Chinese carmakers have a reputation for knocking off vehicle designs from around the world. It’s no secret. It’s done out in the open and it’s been blatant. From the BYD S8 that was a near clone of the first-gen Mercedes CLK to the Dongfeng M18 that’s almost identical to a Hummer H1, the brazenness of these lookalikes is often shocking. The number of Chinese car companies has grown over the years, and their designs have gotten a lot better. We’ve now reached the point where certain Chinese vehicles look better than their European counterparts, specifically with the introduction of the new BMW 7 series.
The new 7-series is, in my opinion, ugly. While my colleague Steve DaSilva thinks it looks fine, I have a hard time looking at it.
Every piece of the design is terrible. The signature kidney grills, which have gotten larger with every model, are huge. The DRLs sit unnecessarily high above the headlights, a trend lifted from the world of crossovers that didn’t look good there and doesn’t improve here. The body sides are almost perfectly flat, a no-man’s-land of nothing.
One area where Steve agrees with me: The rear end is rough. The taillights look like they came from the front-wheel drive 2 Series Gran Coupe. And what is with the blue trim on the i7's bumper? We get it! It’s electric. (The worst part is, the blue is there no matter the exterior color.)
In a sentence I’d never thought I’d be writing, you now have to look to China to find a good-looking BMW 7 series. And you can find it in the Hongqi H9.
The H9 is the flagship of the Hongqi line. It’s even in the name: The top trim is called the 3.0T Flagship. Just look at it. Kidney grilles wouldn’t look out of place on the H9 — even BMW’s new, extra-large grille would fit well here. It’s more of a BMW than the actual BMW. The headlights and DRLs are all in the right places, and the Hongqi even has a silver character strip running down the bottom edge of the doors, a styling cue found on the current G11 and G12 7-series that BMW abandoned with the new model.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. While the H9’s front fascia is better than the new 7, the rear has too much going on. The tail lamps, already huge, are connected by an illuminated double bar running the width of the trunk. The side signature is reminiscent of the Cadillac CT5, while the shape of the windows evokes Lexus.
The H9's interior has a Kia K900 (or wannabe Bentley) vibe to it, with video-screen gauges reminiscent of what you find with Mercedes-Benz and a full-width touchscreen that’s not too far from what BMW just debuted in the new 7 series.
As for the drivetrain, you get a 48-volt mild hybrid system paired to either a base 2.0-liter engine with 240 horsepower or a supercharged 3.0-liter engine with 283 horsepower. And it’s not cheap, with fully loaded models going for nearly $80,000.
There you have it. If you find the 2023 BMW 7 series too much to look at, make your way to China (or Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, or a few other countries where Hongqi sells its cars). I can’t say that I’d pick it over the 7 to drive, but it’s way easier on the eyes.