2023 BMW X7 First Drive Review: Don't Focus on Its Face
With new mild-hybrid engines and the latest active safety tech, the 2023 BMW X7 is an incredibly compelling luxury SUV -- if you can get past its styling.
Updated Aug. 28, 2022 3:01 p.m. PT
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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.
facelift might be you-ain't-got-no-alibi ugly, but the rest of this SUV's 2023 model year updates more than make up for its questionable styling. New mild-hybrid engines, a swanky interior and the latest and greatest multimedia and active safety tech make the full-size X7 more compelling than ever. It's just a little harder to look at.
Of course, styling is subjective, and I'll admit some versions of the 2023 X7 are easier on the eyes than others. All models have
new split headlight arrangement, but only the X7 xDrive40i with the M Sport pack and the more powerful X7 M60i have the weird droopy black goth fangs. Do yourself a favor and stick with a standard xDrive40i Luxury like the SUV pictured here. It's still awkward, just cleaner.
BMW expects most customers will opt for the X7 xDrive40i, and even without factoring in personal design tastes, this is the way I'd go, too. The xDrive40i comes with a new 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-6 engine with 48-volt mild-hybrid assist, putting out 380 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. BMW estimates the base X7 will hit 60 mph in less than 6 seconds -- which honestly feels conservative. With its strong, immediate torque delivery, there's never a time where the 3.0-liter engine feels dimwitted or underpowered. Credit goes to the lovely eight-speed automatic transmission, too, which goes about its business smoothly in the background.
The straight-six engine is so good that it really makes the X7 M60i feel like overkill. Don't get me wrong, I love a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, and this one also uses 48-volt mild-hybrid tech for supplemental torque, resulting in 530 hp and 553 lb-ft. But nothing about the M60i really changes the X7's overall on-road character, even with its slightly stiffer suspension tune, active rear differential, standard variable-ratio steering and -- because why not? -- launch control. It just kind of feels like power for power's sake.
Regardless of what's under the hood, every X7 comes with an active air suspension that does an outstanding job of keeping this behemoth balanced. Even with massive 23-inch wheels, driving the X7 is like spreading room-temperature butter on toast -- totally smooth and super satisfying. This is exactly how a large luxury SUV should be tuned.
One X7-exclusive feature is Trailer Assist, which is new to BMW, but not to the auto industry as a whole. When you've got a trailer hooked up to the X7, you can use the iDrive knob to control the direction of travel, taking the guesswork out of the steering. It's a lot like what Ford offers on its F-150 pickup, so if you're not a pro when it's time to tow, this technology is a godsend.
Speaking of the iDrive controller, it's connected to BMW's eighth-generation software, which is slowly proliferating across the company's lineup. iDrive 8 is housed on a large curved display spanning two-thirds of the dashboard, incorporating a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 14.9-inch infotainment screen. The more I use iDrive 8, the easier it is, but there's still a pretty steep initial learning curve. BMW's silly gesture controls are baked in if that's your thing, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly, which is great.
The X7's other interior updates are pretty minor, limited to things like slimmer air vents, a new electronic gear selector, standard vegan upholstery and an illuminated ambient light bar on the right side of the dash. The optional second-row captain's chairs are ultra comfy and can be folded out of the way, and while the third row is pretty tight, adults can fit back there in a pinch without too much complaining.
Pricing for the 2023 BMW X7 starts at $78,845 for the xDrive40i, including $995 for destination. Choosing the V8-powered X7 M60i requires a massive jump up to $104,095, and while you do get a lot more standard equipment, I really feel like the xDrive40i is the jam. Load one up with 23-inch wheels, upgraded leather and all the premium, driver-assistance and comfort features available, and you can still keep the out-the-door price below six figures. Unless you truly need the V8's power (you don't), this is the smarter buy, for sure.
All told, the 2023 X7 is as great as it ever was, and puts up quite a fight against well-rounded competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class and
Land Rover Range Rover
. BMW's one major disadvantage is that the X7 doesn't look nearly as good as it used to. But if your eyes can get past that awkward design, there's a wealth of inner beauty to enjoy.
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 CNET's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.