THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Sumptuous luxury, loads of tech, refined performance
- What’s Bad: Expensive, disappointing fuel economy
When I first laid eyes on the BMW X7’s concept ancestor, the Concept X7 iPerformance, at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, I thought, ‘another SUV, just what the world needs.’
But it made sense considering that by late 2017 BMW already had five SUVs in its North American line up, with a sixth (X2) on the way for the 2018 model year. While it was once a manufacturer that mostly made cars along with a few SUVs, BMW is now firmly an SUV manufacturer that also builds a few cars.
Okay, there are more than a few cars if you include coupes convertibles and M variants, but you get my point. And speaking of M, BMW also markets a growing roster of SUVs that also wear the performance badge.
But a three-row, seven-passenger SUV represented the last frontier, the last hole in BMW’s lineup. It was the one big category the company had yet to fill. Now, with the arrival of the X7, the seventh utility to join the lineup, the final piece of BMW’s SUV puzzle appears to be in place.
And lest anyone think the X7 just happened out of thin air, BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer confirmed back in 2014 that the company would bring a flagship three-row SUV to market. It took five years, but the X7 is finally here.
Like many new and redesigned BMWs of late, the X7 is built on the company’s modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform which can be configured for rear-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles and can accommodate plug-in hybrid or fully electric powertrains. All X7s are fitted with a two-axle air suspension and 21-inch alloy wheels. In terms of seating, seven are standard, but seating for six with second row Captain’s Chairs is available as an option.
Diesel-powered variants are available in Europe and other markets but in Canada the X7 is available in two basic gas versions: xDrive 40i and xDrive 50i. The former is powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine (335 hp / 330 lb-ft.), while the latter receives BMW’s venerable 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 (456 hp / 479 lb-ft.). Both engines are paired with a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.
All X7s are built in BMW’s sprawling assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, alongside the X3, X4, X5 and X6.
For the purposes of this review, BMW Canada loaned me an X7 xDrive 40i tester finished in Arctic Grey Metallic with an Ivory White Extended Merino Leather interior. As is the case with most press vehicles I drive, this X7 is outfitted with several options, notably the Premium Excellence Package ($15,000) which covers a long list of items including remote engine start, soft close doors, ventilated seats and heated and cooled cupholders.
The M Sport Package option box ($2,900) has also been checked and it adds, among other things, the M Sport Exhaust System, M Sport brakes, M Sport leather steering wheel and 22-inch M light alloy wheels wrapped in staggered Pirelli P ZERO high-performance rubber (P275/40R22 front, P315/35R22 rear).
Boxy on the outside, luxurious on the inside
In the looks department, the X7 is handsome for an SUV, but its not going to win any beauty contests. It has many lightly creased surfaces and character lines that add depth and detail to its exterior, but it’s still a big and boxy SUV. That said, its large laser LED headlights, square-ish kidney grille and massive alloy wheels are in keeping with other new BMWs, particularly its X siblings.
Bottom line, the X7 looks fine on the outside, but its cabin is where this big hauler really shines. Much like the M850i Cabriolet I reviewed recently BMW has really ladled on the luxury elements in the X7. Some of this feeling can be attributed to the presence of the Premium Excellence Package, but one needn’t spend an extra $15,000 to get a sense of crafted luxury in the X7.
From the customizable twin 12.3-inch digital cluster displays that run BMW’s seventh-gen iDrive software, to a blissfully straightforward centre console that includes plenty of hard keys and switches to the soft, yet supportive Merino leather seats and three-panel panoramic glass sunroof, the X7 surrounds its occupants in an environment that looks and feels cutting edge.
And for as pleasing as its varied surfaces are to interact with, BMW designers haven’t gone overboard with flourishes that feel ostentatious or gaudy. To this observer it feels like just enough.
Based on my time with it, I can say the X7’s spacious interior is a place you’ll want to spend time in, whether you’re a driver or a passenger. This is especially true at night where the X7’s ambient lighting and colour options really are something to behold. I drove my tester at night frequently for this reason.
On the road
The X7 is a long (5,165 mm), wide (2,000 mm), tall (1,805 mm) and heavy (2,436 kg) vehicle so high performance really isn’t its game. However, power delivery from the 3.0L turbocharged inline-6 is smooth and linear and it hustles this bulky SUV off the line quickly, mainly because peak torque arrives at just 1,500 rpm and runs through the meat of the powerband to 5,200. More importantly, there’s plenty of power on tap for slicing through everyday traffic.
Because the X7 is so well insulated, the inline-6 isn’t heard from much unless one really hammers the throttle, but I’d have to say that is as intended. Speaking of mashing the accelerator, BMW has pegged the 0-100 km/h time for the 40i at 6.1 seconds, which is quick for a three-row SUV. Anecdotally, I can say that the few times I stomped on the gas, my tester did indeed feel quick and responsive.
On the handling front, the X7 delivers a mostly quiet and well-sorted ride with only minor intrusions from road and wind noise. Steering effort feels well-balanced and the vehicle’s bulk didn’t make its handling feel ungainly in normal driving conditions.
The BMW X7 is an expensive vehicle that won’t have the big sales volume of its smaller, more affordable counterparts but that’s not a negative. Its position as an aspirational flagship SUV gives BMW a vehicle to move existing customers into as they move up through the brand’s offerings. Keeping existing customers in the fold is vital for premium carmakers and that’s where the X7’s value really lies.
Personally, I think the X7 is too big and expensive, but I can understand why people of means with big families and lot of stuff to lug around would find it appealing. My gas mileage return was disappointing, but that sort of thing varies, and I doubt most who can afford an X7 are too concerned about the fuel bill.
In 2019, SUVs account for almost 60 percent of BMW’s sales in Canada. Through Sept. 30, BMW has sold almost 5,000 more SUVs than passenger cars, a gap that could widen because of the X7 and other new and refreshed X vehicles on the way.
The X7 may not reset any sales records, but it fits well within BMW’s lineup and represents where the marque, and the market, is going.