The BMW 7 Series has always been one of the top choices in the full-size luxury sedan segment, offering customers attractive, restrained styling and a focus on driving dynamics. That all changed when the fourth-gen E65 model debuted in 2001. Its Chris Bangle-led styling, middling on-road character and groundbreaking iDrive infotainment system were hugely controversial at the time. Despite the E65 being a sales success, subsequent 7 Series generations went much more conservative in every aspect. That course is finally reversing with the seventh-gen 2023 7 Series, which features a divisive design, a major focus on technology, an entertaining driving experience and an available fully electric powertrain.
Say what you will about the new 7 Series' styling, it certainly makes an impression -- and I love it. Split headlights are a new design signature for BMW's flagship models, with the slim upper unit used for running lights and the larger lower section containing the actual headlights. (The running lights are available with actual Swarovski crystals inside, which look amazing.) The outline of the large kidney grilles are illuminated, though the connected center section isn't. But aside from the controversial face, the new 7's design is pretty clean. A few crisp lines are the only major surfacing features on the sides, with the slight curvature of the doors nicely catching the light, and there's actually a prominent Hofmeister Kink. The rear can look a little tall and bulky from some angles, but overall it's my favorite 7 Series design since the Bangle-era E65.
Some of the 7's paint colors can be paired with either Black Sapphire Metallic or Oxide Grey Metallic for $12,000, giving the car a two-tone exterior that I think suits its styling. The M Sport package gives the car a whole new look thanks to unique bumpers that integrate the lower headlights into gloss-black sections, and the Professional version of the package blacks out the grille, too. I don't think the M Sport kit works with lighter colors, but it looks sinister with a darker finish like the optional Frozen Deep Grey.
760i: Comfortable and capable
The 7 Series' looks don't matter once you get behind the wheel, and BMW has nailed the driving experience. I don't get to sample the entry-level 740i, which has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system sending 375 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. The V8-powered 7 Series is now called 760i -- there's no more V12 to use that moniker, sadly -- with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 making 536 hp and 553 lb-ft. (It, too, is a mild hybrid.) BMW says the all-wheel-drive 760i will reach 60 mph in a brisk 4.1 seconds, and the V8 provides a hearty growl under acceleration and even a dash of sporty overrun when you let off the gas.
Chuck the 760i into a tight bend and it's shockingly fun, especially for a car that's nearly 18 feet long and weighs 4,969 pounds. While the 7's steering is a bit too light and quick, it has better feedback and is more satisfying than most other modern BMWs. Rear-wheel steering and an air suspension with adjustable dampers are standard on the 760i, and a 48-volt active anti-roll bar setup is available. Even when cornering hard, the 760i stays pretty flat, with minimal body roll and a ton of grip. It doesn't get unsettled by quick changes of direction, with just enough playfulness in the mostly neutral handling to be exciting. The 760i I'm driving has the optional larger M Sport brakes, and I don't experience any fade or mushiness from the pedal after several hard stops. Yet, when I get back onto the highway, the experience is absolutely serene. The cabin is dead quiet at speed, and the ride is comfortable. It's not quite as smooth as a Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Maybach, but the new 7 comes damn close.
i7: The future is here
As much as I love driving the 760i, once I slide into the driver's seat of the fully electric i7 it's hard to give a crap about the gas-powered 7 Series. The i7 provides a more enjoyable experience across the board, and it's yet more proof that the future of luxury cars is electric. Currently available in dual-motor xDrive60 form, the i7 makes 536 hp and 549 lb-ft, enough to sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, a few ticks slower than the 760i. Thanks to the electric motors' instantaneous torque, the i7 feels quicker and acceleration is accompanied by cool Hans Zimmer noises. The i7 is almost 1,000 pounds heavier than the 760i, clocking in at 5,917 lbs, but it has a near 50/50 weight distribution with a lower center of gravity, leading to more planted handling and an even nicer ride. Strong regeneration with true one-pedal driving is available by tapping the electronic shifter into the B position, and it's easier to modulate than other EVs.
On the roads around Palm Springs, California, I'm able to try out BMW's updated Highway Assistant, which provides Level 2 hands-free driving at speeds up to 85 mph and is included in the $2,100 Driving Assistance Professional Package. With the regular adaptive cruise control activated, the car's gauge cluster will prompt you when Highway Assistant is able to be activated by the press of a button on the steering wheel. The system works well, with no ping-ponging within the lane or any other scary behavior. The car's eye-tracking cameras allow me to look away for brief moments without triggering an attention warning, which is helpful when I need to adjust the climate control or change a setting in the main infotainment screen. Plus, light taps of either pedal won't immediately deactivate Highway Assistant, and a longer driver input will just put the car back in normal adaptive cruise mode instead of shutting down the system completely.
