2023 BMW 7 Series Prototype First Drive Review: Solid Cruiser Packed With New Tech
Hybrid power, solid handling and unparalleled in-car entertainment are the highlights of BMW's new flagship.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
The launch of the seventh-gen
BMW 7 Series
flagship promises to pack a wallop of luxury and tech, bringing new features to the full-size premium space while retaining its solid on-road manners. There's a lot about the 7 Series we won't know until its official debut on April 20. But following a brief spin in a 7 Series prototype in Munich, Germany, I'm happy to report its good-driving verve remains intact.
The 2023 7 Series is built on a platform that supports several powertrain types. Globally, BMW will sell both gasoline- and diesel-fed internal combustion engines (guess which one won't be coming to the US) bolstered by 48-volt mild-hybrid systems. A plug-in hybrid variant will also be offered, as well as the fully electric i7.
Using one platform for all propulsion types means BMW can be super flexible and better able to meet production demands. If the i7 suddenly becomes hella popular, BMW can focus on cranking out EVs without making major adjustments to the assembly line. All 7 Series models will be built at the company's plant in Dingolfing, Germany.
Because BMW is keeping most of the 7 Series' specs and details under wraps until the car's official premiere, there isn't a whole lot I can tell you about the camouflaged car BMW let me test. This car has a mild-hybrid V8 and all-wheel drive, with an appropriate amount of shove for a large car. Transitions between the 48-volt electrical system and gas engine are seamless, and while I don't have exact output numbers just yet, I'll just use the old
The new 7 Series will have a two-axle air suspension with active roll stabilization -- the same system used on the new Rolls-Royce Ghost. My test car rolls on 20-inch wheels, but BMW will offer 21s, and optional rear-axle steering will allow those wheels to turn up to 3.5 degrees in either direction, depending on speed. Wheel and tire options will be common across the entire 7 Series range; what's found on I6 or V8 models should be available on the electric i7.
On the road
Given the 7 Series' large-and-in-charge mission, the key objective is to make this car feel solid as a bank vault and supremely comfortable, too. Cruising down an unrestricted stretch of German autobahn at approximately 130 mph, the 7 Series feels great -- never floaty, but also never heavy or cumbersome. It's quiet as heck, as well, even in this not-quite-finished prototype stage. Like the i7, the gas-powered 7 Series models will be available with BMW's new Highway Assistant, which allows for extended hands-free driving on certain US freeways.
Exiting the autobahn and hitting some winding country roads, the 7 Series drives smaller than it is. You can definitely feel the anti-roll tech working to not only keep the car flat while cornering, but smooth out unnecessary body movements from rough pavement. A Sport drive mode increases the throttle response and adds some more weight to the steering (which it needs), but I find myself leaving the 7 Series in its default setting more often than not. With the added stability of anti-roll tech and a comfortably tuned chassis, this is the best way to experience the new 7.
Comfy cabin with Theatre Screen
In fact, it wasn't until I hopped in the 7 Series' back seat that I remembered just how big this sedan is; from behind the wheel, it really does feel like a smaller, more agile car. In back, passengers are treated to a wealth of legroom and plenty of headroom, but that's par for the course in a big sedan like this.
An especially cool part of the 7 Series' interior is the pair of screens found on the doors. These displays are about the size of a smartphone -- slightly smaller than my iPhone 12 -- and give passengers access to various climate and media functions. Companies already offer these kinds of rear-seat controls in center consoles, but to house them in small screens on the doors themselves feels more special and next-level.
These small displays will also be used to house the 7 Series mega rad feature: the Theatre Screen that BMW debuted at CES earlier this year. The Theatre Screen is a 31-inch display with 8K resolution that folds down from the ceiling, giving passengers access to Amazon Fire TV or media that can be streamed from personal devices. You'll be able to use it while on the move, but I can also see it coming in handy for when you want to kick back and enjoy a Simpsons rerun while your i7 is charging.
Since it's BMW's top dog, the 7 Series will be available with all of the company's latest and greatest comfort and convenience features. Expect glass controls, backlit wood trim, sumptuous leather, iDrive 8 infotainment with an augmented reality gauge cluster -- the good stuff. In addition to the new Highway Assistant, the 7 Series will also have an enhanced version of BMW's Parking Assistant Professional, making it easier than ever to get this big sedan into tight spaces.
Following its debut later this month, the 2023 BMW 7 Series will start hitting the road in November. There's obviously a lot we don't yet know, including how it'll look. These camouflaged photos don't show much, though you can clearly see the large grille and split headlight design. Here's hoping the final product looks good; BMW's recent design language has been... controversial to say the least.
This early prototype drive simply proves that this big Bimmer drives like a 7 Series should. It's as quiet as it is comfy, but doesn't hate being hustled along a winding road. Assuming the rest of the car is just as enjoyable, BMW's seventh 7 ought to be one of its best.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.