BMW X7 xDrive30d
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Most cars seem to fit a motoring purpose. If you've got a big family, you need something with practicality. If your midlife crisis-ing it - as the trope goes - you might buy yourself a sports car. But there are some cars that don't seem to fit a defined motoring purpose. The BMW X7 might be one of those cars; we get behind the wheel to find out just why it exists.
I can comfortably say that the BMW X7 is the biggest car we've ever had on this podcast. It's also one of the most expensive. It's a car that's taken the outrageous popularity of the SUV and infused it with the luxury and technology you'd find in a high-end executive saloon. But this is a car that can also carry seven people.It could also, if you really wanted to go off road, apparently - provided you fitted with the right options pack. The BMW X7 is a car that combines all the best elements of the company's X model cars and its 7 Series luxury saloon.
Now, it's tempting to think of the 7 as a poor man's Bentley Bentayga, and to some degree that's a fair point. But other than not being a bespoke British luxo-barge with a magnificent price tag to match its size, there's really not much on the luxury menu that's missing from the X7. Besides, for me, it's a lot better looking than the Bentayga. But then again, the squashed insects on the windscreen of the X7 are better looking than a Bentayga.
(Side note, this episode was recorded before Bentley released their facelifted Bentayga, which is marginally better looking than a squashed insect.)
Now, I'm not suggesting that the X7 is a good looking car, but I will say that it looks better in the metal than it did in any of the photos that I've seen of it. It borrows some design cues from the 7 Series to help slim down its enormity - for example, things like the narrow front and rear lights help balance out the expanse of its sheet metal.
The chrome accents at various points also help highlight some of the details in the metal, making sure the X7 looks like more than just a slab sided box riding on 22-inch wheels. It carries its size really well and manages to look a lot more considered than something you might be tempted to compare it to size-wise. As well as having styling tricks that make it look smaller, on the move the 7 manages to feel smaller than it actually is.
You still need generous sized parking spaces, and when you look in the mirror, the light does take that little bit of extra time to travel from the rear of the car to your eyeballs. But in terms of power and driveability, the 3.0 Straight 6 turbo performs a minor miracle every time you put your foot down. It puts out 195kW and 620Nm with what feels like almost no effort at all.
On pulloff, the big X just glides off the line and will keep the power coming on strong in most everyday driving situations. It has a definite limit as you approach the redline in higher gears, when it starts to feel its weight. But for the most part, it's just a big, easygoing and very smooth power trip.
The ride refinement is helped by the standard all-round self levelling air suspension. It doesn't iron out every crease in the road, and if you drive your X7 in sport mode, you will feel more of those creases thanks to the stiffer setup; but in regular mode, it is composed and it is very comfortable.
That air suspension also makes the X7 quite agile. I mentioned a sport mode and it is worthwhile selecting it on the odd occasion - not because it makes the massive SUV a driving joy, but because it gives you the opportunity to marvel at the brilliance of BMW's engineers and wonder just how they managed to get something this big to overcome its own physics in challenging corners.
For sure, the air suspension goes a long way to eliminating the leaning you'd expect. But still, it's impressive how the car handles its size and delivers confident cornering with almost no lean.
The real prize of the X7, though, is its interior. By now, we know BMW interiors are nicely finished with lots of tech. But even so, the X7's cabin takes things up a notch or three. I'm sitting in the second of the X7's three rows of seats, but instead of it being a bench seat, our test car has been fitted with the optional individual seats, making this a six rather than a seven seater. One of the best things about this interior is that the tech and the design that BMW fits into its high end cars has been democratized as far as possible. And that means that everybody in the X7 gets a slice of the luxury experience.
Ordinarily, anyone in the last row of seats has to be content with some pretty average seats stuffed into a cramped space. The very rear of the X7 isn't the most roomy place to be, but both occupants still get good seats with a USB charging port, cup holder and their own fixed sunroof. If they're lucky, the owner of the X7 they're riding in will have specified a 5th zone for the climate control, giving them their own air conditioning as well. Moving forward to the second row with its individual seats, passengers here will get electric adjustment as well as heating and cooling. They also have USB charging ports and optional 10-inch screens with BluRay capability and an HDMI connection. And cup holders. And optional blinds on the windows.
I'm now upfront in the X7 and I'm going to skip all the stuff you'd expect to find, and instead focus on things like the optional glass finish on the gearshift and the iDrive controller; and the two tone Vernasca Leather for the seats, and the silver ash wood inlays for the dashboard. The cup holders are even special - they've got a heating and cooling function, and the sound system is a very impressive 20 Speaker Bowers and Wilkins setup.
Along with all the luxury and all the toys is the inbuilt versatility of a car this size. The third row of seats is raised and lowered electrically, and when they're folded away, the load space is 750 liters, with total load space being over 2000 liters. A nice touch - and one that a lot of manufacturers could learn from - is the storage space for the retractable load cover. If you have any experience with one, you'll know they're the most cumbersome part of any interior; awkward to remove or to put back and inconveniently shaped when they're not in place. What BMW has done is create a concealed molding in the boot floor. So when the third row of seats is in use, the load cover can be conveniently stored.
And of course, there is the driving tech. BMW's reversing assistant is part of the package to help you find your way out of tight spaces, but my favorite bit is the Drive Recorder. Using the car's assistance systems cameras, it'll record videos of up to 40 seconds; if you have an accident, it'll start recording automatically and include speed and G.P.S. information. And at three grand, it's a relatively inexpensive option.
I can't help but think that very few people who opt for a BMW X7 are going to do that because of the practicality of its seven seats or its collection of nice toys, or, as BMW is always keen to point out, its off road ability. They're going to buy one more often than not because it makes a statement: that they drive the biggest and arguably most luxurious BMW on the market. And that is a perfectly valid reason to spend upwards of R1,9m on an X7, because while you're making that statement, you don't lose out on anything else. It's still got a very good drive with advanced, usable tech. And all things considered, it is a fairly attractive car.
So as statements go, the BMW X7 is a very good one.
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