REVIEW | The 2019 BMW X7 is a refined and capacious hulk
There are some things you should know about the new BMW X7 before you get dazzled by its shiny and gargantuan grille.
At 2,460kg it’s the heaviest BMW ever. It has permanent all-wheel drive and cribs from the Mercedes-Benz GLS by having room for six or seven passengers. If that doesn't sound anything like your average BMW X5, that’s because it’s unlike it.
The X7, tested here in M50d guise, is primarily about excess, in size, practicality, tech and living. At 5,151mm from nose to tail, 1,805mm of height and 2,000mm width, it’s been carefully designed to comfortably fit in most basements and the average SA parking bay. Second, it's about off-road capability and it's about some other things, too.
It has a wide scope of uses aside from ferrying passengers inside a luxuriously appointed compartment. Featuring seven seats in a 2-2-3 configuration as standard, you can opt to delete one seat at the rear to end and leave it in a 2-2-2 seat arrangement.
The seats are electrically operated and folded down. Standard boot space with all of the seats up is 325l, enough to swallow average weekly top-up groceries and helped along by a pair of powered tailgates.
To increase the space for family-sized goodies the third row of seats needs to be folded down, electrically, to yield 750l of boot. This can be increased up to 2,120l with the second row flattened. You can also lower the X7 by button to ease loading.
With all of the seats with hand-rests and safety belts in place, passengers in our X7 Design Pure Excellence derivative enjoyed an interior with five-zone air conditioning, optional rear-entertainment screens which allow for separate streaming of media portals through headsets, and windows that featured electrically deployable sun screens.
BMW Live Cockpit Professional, a 31cm digital instrument cluster, touch-screen central Control Display, Head-Up Display, voice control and BMW Gesture Control made up the features list, as did a panoramic roof.
Once you’ve set off, the first thing you notice is the refined and cushy driving on its adjustable air-dampers that allow the body to sit at six different ride heights. What’s also apparent is that when you activate Comfort Mode, a setting which you expect best represents the car, the ride turns super plush.
In Sport Mode, the most peculiar setting for a such a behemoth, the digital dash lights up in menacing red, the transmission offers quicker changes, and the suspension lowers a notch to counter against a high centre of gravity, but ultimately it never feels stiffly sprung.
Besides, the X7’s size doesn’t lend itself well to the notion of being thrashed about. Eco Pro mode proved the best driving situation. Here the X7 is finely balanced and it never feels compromised for true comfort or urge while also prioritising kindness to the environment.
Driving in built-up areas is excellent by elephantine standards and depending if you or the optional assisted driving steering can cleanly thread it in between lanes, the vehicle is city friendly enough.
On any road, it’s a car that will seldom bait you into pushing it beyond the limits as it’s particularly impressive at civil gliding speeds. But because the engine is a volcano of torque it won’t be long before it reels you in and you stampede down a road.
BMW says it’ll reach 100km/h from standstill in 5.4 seconds. Top speed is 250km/h. At pace it’s also clear that BMW’s engineers have worked hard to craft crispness in steering, turn in and poise. It has an assertive and surprisingly agile connection to roads, whether smooth or craggy, and strong and effective brakes to bring it to a safe halt.
A particular highlight is good fuel consumption, which averaged 11.1l/100m during its stay.
BMW built the X7 to go off-road. Its adaptable height and power at disposal will certainly help in this pursuit but if your travels will include hacking through inhospitable terrain, you should opt for the xOffroad Package.
The handsome and optional 22-inch alloys shod with low profile rubber found on our X7 are heart-break waiting around an off-road corner. Another new enhancement to the vehicle is active cruise control which is now linked to the navigation system and brake and throttle mechanicals.
The X7 is very aware of its surroundings. Using information from sensors that pick up and beam road speed limits on the display, on certain roads the X7 self-braked or accelerated according to this data sharing. What’s even more impressive is that the vehicle is able identify upcoming intersections or traffic circles, and automatically decreases speeds on approach.
It’s a sensational new chapter in BMW’s car making history and since it’s a generally lonely place at the very top of BMW where R2M usually nets you a Grand Tourer, a hybrid coupe or roadster or large sedans, with the X7 you can bring along five or six members of your family along to explore.
But one element does frustrate. The powerful engine is so responsive, even in its eco setting, that it’s not entirely suited for a calm, elegant demeanour. It could do with a gentler pulloff when driving around town.
Type: Six-cylinder diesel quad turbo
Type: Eight-speed automatic
Type: xDrive permanent all-wheel drive
Top speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 5.4 sec (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 7.3l/100km (claimed) 11.1l/100km (as tested)
Attentiveness Assist, six airbags, ABS with cornering brake control, Comfort Access, Driving Assist professional, camera and radar active cruise control, Stop&Go function, lane departure warning, steering and lane control assist, crossing traffic warning and rear collision prevention, parking cameras, reversing assist, run-flat tyres, tyre pressure monitor, adaptive air suspension with automatic self-levelling, driving experience control, hill descent control, M Sport Differential, hill-hold function, head-up display, BMW Live Cockpit Professional instrument display, navigation, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, gesture control, 20 GB Hard drive memory, Concierge Services, ConnectedDrive Services, 205 Watt output 10 speaker with nine-channel amplifier Harman Kardon surround sound system, SOS button and automatic and manual emergency calling, Preparation for Apple CarPlay, wireless telephony with wireless charging, Bluetooth
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R39,469 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
BMW X7 M50d:
Looks, size, refinement, power
Could do with a gentler pulloff
The BMW for large families
****Value For Money
Range Rover Autobiography SDV8, 250kW/740Nm — R2,024,600
Mercedes-Benz GLS 400d, 243/700Nm — R1,572,747
Lexus LX450d, 195kW/650Nm — R1,735,400
Land Cruiser 200 4.5D V8 VX-R, 195kW/650Nm — R1,449,000