BMW X7 Review: First Drive

By Dhruv Behl | on April 2, 2019

BMW’s brand new flagship announces its arrival with a rather imposing face. But let’s look beyond its nose, shall we, to see what lies beyond… 

We absolutely have to start by addressing the elephant in the room – that nose! 

Now, the BMW kidney grille has been central to the design of every single BMW ever made. So, it’s not exactly a new feature. But this is as big and imposing as it’s ever been. 

To my eyes, the X7 is actually a very pleasing design. Well, with the exception of that nose… it looks as though the BMW designers recruited a caricature artist to come in and sketch the grille. But, hey, aesthetics are a personal choice. And BMW would rather have a design that stands out as opposed to one that blends in. The two main markets for the X7 will be China and the US, and BMW feels that they need a design that stands out and makes a statement. And, well, they’ve got one. 

Truth be told, these very characteristics could prove to be quite endearing to an Indian buying audience as well. In fact, just as I got done complaining about the nose, someone walked up to me to complement the design of this brand new BMW SUV. When I asked specifically about the nose, the response was unequivocal – ‘I love it,’ he said. So, each to his own it appears.  

Right, now that the elephant has been pinned, let’s move on. 

BMW X7 Front Dynamic

Why an X7?

SUVs have been growing in popularity for decades, but they weren’t quite the rage that they are now when BMW first introduced the X5 back in 1999. Still, the X5 was a bit of a revolution. It was the first SUV – although BMW referred to it as a SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) even then – which brought car-like, in fact BMW-like, driving dynamics to a high-riding vehicle. And it sold like hot cakes from day one, so-much-so that BMW now has an X-range that stretches all the way from the X1 to the X6, with a model corresponding to every digit in between… make that a model range that stretches all the way to the X7 now.

The X7 not only completes the BMW X-range of vehicles, but it’s also its brand new flagship and the largest vehicle ever produced by the carmaker. So, it has its work cut out for it – not only does it have to be very impressive, but it also has to mask it’s mass when on the move and drive like a proper BMW when pushed. So, let’s do that, why don’t we?

BMW X7 Front Three Quarter Motion

What happens when you push it?

A couple of numbers first. The X7 weighs in at almost two-and-a-half tonnes! That’s not exactly lithe. It also measures over 5 metres in length, with a wheelbase of over 3 metres. It’s so big that you could almost fit a small car inside its vast cabin. 

Now, BMW’s erstwhile flagship – or sedan flagship, shall we say – always had a way of masking its size on the move. The 7 Series has always been the most dynamic luxury sedan on the market, and it quite likes being manhandled and thrown around. Retaining that sense of playfulness will be difficult in the X7 – just by virtue of physics. But, then, BMW engineers are not the kind to shy away from a challenge involving defying the laws of physics. 

We had dinner with the vehicle dynamics engineer for the X7 the night before we drove it, and he mentioned that they had gone to the extent of cradling the steering rack in four different types of springs so that it would feel as precise and stable as possible. Of course, my layman’s brain is oversimplifying his point completely, but the point is this – the engineers have left no stone unturned to ensure that the X7 feels just as dynamic as every other car that carries the blue and white propeller logo. 

2019 Bmw X7 Driving Shot

As fast as an M3?

The engineer in question went on to explain that the X7 actually laps the Nürburgring Nordschleife – the Green Hell as it’s known, which is the absolute litmus test for any vehicle – in the same time as an E92 M3 from a decade ago. Now, that’s staggering! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded at the suggestion. 

The next day, when it was time to finally drive the X7, we got some sense of how this could be possible. The rear tyres on our test car measured 315/35 R22 – that’s wider than the rear tyres on the brand new Porsche 911. The trouble, however with such large wheels and tyres is that, while they do ensure stupendous road holding, they also make the ride just that little bit more harsh and fidgety than you really want in a luxury car. Of course, the air suspension helps compensate for this, and the fact is that the X7 really does feel like a proper BMW from behind the wheel. The BMW engineers, then, appear to have done it again. 

Now, the cars that come to India will likely be on 20-inch rims and have slightly narrower rubber. And that means that the ride will improve, but we’ll have to wait and see how it sits on the road. Since the body is so big and imposing, it may not look quite right on anything less than the 22’s of our test car.     

On the move, though, I have to say that the steering truly was incredibly precise. It just goes to show that engineers can overcome any obstacle that they put their mind to. Sure, a car like this doesn’t need to lap the Nürburgring as fast as an M3 – in fact, it might even be to its detriment in some sense – but you can take some pleasure in knowing that it can keep up with a sports car on a twisty road if need be. 

