The idea of the luxury sedan, like the 2023 BMW 760i xDrive, is going away, being gobbled up like everything else by the inescapable maw of the ubiquitous Sport Utility Vehicle. Whereas an SUV used to be a very specific idea — a slightly nicer truck — there’s an SUV in every shape and size for every need and budget. Even within BMW alone, there’s an SUV for numbers one through seven — if you want a little commuter crossover, there’s the X1; if you want a race car SUV, there’s the X6 and its M derivatives; if you want a flagship luxury sedan SUV, there’s … the X7?
No. that’s not it. Don’t get me wrong, the X7 is very good, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark of a proper, big sedan. When you’re thinking or daydreaming about making an entrance somewhere, you think about a big sedan. When you’re picturing a vehicle you’d describe as boss or gangster — or any sort of conveyance of power — despite the purveyance of the SUV, you think about a big sedan. Nothing else nails that presence like a big sedan, and for the newest generation of 7 Series, BMW has made it the biggest sedan you can buy.
At 5.39 meters from tip to tail, it is longer than a long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S 580, and even marginally longer than a Cadillac Escalade — which I compared to a condominium. The 760i is an enormous car with a huge visual presence, but not just by virtue of the sheer amount of vehicle that is present. BMW has adorned the 7 with striking, slab-sided styling vaguely reminiscent of the last shockingly big German sedan, the W140-generation S-Class from the ’90s.
Rather than opting for sweeping lines and flamed surfaces to convey “sportiness,” the 7 could almost be an exercise in restraint if it wasn’t so imposing. It borrows the front fascia design of the X7, with the same divorced lighting setup — garnished with crystal on our test car — and the same relatively small kidney grille treatment. Personally, I think this is the way BMW should be going if they really want to lean into the “striking sells” thing, as it’s a massive improvement over the “big sniff” on the 4 Series, or the comically gaudy grille on the last 7.
The new 7 has a distinct, classic three-box silhouette, with a flat nose and only a couple of creases along the profile to give some dimension to its bank-vault motif, which is further accentuated by its stunning, semi-matte “Frozen Pure Grey” paint, coming across as a massive slab of milled metal. Black 21-inch M-Sport wheels with machined highlights compliment the black door handle cutouts, side skirt inlays, and front and rear fascias, complimenting the grey for a sharp and slightly menacing style.
There is more than enough substance under the steely skin to back up the ominous aura, as the 760i is motivated by BMW’s “S68” 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 found in other 60i models. It develops an advertised 536 horsepower in this guise, augmented by a mild hybrid system capable of delivering an extra 147 pound-feet of twist on top of the gas engine’s already healthy 553 lb-ft. The extra twist is enabled via a boost mode, triggered for 10 seconds by holding the right shift paddle. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that makes this thing launch hilariously hard for, you know, a bank vault.
BMW has carefully dialed in a subtle but definitely non-zero amount of eight-cylinder burble into the 760i, with a healthy baritone reminder of the power hiding under your right foot when you prod the skinny pedal. Otherwise, it’s serene and nearly silent in its operation, providing the most subtle bass-line to the silence in the cabin. Like every other big BMW, it’s backed up by a ZF eight-speed automatic, which is slightly less perfect than usual here. It’s occasionally caught off guard by the engine start-stop system, in some circumstances needing a moment to kick down into first and get underway from a near-stop.
This reminds me of my only other gripe about the otherwise resplendent 760i — the changes to BMW’s newest variety of iDrive, or more specifically, the omissions. It used to be that there was a button to disable the engine stop-start, but that’s gone, and it’s not anywhere in the new, simplified iDrive 8.5 system, either. The home screen is simplified, too. It’s mostly just a map now, and your granular control over drive settings is gone too, for those of you that didn’t just set everything to full-demure or full-delinquent.
Save for that, the system still works incredibly well, and serves as an intuitive means of controlling all the amenities of the 760’s opulent cabin space. Our test car came draped in ultra-soft Merino leather dyed in a warm Mocha colour complemented with a black Nappa leather dashboard, an Alcantara headliner, and M Carbon trim, which incorporates a bright metallic material in its weave to differentiate from the boy-racer dark carbon of the more dedicated M vehicles.
There’s a crystalline panel that spans the doors and dash of the cabin, stylized with a sculpted geometric effect, and illuminated with customizable ambient lighting. It’s framed by metallic finishers on top and bottom, with large stainless steel speaker grilles on the doors, masking the beautifully illuminated Bowers & Wilkins Diamond speakers. Between these design touches, the gorgeous quilted seats, and the exuberant backlit panoramic roof, the cabin of the flagship feels like a unique and special place to be, well above and beyond its “lesser” stablemates. It’s something the 7’s rivals from Mercedes (and to a lesser extent, Audi) struggle with.
Our test car was also fitted with the Rear Comfort Package, which extends the same multi-contour adjustability, heating, ventilation, and massaging function of the front seats to the rear, and adds a wireless phone charger to the centre armrest, plus iPhone-esque screens integrated into the doors to control everything. With these commodious accommodations, top-shelf materials, grandiose lighting effects, and incredible sound system, you’d be very hard pressed to think of a nicer place in which to spend time.
Of course, all this magnificence and splendour continues to the drive, where the 7 excels as a properly luxurious flagship. It’s about as close to silent as a gas-powered car can be, with the serenity only interrupted by the mechanical grumble that follows your chauffeur’s heavy foot. Wind and road noise are gone, making for a terrific soundstage for the phenomenal sound system. The dynamically adjustable air suspension abates any aberrations in the pavement, and provides impressive body control for how much body there is to control.
The 7 is a breeze to pilot, with its mighty engine providing a seamless tidal wave of passing power, and its organically calibrated four-wheel steering going a long way towards hiding its yacht-like dimensions. The controls are typically BMW — linear and easy to read, with exceptionally light (but not entirely numb) steering feel. Our test car was equipped with BMW’s Driving Assistant Professional, which doesn’t go quite as far as being totally hands free, but it’s 95 per cent of the way there, making the big 7 just as much a breeze to drive as it is to sit in traffic. When you make your entrance at your destination, it’ll park itself astonishingly well, too.
That’s what the 2023 BMW 760i xDrive is all about — being a lavish, effortless means of conveyance, that makes a hell of a statement when you arrive. In an era where everyone is getting an SUV to do everything, BMW has recognized that for those still seeking a big sedan, they’re doing so because of its image, power, and panache it represents. The biggest 7 ever delivers all that in spades. It’s the last word in the celebration of self-indulgence.