- New exterior styling and refreshed interior
- Mild hybrid tech boosts fuel economy for both powertrains
- Tech upgrades and improvements to driver assistance systems
About halfway through a vehicle's lifespan, it usually gets a refresh that can include anything from a cosmetic update to new technology or even a new powertrain. The goal is to keep a vehicle relevant without needing to do a full redesign. BMW has its own name for it — a "life cycle improvement" — and in the case of the 2023 BMW X7, this is certainly a fitting description.
The BMW X7 is the automaker's flagship SUV. It has three rows, seats six to seven people, and has a pair of powerful engines to choose from. The current X7 debuted in 2019 and was BMW's first entry in the large luxury SUV class. It received high praise from our test team, as it scored near the top of its respective category.
Now entering its fifth year of production, the 2023 BMW X7 features a series of expansive changes that should make it more competitive than ever.
From the outside, the changes are most evident in the front of the X7. The front fascia has been restyled to have a more angular, aggressive look. Owners wanting to show off the oversized kidney grille at night will now have the option for it to be illuminated with cascading LED accent lights.
The X7's new headlights are a departure from the previous copy/paste headlights found on the X5, X6 and prior X7. The 2023 model features a split headlight design, borrowed from the redesigned 7 Series sedan — an intentional reminder that the X7 is the king of BMW's SUV hill. The narrow top section houses the daytime running lights and turn signals, while the headlights are located in the lower portion.
For the first time ever in a BMW, optional 23-inch wheels are available for those who have no pretensions of going off-road. But note that the ride will feel firmer since there isn't much sidewall on the tire to fully dampen the bumps in the road.
The 2023 BMW X7 will feature a pair of familiar engines to choose from. First up is the xDrive40i model, which comes standard with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. It has the same displacement as last year's xDrive40i but now incorporates a mild hybrid system. The mild hybrid technology is there to reduce the harshness of the engine stop-start system, make slight improvements to fuel economy, provide an extra boost of acceleration when needed and improve overall throttle response. It also helps increase output to 375 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque — up 40 hp and 52 lb-ft of torque compared to the previous year.
The more potent M60i comes with an updated turbocharged 4.4-liter V8, also now paired to a mild hybrid system. Though it makes the same power as the motor it replaces (523 hp and 553 lb-ft), that doesn't mean that the engine is a complete carryover. In addition to the new mild hybrid component, the new V8 utilizes some new components, some of which were borrowed from BMW's M performance cars. The mild hybrid contributes to a 1 mpg boost in the EPA's city cycle (now 16 mpg) and overall combined cycle (now 18 mpg).
Inside, the dashboard gets a new, high-tech look thanks to a pair of screens placed in a single curved housing. The instrument cluster gets a 12.3-inch display, while the center touchscreen is even larger, at 14.9 inches. This center screen is loaded with BMW's latest iDrive 8 software and can also be controlled via a knob on the center console.
We had the opportunity to drive the V8-powered M60i through a mix of city streets, curvy mountain roads and a traffic-congested highway. Even though it's a large SUV, we were impressed by the X7's ability to drive and feel smaller than it actually is. Its steering is light and handles turns with ease. The silky smooth V8 has more than enough power to pass on the highway or hit an onramp to match the flow of traffic. Put it in Sport mode, and drivers will be treated to a throaty soundtrack. It's loud enough to be heard with the windows up but doesn't get annoying as it would if someone put an aftermarket exhaust on it.
We caught rush-hour traffic on the final leg of the drive. This gave us the chance to try out the Traffic Jam Assistant feature, part of the BMW's Driving Assistance Professional package. This system works only on certain divided highways with clearly marked lanes and at low speeds. Once those prerequisites are met, you press a button on the steering wheel, set your desired speed, and once it activates you can remove your hands from the wheel. The feature impressed us with its ability to maintain a comfortable distance between the car in front and come to a complete stop if needed without any jerkiness in its braking. We should note that this is a hands-free system and not an automated driving system, or even an attention-free system. The driver must keep his or her eyes on the road and be ready to take the wheel at any moment. A small camera in the gauge cluster monitors the driver's eyes to make sure they're pointed at the road. If it senses inattention from the driver or an inability to read the lane markings, LED lights on the steering wheel will prompt the driver to put his or her hands back on the wheel to regain active control. This happened to us a few times during our drive. It is an impressive system that reduces the monotony of bumper-to-bumper traffic provided you use it responsibly.
BMW's iDrive 8 software isn't just for the music and the center display features. This operating system gives the BMW engineers the ability to add more driver assistance features that might not have been possible with the previous iDrive 7. We were given a couple of demonstrations of these new features. The first was Maneuver Assistant, a handy feature for those who park in tricky parking lots, narrow driveways or smaller garages. Here's how it works. First, you set the vehicle to record your maneuver. Next, you manually park the X7 as you normally would. Hit the button once more to end the recording and it is now saved for future uses. Now anyone else who drives the SUV can duplicate the maneuver perfectly with the press of a button.
For the few who tow in their X7, we were also able to try the Trailer Assistant mode, which aims to ease the execution of reversing maneuvers when towing a trailer. Once activated, the system allows the driver to give small steering adjustments using virtual buttons on the touchscreen or by using the center control knob. The rear camera displays an image on the screen, along with guidelines that show the width of the vehicle and the direction the vehicle will point to. Once the X7 is properly lined up, you tilt the iDrive controller downward and it will keep the steering straight while the driver focuses on the brake and throttle. There's a bit of a learning curve to it, but as someone who had never towed anything before, I was able to properly back a trailer into a parking space after a few tries.
The 2023 BMW X7 gets one of those refreshes that feels like a redesign, allowing the X7 to be even more competitive in the large luxury SUV class. We're looking forward to getting one in for formal testing, but if you already liked the previous X7, there's a strong chance you'll like this one too.