If you’re looking for a flagship BMW today, you have two options to choose from – the facelifted 7 Series and the brand-new X7. A choice that can baffle even the most discerning customer. So, we spend time with both to make your life a little easier.
The fact that the automotive world, in terms of model line-ups, has become completely baffling in the past couple of decades is now a well-established and accepted fact. I mean, just look at BMW’s portfolio for instance. If you’re looking for an SUV, you can choose between 7 different models, while, for sedans, there are at least 6 different cars available. And the list goes on, with coupés, convertibles, estates, M cars, and so on. Now, if this isn’t mind-numbingly complex, then what is? Rhetorical question! The point I’m trying to make is that choosing a car has become rather complex.
Now, for decades, the 7 Series was the undisputed king of the BMW line-up – but that’s no longer the case. Why? You guessed it, owing to the ever-growing popularity of SUVs, the BMW line-up now includes a flagship SUV – the X7.
Over the next few pages, I’ll try my best to explain the differences between both cars, and hopefully, by the end of it, we can answer the question – which flagship makes more sense in a market like India?
But before we begin a detailed explanation of both cars, let me address something that’s been bothering me for the past few months – the BMW Double Kidney grille! For decades, BMWs were known for their understated styling. Two vital aspects of the quintessential BMW design were the double kidney grille, famous for its simplicity and class, and the wonderful Hofmeister kink – the shape of the C-pillar.
Now, however, it seems that some marketing genius(es) thought that embracing the current trend of oversized grilles would give their cars more flash value and make them stand out – presumably for the right reasons. At any rate, the result is that toothy grin on every new BMW rolling out of Munich.
What you see on the nose of both the 7 and the X7 is the result of that so-called marketing research – and, something which has become a rather polarising feature. Sure, many customers in the US, China, and the Middle East might love it, but I’m not a fan. To me, it seems as though BMW’s designers are trying too hard to get a customer’s attention by using this abomination.
Now, the grille aside, the 7 Series is still quite a pleasant looking design. The front might be chrome dominated, but the balanced stance and the sloping roofline give it a lot of road presence.
Our test car, the 745 Le, featured large 20-inch wheels and a Royal Burgundy Red finish, and together they gave it a majestic appearance. Particularly impressive is the rear-end design, which, with its well-integrated chrome elements and darkened taillights, looks quite fetching.
Meanwhile, at over 5.1 metres long, the X7 has a big, butch, and in-your-face design. Sure, that feeling is amplified by that massive chrome nose, but together with its large 21-inch alloys and slim, flowing headlights, the front gives it the requisite road presence.
Also, the grille in this case looks far better integrated than that of the 7. The main reason for this could be the fact that the X7 is a clean-sheet design, while the 7 is a facelift.
The sides are largely flat, with a prominent shoulder line running across them. The rear is fairly subdued, with large taillights and a limited use of chrome. It may not be a beautiful looking design in the conventional sense, but its size and presence make it impressive. Moreover, it does the job of standing out from the crowd – as a true BMW flagship should.
Private jet for the road
Interestingly, our 7 Series test car was not the regular 730 Ld – the largest selling 7 Series in India – but the 745 Le, which is the first plug-in Hybrid 7 Series ever sold in the country. Powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six, it’s supplemented by a 12kWh lithium-ion battery, which generates a combined power output of 389bhp and 600Nm. Putting this power down is BMW’s intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which means that the 745 Le does the 0 to 100km/h sprint in just 5.3 seconds. And, BMW claims that, under ideal test conditions, the 745 Le can go up to 53 kilometres on battery power alone, at speeds of up to 140km/h.
On the road, it’s quite difficult to tell that the 745 Le you’re driving is a proper Hybrid. The power delivery feels absolutely normal, and the car sprints admirably – the refinement of the petrol-hybrid powerplant is exemplary. Now, the 7 prefers to operate on battery power only at low speeds, but here the Hybrid technology is quite impressive – especially when, say, you’re pulling out of a parking lot.
While the 745 Le is a fun car to drive – especially for its size – the pièce de résistance of this car is still its back seat. Both rear seats have screens of their own. You can use them to control the multimedia system, as well as a myriad of other functions for your seat.