One stunning interior
Adding to the 2023 7 Series' driving experience is the fabulous interior, which is one of the best on the market. The new 7's cabin takes cues from the electric iX SUV, but it turns down the weirdness ever so slightly in favor of an even bigger focus on opulence and technology. BMW's now ubiquitous curved display pairs a 12.3-inch gauge cluster with a 14.9-inch touchscreen under a single pane of glass, running the latest iDrive 8 software. The infotainment system is filled with menus and submenus and is overwhelming at first, but it's actually very easy to get used to, especially once I rearrange my home screen and quick-access functions. Nearly all of the climate controls are now housed in the screen, which is totally fine by me, since they're just one tap away at all times and easy to adjust. I do wish the gauge cluster screen was more customizable, though the new augmented-reality view is great.
Debuting on the 7 Series is the Interaction Bar, a backlit crystalline trim piece that spans the width of the dash and extends onto the doors, also acting as a neat way to hide the air vents. The bar contains some touch-sensitive control buttons, like sliders for fan speed, and it uses animated ambient lighting to react to events and augment functions such as incoming phone calls or safety-suite warnings. It looks especially cool at night or with the lighting set to one of the crazier colors, and it pairs well with the available crystal controls for iDrive and the seats.
The new 7's interior is best experienced with the optional BMW Individual Composition that pairs Smoke White leather on the upper parts of the seat with Light Grey cashmere wool upholstery covering the rest of the seats, extending to sections of the door panels and the headrests. The cashmere looks cool and feels expensive as hell, and unlike some other cars that offer wool seats, the BMW's are available with ventilation. The massaging seats are fantastic and actually stay on for more than 30 minutes, too. Other wonderful details include the complex design of the metal speaker grilles, the weirdly shaped steering wheel that has a nice thick rim, and the quilting patterns on the seats and doors that look straight out of a Bottega Veneta ad.
Impressive tech galore
Many of the 7 Series' other standout tech features could be seen as gimmicky, but I find them easy to adapt to. The doors open automatically with the press of a button on the exterior handle, and they use sensors to avoid hitting curbs or other cars. Once I'm inside, the doors can be closed with a button on the dashboard or through the main infotainment screen -- or I can use BMW's smartphone app to remotely open or close any of the doors, including doing them all at once. Honestly, I never want to open or close my own doors again. A 5.5-inch touchscreen is integrated into each rear door panel, controlling things like the audio system, climate control, interior lighting, seats and more. The standard panoramic sunroof is massive and has integrated LED light threads that put on a little show when I get in the car. The 7 Series can replicate saved parking movements and execute them remotely using the app. There's even a selfie camera inside that's activated via voice command.
The real centerpiece is BMW's Theater Screen, a $4,750 standalone option that adds a fold-down 31.3-inch 8K screen for rear seat passengers. The Theater Screen uses the car's 5G connection to stream 4K videos through Amazon Fire TV, which includes other apps like Netflix and YouTube. Three different aspect ratios can be used -- 16:9, 21:9 or 32:9 -- with the unused edges of the screen able to show weather data and other information. I can also play downloaded media, stream music or connect gaming consoles via HDMI. Rear-seat passengers can move the screen fore or aft, and it can be controlled via touch or the door-panel displays. When the screen is deployed, the car automatically raises the door and rear-windshield sunshades, which are nearly as good as blackout curtains, as well as closing the sunroof shade and dimming the interior lighting. Annoyingly, the 7 Series doesn't have a digital rear view mirror, so if you want to see behind you with the screen down, oh well.
While awesome on its own, the Theater Screen is best experienced as part of the Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package, which also includes the Luxury Rear Seating Package, the Executive Package 2 and the Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system. (Some of these features come standard on the 760i and the i7, with this setup costing nearly $20,000 depending on model.) This smorgasbord of features includes a rear armrest with an integrated table and charging tray, ventilated and massaging rear seats that are power adjustable with over 42 degrees of recline, and a right rear seat with an extending legrest and a fold-out footrest on the back of the front passenger seat. The 36-speaker B&W sound system has integrated speakers in the headliner, bass shakers in the seats and surround speakers in the headrests, and not only is it one of the best audio systems I've ever experienced in a car, it puts many high-end home setups to shame, too.
The 2023 740i starts at $94,295 including the mandatory $995 destination charge, which is far less expensive than Mercedes-Benz's six-cylinder S500, which starts at $112,150. The $114,595 760i is $4,155 less than the V8-powered S580, while the $120,295 i7 comes in at $6,655 cheaper than the equivalent dual-motor Mercedes EQS580. Fully loaded, a 2023 i7 will set you back around $150,000, and it's worth every penny. Get over the grille, because the new 7 Series is the best car in its class.
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