Prototype drive: 2023 BMW 7-Series is a modern marvel of indulgence


The partially abandoned Fürstenfeldbruck air base is a short drive west of Munich. It was the headquarters of the Luftwaffe training school during World War II and was the ideal location for a driving academy for BMW, which started out as an aerospace engineering company.

We’re here to taste the next-generation BMW 7 Series. Against the backdrop of decommissioned aircraft hangars and airstrips, the company’s most advanced and luxurious sedans seem to be summoned by science fiction. The new 7-series will hit the market before the end of the year as a 2023 model, and the range will include a new all-electric model called the i7. We drove heavily camouflaged prototypes of petrol and electric models on some of Bavaria’s most idyllic country roads, as well as miles of unrestricted motorways.

In addition to the new electric model, the 7-Series will continue to offer a 3.0-turbo inline-six and a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, both powered by a 48-volt hybrid system. There will also be a plug-in hybrid system. Of the combustion-engine models, we’ve only driven the V-8, which proved to be smooth and powerful, with just enough engine noise to seep into the cabin to remind you that you’re not in an EV. BMW hasn’t released horsepower figures, but judging from the seat of our pants, that’s at least as much as the current 523-horsepower 750i model.

The i7’s electric powertrain delivers similar speed. BMW hasn’t shared specific power ratings or battery capacity, but we’ve been told to expect something close to the iX xDrive50 SUV’s 516 hp and 105.2 kWh battery. Range figures are also unknown, although the iX offers up to 324 miles of range per charge, according to the EPA.

The tuning for both cars isn’t done yet, so we’ll reserve judgement until we can test the production version of each car, but hopefully we’ll notice the hiccups — the V-8 car’s eight-speed automatic transmission and the brakes occasionally upshifting Pedals exhibiting too soft initial travel on the i7 – will be resolved before the car rolls out.

All models will come standard with air springs, and the new car will have a wider front and rear track than its predecessor. However, those hoping for a return to sport sedan handling will be disappointed by the new 7 Series’ renewed focus on luxury, ride comfort and cabin insulation. But thanks to new rear-wheel steering and adaptive dampers, this next-gen car feels more nimble than the outgoing model. The Sport driving mode is further tightened, offering more body control than the default, and despite the lack of customization options, it’s oddly called Individual Mode.

Driving the big sedan on the winding sections of the two-lane country roads that connect the region’s tile-roofed villages proves that the 7 Series can hold its own, but leisurely cruising is where the 7 Series shines the most. The i7, in particular, is very quiet at high speeds, with little or no wind or road noise inside.

When equipped with the optional roadside assistant, the new 7 Series is even better equipped to handle longer trips. This hands-free technology allows the driver to let the 7 Series drive itself on the highway. The system works similarly to GM’s Super Cruise, using driver-facing cameras to ensure anyone behind the wheel is paying attention to the road, while automatically managing steering, braking and acceleration. However, it is not limited to pre-mapped roads.

The highway assistant works well and can easily transition between autonomous and conventional driving. For example, if the driver hits the brakes to temporarily regain control, the system does not need to be reactivated. Instead, touching the steering wheel-mounted button returns the system to its previous settings and returns to driving tasks. The Highway Assistant, which operates up to 85 mph, will initially be limited to North America.

BMW has also revamped the car’s automatic parking feature, called Professional Parking Assistant. The My BMW smartphone app controls the function and now allows the driver to park remotely from outside the car. The system can also reverse the car out of tight spaces, and it can even be programmed to navigate your driveway and garage if you don’t want to park yourself. However, it is not a valet robot, and the driver must stay close to the vehicle and control it through an app during these maneuvers.

Through the thick interior camouflage, we glimpse what looks like textured glass trim, thick carpeted floor mats and quilted seams that seem to suggest BMW took inspiration from Rolls-Royce and raised the 7 smoothness of the system. For those who prefer to be driven by the chauffeur, the rear seats are as roomy as expected and will be offered with an optional entertainment system that BMW calls a theater screen. It unfolds from the ceiling and is 31.0 inches in diameter. The 8K HD display uses Amazon’s Fire TV interface, so you can stream movies, as well as access internet browsing over a 5G data connection, all controlled by a touchscreen built into the control panel.

Both the 7-series and the 2023 i7 will be released later this month, when we can see more of the internal storage. BMW expects the new 7 Series to enter production this summer, with deliveries starting in November. Regardless of its styling and interior design, the next-generation 7 Series is only as impressive as its technical features, which would easily surprise the historic occupants of Fürstenfeldbruck.

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