The folks from Bavaria have been on fire as of late with the recent release of fresh metal from the new BMW Z4, X5, X3 M and X4 M models. The firm has also completely overhauled its flagship range having started with the i8 Roadster last year, followed by the 8 series coupe and convertible. The all-new 7 series has too quietly made its way to market and now the X7 is the latest piece to the BMW puzzle. It has been teased to the motoring media for a while and billed as a 7 series for the SUV world. The X7 is indeed the first of its kind for BMW and they didn’t want to rush the project. It comes 12 years after the release of its chief rival the Mercedes-Benz GLS and as far as first impressions go, it was well worth the wait.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, the X7’s exterior design. Dominating the X7’s front end is the largest ever design of BMW’s kidney grille. When initially revealed online many considered it grotesque, and braai grid jokes ensued. Whether it looks good or not is up to you, but it’s certainly imposing and that’s exactly what BMW was aiming for. The headlamps are slim by contrast and emphasize the vehicle’s width. LED headlamps are standard and BMW laserlight units with highbeams that reach as far a 600 m can be had for an extra R21 900. Eina, but what’s the difference if you are already forking out more than R1.5 million. In a world where most regular Joe’s potter about in lesser SUVs the flagship X7 simply had to be bigger and more outgoing than anything already on the street.
It’s certainly a massive slab of Bavarian metal, the largest BMW has ever produced. It’s 1.8 m tall, over 5 m long and exactly 2 m wide. In terms of size, it’s a competitor for the big-daddy Range Rover, it dwarfs the Audi Q7 and measures up nicely to the flagship Mercedes-Benz GLS, a new version of the latter has been revealed to take the fight to the X7. Adding to the X7’s mucho appearance are the optional 22-inch light-alloy wheels fitted to the vehicles at the launch while 21-inch items come standard. It’s a cliché, but in person, the design of the X7 grows on one more than it does on screen. A hate it or love it sort of affair.
Step inside and for shorter-legged individuals this may take a bit of effort. Once aboard you’ll find a very familiar BMW cabin. All the controls, displays and instruments are nearly identical to that seen in the X3 and X5 models. This is good news if you expect high levels of quality in the materials used, the cabin is solid and luxurious but it’d take tens of thousands of Rands to option-up the interior for it to feel unique from something like a regular 5 series.
For the price, it really could feel a little more exclusive, but the quality cannot be faulted. That being said, interior space is colossal with a maximum load capacity of 2 120 litres when the seats are folded flat. At 1.78 m tall I could sit comfortably in the third row of seats with both sufficient head and legroom. Very few seven-seat SUV’s can seat adults in chairs 6 and 7 comfortably. For R9 600 a six-seater configuration can be had, the second-row bench is replaced with two individual captain’s chairs effectively turning the X7 into a luxury SUV limousine, highly recommended if being chauffeur-driven is a requirement as on-road refinement is as you’d expect, exceptional.
The Xdrive 30d is the least powerful engine option available, however, having driven it back-to-back with the breathtaking quad-turbo M50d the former is the one to have. Not only does it save some cash for tasty optional extras it’s more than adequate at shuffling the 2.4-ton behemoth about with 620 Nm easily available thanks to the responsive and smooth shift 8-speed transmission we’ve come to know from BMW. The drivetrain suits the package to a tee and is silky smooth for a big diesel while fuel economy comes in with an acceptable claim of 6.8 l/100 km.
From behind the wheel, it’s obvious that BMW has tried to engineer its driver-focused DNA into the X7, however, for a vehicle of this size and type it’s not really relevant, but it handles rather well. Self-levelling air suspension comes as standard on both axels and offers both impressive comfort and agility. Push too hard and the ESP cuts in viciously in fear that you might topple over, kind of expected from a vehicle the size of a small building though. Clever dynamic assistance systems such as active steering, an M sport differential, four-wheel steering and a sports transmission are available with the M sport package should you require a sportier ride. Leave the drive select in comfort mode and the X7 is in its optimum setting, surge past slower moving traffic in utter refinement.
What we have here is an opulent SUV expression of the finest that BMW has to offer. The X7 is an exceptional machine, modern and luxurious. One can be enamoured by the demanding looks, enjoy the sumptuous quality and comfort of the interior or marvel at how something this large can handle and mitigate body roll. BMW has nailed the brief of building 7 series SUV here and has sold 34 units in its first month on sale, that’s a healthy start for something in at this price point and should see a few in the Blue Light Brigade in no time. Your move Mercedes.
In a nutshell –
BMW X7 xDrive 30d Steptronic
Immense luxury of 6-seater option makes for a high-riding limousine experience
Standard interior not as exclusive as the price would suggest
Engine: 2 993 cc, 6-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 195 kW @ 4 000 – 4 400 rpm, 620 Nm @ 2 000 – 2 500 rpm
Performance: 0-100 km/h 7.0 sec
Top speed: 227 km/h
Tyres: Front 275/40/R22, Rear 315/35/R22
Economy: 6.8 l/100 km (claimed)
Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
CO2 emissions: 178 g/km
Price: R1 562 849