Additionally, the armrest has a 7-inch detachable tab, which lets you control even more functions – ensuring that you spend your time in the rear seat in utmost comfort. But it’s when you press the reclining seat button on your left that the 7 really shows its party trick – the front passenger seat slides forward, your seat reclines, and a foot-rest emerges to offer you a true aircraft-style, first-class experience.
What makes the cabin even more desirable is the sheer luxury of the cabin – which consists of opulent leather, massage functions, and just incredible levels of comfort.
Real delight from behind the wheel
If you’re a BMW owner, or even a fan, entering the cabin of the X7 will instantly make you feel at home. The familiarity of controls, surfaces, and the overall ambience makes it a wonderful place to spend time in. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing new here. In fact, you can easily tell that the X7 is a brand-new product, especially in comparison to the facelifted 7 Series. Some of its interior surfaces feel better finished. I particularly like the Ash Grain Black open-pore wood trim. Even the multimedia touchscreen is larger, at 12.5-inches, while the 360-degree cameras offer higher resolution.
At over 5.1 metres in length, the X7 offers comfortable seating for 7 adults. However, the boot space becomes rather limited when all three rows are up, and getting in and out of the third row isn’t very easy.
The real highlight of the X7, though, is the way it drives. Its brand-new platform, with two-axle air suspension, along with the 3.0-litre straight-six diesel engine, makes the X7 a brilliant performer. Even with the engine producing 261bhp, what really impressed me was the 620Nm of torque – all of which is delivered from just 1,500rpm. This means that the 100km/h mark comes up in just 7 seconds.
However, it’s the stellar steering feel of the X7 that makes it a real delight from behind the wheel. It feels like a return to the glory days of hydraulically-powered steering systems, with true road feel communicated through the wheel. And, at least for me, it’s a welcome return to a communicative steering system. Combine this with the tight dynamics of the X7, its air suspension and standard-fit all-wheel drive, and it makes for a very effective everyday car.
There are, however, two things that remain a concern. One, I find the crystal gear lever and iDrive control knob a bit too overdone – much like the grille. Secondly, unless you’re chauffeured, finding a parking space for a car this big will prove to be a real challenge.
The final battle
Essentially, the choice between the 7 Series and the X7 boils down to two main factors. If you’re one of those captains of industry who likes to be exclusively chauffeured around in the comfort and luxury of the rear seat, then the 7 Series is hard to beat. It’s a handsome looking car, with all the features, opulence, and comfort that you’ll ever need.
The X7, however, offers more versatility. For starters, with its three rows of seating, it offers unparalleled practicality for a BMW. Combine that with its increased ground clearance, and it makes it that much more usable in a country like ours. Plus, for a large SUV, the X7 is shockingly good to drive – even for a BMW.
And, lastly, at ₹98.90 lakh, the X7 is significantly cheaper than even the most affordable 7 Series – the 730 Ld is priced at ₹1.22 crore. The 745 Le is even more expensive, at ₹1.65 crore.
For me, as much as I love the driving experience and opulence of the 7 Series, because of its practicality and the better value proposition that the X7 offers, not to mention just how well it drives, the X7 is my BMW flagship of choice.
You can tell that the X7 is a brand-new product, in comparison to the facelifted 7 Series, as some of its interior surfaces feel even better finished.
- BMW X7 xDrive 30d
- BMW 745 Le xDrive
Engine: 2,993cc / Inline-Six / Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 261bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 620Nm @ 1,500 - 2,500rpm
Price: ₹98.90 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-factor: Considering its road presence, three rows of seating, and superb driving appeal, the X7 is our new range-topping BMW of choice.
• Immense road presence
• Great to drive
• Excellent pricing
• That grille
• Not exactly easy to park
Engine: 2,998cc / Inline-Six / Turbocharged
Motor: eDrive Motor (111bhp)
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Price: ₹1.65 Crore (Ex-Showroom)
X-factor: Given its driving appeal and a fantastic rear seat, the 7 Series still remains highly desirable.
• Fantastic quality
• Aircraft-style rear seat
• Driving appeal