BMW’s biggest people mover gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2023, yet the term refresh falls a bit short when looking at the significant changes made to this three-row lux SUV… er SAV (sport activity vehicle) in BMW-speak. Along with a redesigned face and illuminated kidney grill, the 2023 BMW X7 receives a completely new interior, next-gen infotainment, new gearbox, and an all-new V8 with a 48-volt mild hybrid system.

Additionally, the xDrive40i’s carry-over 3.0L turbocharged inline-six with its 48-volt system sees major upgrades, with power jumping from 335 horsepower and 331 lb-ft to 375 hp 398 lb-ft.

The V8-powered X7 gets a new moniker for 2023 — M60i xDrive. A thorough flogging through the sinuous tree-lined roads of rural South Carolina reveals this brute plays equally well on both sides of the fence. With standard two-axle air suspension, electronically controlled dampers, rear-wheel steering and road preview technology, the M60i xDrive is a confident and comfy cruiser, delivering an impressively compliant and quiet ride even on this tester’s 22-inch wheels (up from the V8’s standard 21-inch rollers).

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 xDrive 40i Photo by Peter Bleakney

However, call up Sport or Sport+ mode and by all the schnitzel in Munich, this three-row hauls serious keister. The suspension firms and drops, the exhaust goes all gnarly, throttle response and transmission mapping sharpen, and the steering gains a tad more heft. Sure, it’s no sportscar, but the X7 M60i xDrive shows the engaging dynamic cohesiveness we expect of a BMW, and this new mild-hybrid 4.4L V8, derived from the previous M version is epic in both sound and thrust.

Interestingly, its 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft are unchanged from the outgoing V8, but the instant 147 lb-ft of torque provided by the electric motor/generator sandwiched within this new eight-speed ZF gearbox improves drivability. Put your foot in it and M60i xDrive bellows and bolts like a wrathful rhino. BMW claims the M60i xDrive blows through the 100 km/h mark in 4.7 seconds.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way and the poor kids have turned the third row into a first class barfatorium, let’s drive like adults and assess the X7 on its other merits.

The X7’s new interior is richly appointed and beautifully rendered, featuring a 12.3-inch driver information display that flows into a curved 14.9-inch central display. Comfort seats are standard, and the high seating and tall greenhouse afford fine outward visibility.

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 23-inch wheel Photo by Peter Bleakney

BMW’s long-serving “chicken-leg” electronic shift wand gets ditched for a little toggle (classy crystal in this M60i xDrive) that performs the same tasks but takes up less real estate. We still get BMW’s rotary iDrive controller surrounded by short-cut buttons (thank you), although most HVAC functions must now be accessed via the central screen. All in the name of eliminating analogue controls. That caveat aside, BMW’s Operating System 8 is fast, logical, and pretty easy to figure out.

A cool new interior feature is the passenger side ambient light bar that changes colour dependent on drive mode, and signals other things such as incoming calls. BMW’s gimmicky hand gesture control is sure to wow occupants (twirl you finger to adjust audio volume), as will the fabulous nighttime ambient lighting.

The 2023 X7 can be configured for either six or seven passengers, and while the third row is more cramped than some of its rivals, children and smaller adults will fit back there with little complaint. Properly equipped, the X7 will tow up to 7,500 lbs.

The six-cylinder X7 xDrive40i’s standard features include 20-inch wheels, panoramic roof, 2-axle air suspension, open pore wood trim, comfort access, comfort seats, vegan Sensafin faux leather, four-zone climate control, and sport steering wheel. Standard with the xDrive40i is Design Pure Excellence exterior treatment, upgradable to the M Sport Package that loses some chrome and gains 21-inch wheels, M specific front and rear fascia and side skirts.

Moving up, the V8-powered M60i xDrive nets rear sport differential, rear-wheel steering, M styling both inside and out, M sport exhaust system, 21-inch wheels, M tuned steering and suspension, launch control, paddle shifters, and more. Both models can be fitted with 22-inch, or (a first for BMW) 23-inch alloys. The M Sport Package Pro further ramps up the visuals.

Of course, BMW is throwing every safety system and driver aid it has at its new flagship SAV, and for 2023 the X7 gets longer range radar sensors and better cameras. Active emergency braking extends to pedestrian, cyclist and intersection, and the auto park feature that can memorize a route in your parking garage and retrace it autonomously, now goes to 200 metres (from 50 metres). New for 2023 is Trailer Assist with automatic guidance that should help eliminate those embarrassing back-up moments at the boat launch.

first drive: 2023 bmw x7

2023 BMW X7 M60i xDrive Photo by Peter Bleakney

Arriving in Canadian showrooms now, the 2023 BMW X7 represents a significant leap over of the outgoing model in all areas — design, comfort, performance and technology. After driving both models, I’d say the xDrive40i with a starting price of $108,500 is all you need, now that its creamy inline-six churns out 375 hp and 398 lb-ft. There’s an eagerness to BMW’s turbo six-pots that can’t be denied, and with the xDrive40i’s more relaxed demeanour, it plays the premium three-row crossover to near perfection without leaving driver enjoyment out of the equation.

But don’t let me dissuade you from the overachieving $129,000 M60i xDrive that fights the laws of physics with every gram of its technical being. Just be sure to leave the kids at home when exercising its V8 and buttoned-down chassis.

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