2019 BMW X7 Interior

When will it come to India? 

At the India Art Fair in Delhi earlier this year, BMW actually showcased the X7 in M50d spec and M-Sport trim, which will come in as a fully imported CBU in the next six months or so, while the xDrive40i and 30d, which will be assembled in Chennai, will come in before the end of the year. Of course, prices will be well north of a crore. For that money, in the 40i, you’ll get a 3.0-litre, turbocharged 6-cylinder petrol motor producing 335 horsepower. The 30d, meanwhile, will come with BMW’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel-six with 261 horses. In the 50d, the 3.0-litre diesel motor gets four turbochargers for good measure and almost 400 horsepower. 

The car we tested was the 40i, and, while it wasn’t lightning fast – at 0 to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds – it’s more than adequate. And, like the 7 Series, it does shrink around you and feel quite athletic on the move. While it doesn’t quite have the fluidity of a Range Rover, or the sheer isolation of a Mercedes-Benz GLS, it does provide a far more engaging driving experience. The steering and chassis are far sharper than its competition, and overall grip levels are tremendous. 

What really made an impression, however, was the refinement and comfort. We spent 10 hours in the car straight, as we drove through the Death Valley National Park in the US, and I felt just as fresh at the end of the drive as I did at our 8am start. 

Why is it so large? 
 
I’ve always felt that the BMW X5 is the perfect SUV, as it provides just the right amount of comfort, utility and driving pleasure. But it is a little tight in the middle row, and the optional third row is pure punishment for a full-sized human. That’s where the X7 comes in. It’s long wheelbase ensures that the cabin is simply massive. You can even spec optional captain seats in the middle row for additional comfort. All three rows get their own AC controls, and even the third row gets a glass roof. The whole cabin feels airy, and the seats are just incredibly comfortable. They hold you in all the right places, and feel like your very own throne. 

The cabin, on the whole, is typical BMW fare. It’s quite minimalistic, and much of it is quite familiar since we’ve recently driven the new 3 Series and X5. The driver sits facing two 12.3-inch screens – the digital instrument cluster and central iDrive screen. I, for one, think that BMW’s new layout works exceedingly well. All the controls are exactly where you want them to be – the new instrument cluster works really well, the head-up display is great, and iDrive is the best infotainment system in the industry at present. Plus, the quality levels are exceptional. I’m not sure about the crystal gear lever though – it just feels like BMW is trying too hard. 

2019 BMW X7 Rear Seat

And that’s my only grouse with this car. In trying to be too dynamic, the ride is slightly compromised. In trying to stand out, the design is questionable. And in trying to feel special, it comes off as almost cheesy. If you strip off these few bits – more the nose than anything else – this is truly an exceptional machine. If I had to pick a car to drive across the world in today – I’ve had the pleasure of driving across the US and Central America in a Mercedes-Benz GL – I would probably choose the X7. If you’re sitting inside, you don’t have to look at that grille after all. And people will certainly get out of your way when you come barrelling up behind them on the highway. 

If you want to make a statement, this car is perfect. And if you just want a luxury SUV with better engineering than anything else on the market, the X7 fits that description too. The looks are a personal choice, but what you will need are big pockets to get a piece of BMW’s biggest machine ever – that much is a given.   

  • BMW X7 xDrive40i
  • BMW X7 xDrive30d 
  • BMW X7 xDrive50d

Engine: 2,998cc / 6-Cylinders / Turbocharged

Fuel: Petrol

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive

Power: 335bhp @ 5,500 – 6,500rpm

Torque: 450Nm @ 1,500 – 5,200rpm

Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 6.1 seconds 

X-factor: A BMW That Makes a Statement. And One That’s Incredibly Well Engineered.                                                     

Pros         
• Incredibly Refined & Luxurious      
 
Cons
 • Questionable Styling  
 

Engine: 2,993cc / 6-Cylinders / 4 Turbochargers 

Fuel: Diesel 

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive

Power: 261bhp @ 4,000rpm

Torque: 620Nm @ 2,000 – 2,500rpm

Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 7.0 seconds 

Engine: 2,993cc / 6-Cylinders / 4 Turbochargers 

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive

Power: 394bhp @ 4,400rpm

Torque: 760Nm @ 2,000 – 3,000rpm

Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 5.4 seconds 

Also read: 

Upcoming X7 SUV now listed on BMW India's website

BMW X7 to be launched in two trims

Tags: BMW BMW X7

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