EXPERT REVIEW

2023 BMW i7 Review: Smooth Operator, Tricky Technology

bmw i7 2023 01 exterior front angle jpg 2023 BMW i7 | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman
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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

The verdict: Big, silent, smooth and stylish, the electrified version of BMW’s 7 Series sedan mixes traditional luxury with next-generation tech, and the results are mostly fantastic.

Versus the competition: The i7 is more stylish and luxurious than a Tesla Model S, far more comfortable in every seat than a Mercedes-EQ EQS and likely more available than a Lucid Air.

My theory — which has been proven out repeatedly as of late — is that there are two schools of thought when it comes to electric-vehicle design. The first is, “Let’s make a normal car and simply replace the gasoline powertrain with a battery-electric one.” South Korean luxury brand Genesis has followed this path with its Electrified G80 sedan and Electrified GV70 SUV. The other is, “Let’s make a spaceship,” which is what Mercedes-Benz has done with its EQ line of vehicles. The EQS and EQE are both wildly styled, crammed with crazy, inscrutable technology and pretty much require a week’s worth of astronaut training to use effectively. A couple automakers, though, have begun to straddle the line between those approaches. One of them is Lucid, whose Air sedan works like a regular luxury car but looks like a spaceship, and the other is BMW.

BMW’s redesigned 7 Series full-size luxury sedan is available in battery-electric i7 form, which is the version I drove, or with traditional internal-combustion power. Apart from their powertrains, the two cars are nearly identical, from their styling and interior appointments to their passenger space and controls. This gives BMW buyers an interesting choice: Go with a conventional powertrain and the 7 Series’ wild new styling, or make the leap to electrification with the i7 and its equally wild new styling. 

Related: BMW Unveils 2024 i7 M70 xDrive, Most Powerful EV BMW Has Ever Produced

After spending a week with the new i7 and its electric powertrain, I have to wonder why anyone would bother with a gas version. For the ultimate luxurious motoring experience, electrons are better than hydrocarbons. Let me tell you why.

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Silence Is Golden, the i7 Is Silver

There’s really only one big difference between the gas-powered 7 Series and electric i7, and that’s what’s under the hood. In place of the German gasoline-to-noise converter, BMW gives i7 buyers a choice of three electric powertrains. The i7 eDrive50, which arrives as a 2024 model, is a rear-wheel-drive car with a single electric motor making 449 horsepower and 549 pounds-feet of torque, put to the pavement through a single-speed transmission. It’s good for a manufacturer-estimated 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds. From there, you can step up to the all-wheel-drive i7 xDrive60, which gets two electric motors and a total system output of 536 hp and 549 pounds-feet of torque, which BMW says can do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. If you want to go all out, there’s the 2024 i7 M70, which pumps up power to 650 hp and 749 pounds-feet of torque, with a 0-60 time of just 3.5 seconds. My test vehicle was an AWD xDrive60 in a silver hue. 

The i7 xDrive60 features a 101.7-kilowatt-hour (usable) lithium-ion battery pack good for a driving range around 300 miles, according to EPA estimates. It can be DC fast-charged at up to 195 kilowatts (so don’t put one on a 350-kW charger at an Electrify America station unless you want dirty looks from other EV owners). At home, with a suitable circuit, it can be charged at up to 11 kW on a 240-volt Level 2 setup, which is quite good. 

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The remarkable part about the i7’s battery pack is that it’s only 4.3 inches thick, so putting it low in the floor of the 7 Series’ chassis doesn’t noticeably impact interior room, as it does in cars like the Genesis G80, whose battery costs it some headroom. All that weight down low also affects the way the i7 handles, but in a good way — the center of gravity is low and weight distribution is proper, so while the i7 feels seriously heavy (because, at nearly 3 tons, it is), it’s also reasonably nimble and hustles itself through corners quite respectably.

EVs are all about acceleration, and the i7 doesn’t disappoint here, either. This is a massive car, so when it shoots from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds (BMW’s number, but I have no reason to doubt it after driving it myself) in complete silence, it’s an astonishing sensation. The more luxury electric cars I drive, the more I’m convinced this really is the proper powertrain for anything expensive and luxurious: It’s silent, smooth and provides effortless power on demand, all without any intrusive noises or odd vibrations. If you want it to make noise, you can by changing the settings, but I always find artificial, piped-in sounds intrusive. I’d much rather the experience be as quiet as possible, enhancing the feeling of coddled, isolated luxury you’re paying so much money to experience. 

