It’s uncanny how lithe the i7 can be when asked. A smidge of rear-axle steering, responsive and dialed-in brakes and a big helping of power all help make it far more fun than this 5,917-pound sedan has any right to be.

BMW split power between the two electric motors such that it still feels like a rear-based all-wheel drive system, as it outputs 308 horsepower at the rear and 255 horses in front. Full-throttle starts aren’t as violent as what we’ve become accustomed to in more performance-focused BMW EVs like the i4 M50 or iX M60. Acceleration builds as you gain speed in an elegant and graceful manner, suited to this car’s purpose. There’s no tip to be gained from breaking the neck of the rich denizen you’re chauffeuring, after all.

I put a few hundred miles on the i7 throughout the week of testing, and its 308-mile EPA range came out looking like a safe figure to rely on, as it was handily besting expectations without even trying to drive efficiently. Public charging went off without a hitch, too, as the i7 peaked at and hung out around its 195-kilowatt max charge rate for a long while. BMW says the 10-80% charge will take about 34 minutes, so while the charge speed is solid, faster would still be appreciated on road trips.

If the trip is a shorter one, though, the i7’s keys are what I’d be grabbing all the time. BMW’s new hands-free highway driving assist system is absolutely superb. Seriously, it’s only second to Super Cruise when it comes to general competence, lane-following and lane-changing, and the driver monitoring system works well to make sure the driver is paying full attention to the road.

The i7’s biggest downsides are what we noted in our first drive: Its user interface. BMW’s iDrive 8 may look new and flashy, but it’s unfortunately a step back in ease of use versus what BMW installed on its cars just a couple of years ago with iDrive 7. Its lack of buttons is no new phenomenon, but the weaving through menus for basic controls like adaptive cruise control distance settings and the heated steering wheel is maddening. It’s the only mar on an otherwise stupendous electric luxury sedan.

The price of $151,995 as tested is another hurdle to climb over, but it’s not much more than a similarly equipped gas-powered 760i model with similar equipment. That slightly cheaper V8-powered 7 will have a silky-smooth engine and transmission, but nothing will beat the silent house on wheels that the i7 can be when it comes to sheer luxury motoring. It doesn’t take much time in an electric 7 Series to know that this sort of powertrain is the ideal partner for such a vehicle, and the i7 came away doing much more than just proving that it’s the best flagship BMW to buy. It’s also a strong candidate for the best full-size luxury sedan you can buy, full stop. Get past the grille and into the driver’s seat, and it’ll likely turn you into a believer, too.

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