When the first skteches of the BMW X7 leaked their way onto social media, it was obvious this was going to be a big, really big, car with the dominant focus on the massive kidney grille.
When the tarmac battleship arrived for testing it massive proportions dwarfed everything alongside it but, it is that word proportions that is important here – regular readers will recall I termed the X5 as being ‘fat’.
The X7, albeit bigger, has the proportions correct with length versus width and height executed in the right ratio to give it the sleek, streamlined look I found wanting on the X5 – the X7 5 151 mm long (4 922 for the X5) by 2 000 mm wide compared to 2 004 for the X5 and 1 805 mm tall (1 745 for the X5).
It is certainly built to test the absolute limits of those ridiculous underground parking bays in upmarket shopping centres.
The high-impact presence of the new BMW X7 is underscored by its upright front end, while the chrome elements that ring the car accentuate its character.
Together with the slim twin headlights extending up to the grille, it emphasises the width of the car and the X7 comes as standard with LED headlights, while BMW Laserlight with Adaptive LED Headlights can be specified as an option.
This system employs a BMW Laserlight spotlight with Selective Beam to optimise the high beam function, and as a result the range of the non-dazzling high beam has been increased to a maximum 600 metres.
The rear doors are longer than the front doors, making it easier to get in and out of a cabin space that would not go amiss in the first class section of an airliner – the individual rear seats each having its own screen and USB input ports, air-conditioning options and electronic range of movement.
The sizeable dimensions of the X7 are also expressed at the rear end, which is broken up by horizontal lines and bordered by vertical separating edges. The slim LED rear lights provide a clear segmentation of the rear. Bridging the space between the two units is a chrome bar – a design cue only previously encountered at the rear of the BMW 7 Series luxury sedan.
It is fitted as standard with 21-inch light-alloy wheels. The selection of light-alloy wheels available on the options list includes 22-inch variants.
The three rows of seats, like the grille is a love it or hate it kind of thing – although the rearmost seats can accommodate adult passengers, it leave precious little in the way of luggage space – 320 litres rising to 750 with those seats folded and 2 120 with the second row folded down.
The second row includes three seats as standard in a conventional rear seat bench configuration but, two comfortable individual seats can be specified for the middle row as an option – as was the case on my test unit.
These are comfort seats and offer the same functionality as the seats for the driver and front passenger when it comes to seating position adjustment. The individual seats for the second row also feature integrated armrests and comfort cushions.
The fore/aft position of the second-row seats is adjusted using a control panel integrated into the driver’s door. Drivers of the new BMW X7 can also slide both their own seat and the front-passenger’s backwards and forwards at the touch of a button located nearby. This allows the driver to increase both legroom and ease of entry/exit for the passengers in the second and third row of seats, as required.
X7 comes as standard with a sports leather steering wheel and the newly designed display grouping which comes as part of the standard-fitted BMW Live Cockpit Professional includes a Control Display and a fully-digital instrument cluster – each with a screen diagonal of 12,3 inches – and teams up with the control panel on the centre console to create a re-interpretation of BMW’s customary driver focus.
Standard specification includes four-zone automatic climate control. A five-zone automatic climate control system with separate control panel and additional air vents for the third row of seats can be ordered as an option. The likewise optional Ambient Air package enables air ionisation and infuses the interior with eight individually selectable scents.
A ‘thermo’ version of the cupholders arranged foremost in the centre console can be specified as an option to keep their containers cool or warm as required.
With its 10 speakers, the standard-fitted hi-fi speaker system already can make plenty of happy noise but the optional Harman Kardon surround sound system (standard in the X7 M50d) with 16 speakers provides an even more intense musical feast for the ears, topped only by the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 20 speakers and 1 500-watt amplifier – when I listen to Judas Priest in my car so does the whole darn neighbourhood!
All the engines available for the new BMW X7 team up with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission, the most recent incarnation of which boasts a wider gear ratio spread and new control electronics. This reduces engine speeds, particularly in higher gears, which in turn helps to increase the drive system’s overall efficiency.
The eight-speed Steptronic transmission is fitted with a new generation of torsion dampers to limit rotational irregularities in the powertrain. The result is enhanced ride comfort and smoother gear changes. Comfort is given a further boost by reduced converter slip, while the optimised hydraulic control enables even sportier shifting.
There is 195 kW available at 4 00 r/min from the inline 2 993 cc turbo-diesel engine with 620 Nm of torque from 2 000 r/min – enough to propel the 6 720 kilogram behemoth to 100 km/h in 7,2 seconds and on to a terminal velocity of 227 km/h.
Fuel consumption during the test cycle averaged at 7,1 l/100 km giving the X7 a cruising range of about 1 000 kilometres, cruising being something it is particularly good at particularly if the plan to vist distance landscapes in utmost comofrt and with the minimum of fuss.
Although fairly unlikely for the majority of owners, the X7 has rather impressive off-road capabilities as well, this task being managed by the latest generation of the BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system, which now varies how the drive torque is split between the front and rear wheels with greater precision.
The electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system links up with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to provide the basis for effortless, sure-footed handling, whatever the road and weather conditions. For added efficiency, full drive power can be directed to the rear wheels in situations where all-wheel drive is surplus to requirements. The xDrive system also maintains a rear-biased set-up when the car’s dynamic performance abilities are being put to the test, ensuring customers enjoy the signature BMW driving experience.
Ride comfort in the new BMW X7 is further enhanced by its two-axle air suspension with automatic self-levelling, which is also included as standard. The suspension’s air supply is controlled individually for each wheel using a remarkably quiet, electrically driven compressor with pressure reservoir, making it possible to balance out an unevenly loaded car.
When SPORT driving mode is engaged or the car’s speed exceeds 138 km/h, the ride height is automatically lowered by 20 millimetres.
The driver is also able to adjust the body’s ground clearance – for off-road driving, for example – by pushing a button in the cockpit to raise it in two stages to a maximum 40 millimetres above the standard setting. Another button in the luggage compartment activates a loading mode that lowers the car by 40 millimetres.
The BMW X7 comes as standard with Cruise Control with braking function, as well as the Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, which also now alerts the driver when a cyclist is detected.
The optional Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function is capable of braking the car to a halt then setting it back on its way automatically. To make the driver’s life easier in stop-start traffic, the maximum length of time the car can wait before pulling away again automatically after it has come to a halt is 30 seconds.
The speed limits detected by the Speed Limit Info traffic sign recognition system can be incorporated into the system’s automatic speed modulation, with a preset adjustment of up to 15 km/h.
The tech does not stop and the standard Driving Assist Professional offers extensive assistance to make driving as safe and as comfortable as possible. This package includes the Steering and lane control assist as well as the Lane Keeping Assist with active side collision protection.
The assistance systems also comprises Crossing traffic warning, which reduces the risk of a collision when manoeuvring forwards or in reverse towards crossing traffic where visibility is restricted. Rear Collision warning and Lane Change Warning also form part of the Driving Assist Professional package.
The level of techno features and the options are truly impressive and can take a while to learn, understand and get used to. Once mastered, they can make the driving experience a pleasurable one but one still has to wonder how much newer drivers miss out on by never having had to learn ‘seat of the pants’ motoring.
The X7 sweeps majectically through the countryside, that massive grille wide enough to swallow a small country whole, possibly aiding in having lesser automobiles move smartly out of the way once it appears in their rearview mirrors.
However, do not be surprised if you find them straddling two parking bays at the local mall….