While body control in the i7 is excellent, changing directions illustrates just how heavy the car is; that battery pack is not dinky. Flogging this car through twisty roads reveals that the i7 prefers to be a touring car, blasting between destinations on highways rather than being tossed around on a two-lane blacktop. It understeers predictably, but given the car’s heft, you’ll probably prefer driving it more sedately than, say, a BMW M5.

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A Different Sort of Opulence

The i7’s luxuriously silent operation does mean the rest of the car has to be even better than before, given there’s no powertrain noise to mask squeaks, rattles, road noise, wind roar, etc. The i7 is up to the task, with a build solidity that’s exceptional. I was surprised to see fabric upholstery in my test car rather than leather or vinyl, but it’s fantastic. It’s a tight, upscale-feeling weave that’s a welcome change from the smooth leathery seats found in almost every other vehicle on the market that isn’t a bare-bones subcompact. The i7’s seating material is the highlight of the interior, though; the rest of it feels a bit cheap in places — like the dash trim, which in my test vehicle was done up in a bland gray. There are illuminated panels on the dash and doors that add a pop of color, but they’re behind some cheap-feeling clear plastic, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag inside in terms of style.

The enormous rectangular display atop the dash doesn’t really help. Yes, there’s a bright and brilliant touchscreen on the right and reconfigurable gauges on the left, but this trend of plopping a big squared-off tablet atop the dash doesn’t do anything for style, especially when everyone is doing it. It also means that a lot of the i7’s controls are now in the touchscreen, including the ridiculously complicated and hard-to-decipher climate control system. I was hard-pressed to get the thing to do what I wanted it to do half the time, even when stationary — trying to manipulate the climate controls while driving is an exercise in serious distraction. Even figuring out how to work the individual vents took a minute, as they’re also touch-sensitive and not entirely intuitive. There’s such a thing as being so tech-forward that your products are challenging to use, and BMW’s starting to hit that point. It doesn’t need to be this way, as Lucid has very clearly demonstrated, but BMW continues to confuse “technology-packed” with “luxurious.” 

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The i7’s controls and some of its materials are my only quibbles with the interior. There’s tons of room in the front and rear seats, which can’t be said of its main competitor, the EQS. That backseat makes the i7 top-notch executive transport, with plenty of legroom and headroom. The EQS’ unusual packaging has neither in abundance. The i7 is close enough to the conventionally powered 7 Series sedan that the benefits of that traditional layout carry over to the electric model, but the EQS is totally different from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class — an effort on Mercedes’ part to separate the two models. Frankly, the BMW strategy seems to pay off more handsomely for consumers; there’s much less of a spaceship feel to the i7, lowering the barrier to entry for customers who don’t want to go through astronaut training to drive an EV.

Astronomical Tech, Astronomical Price

The starting price for my test vehicle was an eye-watering $120,295, including a surprisingly reasonable (these days, anyway) $995 destination fee. But if there’s one thing German luxury automakers like to do, it’s make everything an option so they can charge you extra for it. This i7 xDrive60 was no exception, with $31,700 in options for a grand as-tested price of $151,995. These options included things like the Executive Package, which brings features like automatic-closing doors, “crystal” headlights, and electronic systems like Active Comfort Drive and Active Roll Stabilization. It also included Rear Executive Lounge Seating, which brings a reclining rear seat with a footrest, as well as a massive 31-inch screen that folds down from the ceiling (entirely blocking the driver’s view out the back window). As much as this car costs, though, my test car really reflects mid-level pricing for the i7; a rear-wheel-drive i7 eDrive50 can be had for $106,695 if you keep your fingers off the options selections, or you can max it out with a fully loaded, two-tone-painted i7 M70 sedan for more than $207,000.

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To be fair, these prices are competitive with other luxury EVs these days, from just about anyone offering them. You’ll easily pay six figures for an Air or EQS, and you can option a Tesla Model S up to that level as well (though with far fewer luxury amenities). For well-heeled buyers in the market for a flagship full-size luxury sedan, BMW’s offering makes it a simple choice of either traditional gas power or next-generation electric. 

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