But the X7 is still not sure what it wants to be
The BMW X7 3-row SUV fits six or seven people comfortably and offers a chic, lounge-like experience to drivers and passengers alike. High quality leathers, glass dials and soft-touch plastics make it all together sumptuous and befitting those living an upper-middle class lifestyle. Almost.
Why almost? Because the X7 also offers a Dynamics Handling Package with an electronically controlled locking M-sport differential and 22-inch wheels with a staggered set of run flat, Pirelli P Zero performance summer tires (Front: 275/40 R22 Rear: 315/35 R22) as an option. When so equipped, road noise increases to levels above what the most refined among us would find acceptable. And, more importantly, tire grip mismatches suspension tuning. It never feels bad, just not quite right.
One can only conclude that the X7 still needs to find its true self. BMW wants the X7 to compete in the ever-growing and widening luxury SUV segment and, somehow, still clutch at the straws of its pure performance sedan past. And that makes for an awkward moment or two on the road. Again, nothing bad, just not quite reaching its full potential.
Let me explain.
BMW’s newest model stretches 203.3 inches from bumper to bumper, takes up 78.7 inches of lane width and stands 71.7 inches tall. The wheelbase is over ten feet at 122.2 inches. That’s big. Bigger than an X5 in every dimension, the X7 is over 10 inches longer for example, and a reasonably close match to the 7-Series sedan, which shares its platform with the X7. BMW insists that the X7 shares fewer than one percent of its parts with the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. The comparisons are tempting, but I begrudgingly accept that any similarities are, at least, somewhat coincidental.
One contrast between the two is styling, and the BMW wins that contest. Some may find the large kidney grilles, the largest of its models ever according to BMW, overwrought. I disagree. They match the car and give the correct impression of presence. As do the chrome accents along the sills and lower bumper. The back doors look proportioned as well, even though they’re larger than the fronts. Their size allows easy access to the second and third rows, which are ample. Also, the two tone-interior looks nice
Two models are offered: the xDrive40i and xDrive50i. The former comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six making 335 hp between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm and 330 lb-ft between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm. The latter steps up to a 4.4-liter turbocharged V8 and power follows suit, peaking at 456 hp between 5,250 and 6,000 rpm and a quite healthy 479 lb-ft 1,500 and 4,750 rpm. Both engines use fast spooling, twin-scroll turbochargers, direct fuel injection and variable valve timing.
And both models channel that power through a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission (though the 40i and 50i use different gear ratios) and on to both front and rear axles. As you can imagine, given the X7’s footprint, you have a serious amount of weight to throw around. The inline-six model is lighter between the two at 5,370 pounds; the V8 is a mighty 5,617 pounds. Despite the girth, the X7 will reach 60 mph from rest in under six seconds, 40i: 5.8 seconds 50i: 5.2 seconds, and carry on to a governed 130 mph.
Managing it all is a double control arm front and multilink rear suspension that uses automatically load-leveling air-springs and adjustable dampers. This allows lots of flexibility for different driving modes, of which there are four: comfort, eco pro, adaptive and sport. Ride height is adjustable too, the X7 can lift itself as high as 1.6-inches for low speed off-road excursions and drop the same distance from standard height to ease loading luggage. And, if speeds surpass 85 mph, or the driver switches to sport mode, the X7 automatically lowers itself 0.8-inches.
For ride and handling purposes, BMW wanted the X7 to feel like a 7-Series as an SUV. And the folks from Munich largely achieved that. In comfort driving mode it feels soft, supple, even a little floaty. It’s certainly never harsh, though we’ll have to prove that out on a few Detroit roads before it’s totally settled. But, to be honest, I see no reason not to just leave it in sport mode, which takes away the floaty feeling, yet maintains plenty of suppleness and feels more akin to the 7-Series.
Inside, cabin isolation is generally quite good. My time in the car involved lots of high winds and a thunderstorm, yet the cabin stayed warm, quiet and peaceful. Spacious too, with plenty of natural light let in from the panoramic roof. It’s no surprise that the front row offers lots of wiggle room, but both the second and third row pleasantly surprised. I’d stay comfortable in the second row for a long road trip, no problem, though in the third row my 5-foot 11-inch frame with a greater than ninety-degree bend in the knees would probably cut it off at 30 minutes.
And I enjoyed that our tester had the cold weather package, which meant both the second and third row got heated seats. And independent climate control is a nice touch. With fewer passengers, folded third row seats allow 48.6 cubic feet of luggage space; second row folded merits 90.3 cubic feet.
Up front, the luxury seating package means that, in addition to heat, the seats will cool and massage as well. Lovely! The premium package adds soft close doors — the doors close themselves once they reach the first latch — head-up display and heated and cooled cup holders. Four-zone climate control is standard, five-zone is optional. Basically, everything can be heated or cooled in a multitude of ways.
But the premium package also adds gesture control, which allows passengers to use various hand motions to change the radio volume. And that, like coffee, is an acquired taste. I don’t like coffee. Gesture control inadvertently muted the radio several times during a day-long drive as I gesticulated while talking. I’m sure in time you learn how to control it, but I see no improvement over a volume knob. And the “hey, BMW” Intelligent Personal Assistant that we wrote about in our 2020 3-Series review in the January 28 2019 issue works just as well here. The system is awfully finicky, and I failed to find its value. But most lamented the iDrive when it first arrived; maybe we’ll learn to love this Assistant over time.
“Hey, BMW” does encapsulate the X7 in many ways: BMW threw a lot of technology into it. You get the usual array of active safety like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, and automatic emergency braking. The X7 also offers less common things like lane change assist — when lane keep assist is active, hold down the turn signal and the X7 will first make sure it’s clear then initiate the lane change for you. It will also parallel park itself and automatically back out of a tight parking space, remembering its path for up to 50 yards from the parked spot. Neat. And I bet lots of potential buyers want systems like that. But I could do without all of it and probably be happier for it.
Some creature comforts are wholly welcome, though. Standard LED headlights with automatic high-beams, for one. Available remote engine start, is another. Using the camera of the adaptive cruise control to automatically disable the engine stop-start function when it “sees” that you are approaching a roundabout or a traffic light that just went green? I like that a lot. Also, a pad for wireless charging your smartphone. All good things.
Both engines are good things, too. Every inline-six has inherent balance advantages over 4-cylinder motors and BMWs 3.0-liter is in the top-tier of that configuration. In the xDrive40i the six was smooth, quiet and refined. And engine noise from the V8 was a highlight. Throaty, athletic, muscular even, but also refined and muted. The perfect blend of luxury and performance in a vehicle like this. The 4.4-liter is helped by exhaust flaps and active sound control through the stereo; some may baulk at those “helpers” but with the end result, I’m totally pleased.
Writer: Robin Warner
Published: March 22, 2019