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Car reviews - BMW - X7 - xDrive30d

Our Opinion

We like
Bold looks, luxurious and practical interior, reliable turbo-diesel engine and automatic transmission, light steering, dreamy ride
Room for improvement
Dim and quirky digital instrument cluster, no escaping its sheer size – especially when parking, body control could be even better

BMW shows upper-large SUVs how it’s done on its first attempt with X7 xDrive30d

BMW logo21 Oct 2019

Overview

 

WHEN there’s an automotive niche to fill, BMW is usually one of the first brands to fill it, but not in this case. See, upper-large SUVs have been around for a while, with luxury versions like the Range Rover firmly front of mind when the topic is brought up.

 

But it wouldn’t be like BMW to rest on its laurels. Enter the X7. Yes, the new model’s name is predictable but the weight of expectation it carries is significant. In Bavarian folklore, the number seven is held in high regard. Very high.

 

With the storied 7 Series limousine as its guiding light, does the X7 not only put heat on its rival upper-large SUVs but also earn its hallowed moniker? We put it to test in entry-level xDrive30d form to find out.

 

Drive impressions

 

Everyone wants to make a great first impression, but it’s often not the case. Take the X7 for example. When it was revealed, you could hear BMW aficionados across the world gasp in fear.

 

While you can certainly count us among the doubters, viewing the hulking X7 in person tells a different story. Yes, its oversized grille will divide, especially the BMW traditionalists, but – in our view – it gives the all-new model the character it needs to stand out from the crowd.

 

But, let’s be honest, if you’re a passenger in the X7, you’re not paying attention to its exterior styling. Instead, the interior is where the action is at, and what a place to be it is.

 

Yes, the cockpit is more or less lifted from the new-generation X5, but that’s not a bad thing. The design itself is simple and to the point, which is frankly all you could ask for.

 

You also get BMW’s excellent new infotainment system – clumsily named Operating System 7.0 – which is proudly projected onto a 12.3-inch touchscreen positioned centrally. Don’t worry, the easy-to-use rotary dial carries over a controller, too.

 

Meanwhile, hit-and-miss always-on natural voice control serves as a new and improved way of interacting with the fresh set-up, while gimmicky gesture control persists only to be engaged by accident when flailing your hands about.

 

What isn’t crash hot, though, is the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that doesn’t feel bright enough during daylight. But never mind that, its real issue is its narrow band of functionality. Rival set-ups go much, much further, with Audi comfortably leading the pack.

 

That said, BMW happily sets the standard for head-up displays with its windshield-projected set-up found in the X7. Big, bright and full of information, it’s the undisputed champion.

 

Technology aside, the X7 makes the most of its gargantuan proportions with its massive cabin. Case in point: The second row feels on par with that of a long-wheelbase 7 Series. The amount of legroom on offer is plain stupid.

 

Want further evidence? The middle bench is wide enough that three adults can be comfortably catered for on longer journeys. This is partly thanks to the low transmission tunnel that ensures there is plenty of room for feet.

 

Headroom isn’t a problem, either, with a couple of inches available, even with the humongous panoramic sunroof in place. Hell, the third row gets its own separate glass roof panel with a power-operated sunblind.

 

Speaking of seats six of seven, ingress and egress to the third row are helped by the super-wide rear doors and power-operated middle bench.

 

Children will have a ball at the back, but adults are better off pinch-hitting there. We’re 184cm tall and found our knees resting on the second row’s backrest, while headroom was limited. That said, shoulder room was more than acceptable.

 

With all this room, it would make sense to assume that cargo capacity is similarly generous and you’d be right. A hatch-rivalling 326L is available with all seats upright, but drop the second and third rows and up to 2120L is on offer. 2120L. The door bins are huge, too.

 

This space is made that more usable by the X7’s power-operated split tailgate and near-flat load area. A word of warning, though. You have to be patient with second and third rows as they slowly – and we mean slowly – become stowed.

 

Before we go, it’s worth noting that the xDrive30d tested here had its price increased by $5000, to $124,990 plus on-road costs, just three months after entering showrooms.

 

While this certainly negatively impacts its value equation, the equivalent X5 variant moved up by the same amount at the same time, meaning the X7’s premium stays the same, at $7000, and it remains a no-brainer for those that need the extra space and/or seats.

 

Our test vehicle was fitted with the Design Pure Excellence Package, which at $15,000, is enough to incite cardiac arrest, but is adds the delightful – and aptly named – front comfort seats, supple extended Merino leather upholstery and an Alcantara headliner that feels as nice as a puppy, among other features.

 

In fact, luxurious materials are used everywhere – and we mean everywhere. The second you step inside a similarly specified X7, you will be blown away. Comparing it to its 7 Series sibling that costs about $80,000 more for an equivalent variant seems silly but isn’t.

 

Looking at the X7, it would be fair to assume that it feels like a bus to drive. In some cases, this is true, but we are talking about a BMW here…

 

Unusually for the Bavarian brand, though, the X7’s steering is properly light in its Comfort setting, making low-speed manoeuvres – especially in car parks – much easier.

 

That said, there is no escaping the fact that this is a beast that is 5151mm long, 2000mm wide and 1805mm tall. There are just some places it can’t go, no matter how much smaller it may feel to drive.

 

Out on the open road, the steering is surprisingly direct but lacks off-centre feel, however feedback does get better as more lock is applied. Predictably, its Sport mode adds weight and further improves communication.

 

The X7’s real party trick, though, is its air suspension with adaptive dampers. If the interior is luxurious, the ride feels even better.

 

Lumps, bumps, humps, doesn’t matter what you throw at it, it will just iron it all out – even when rolling on our test vehicle’s 22-inch alloy wheels wrapped in run-flat tyres!

 

You would expect this to impact the X7’s handling but it doesn’t. No, we’re not going to pretend like this an upper-large SUV that doesn’t lean into corners at speed, because it does, but it does remain relatively well-planted.

 

The xDrive30d tested here is motivated by a familiar 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine that produces a healthy 195kW of power at 4000rpm and 620Nm from 2000-5000rpm.

 

Mated to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system and ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission, this unit serves up solid straight-line performance.

 

From standstill, 100km/h comes up in seven seconds, which its comparable to a warm hatch. By the seats of the pants, acceleration is pleasing when stretching its legs on a country road.

 

But the X7 is an upper-large SUV that will likely spend most of its time in the urban jungle, which is good because the xDrive30d’s wide torque band makes city driving a breeze.

 

If you want even stronger performance, the quad-turbo M50d is viable option, but with a sticker price of $171,900, it just isn’t worth the extra money for 294kW and 760N  m.

 

Either way, gear changes are both quick and smooth, with the transmission intuitive enough to know exactly what to do and when to do it.

 

Shifting across to Sport moves shift points to higher engine speeds, enabling brisker acceleration. That said, it still knows when to settle down in full-attack mode.

 

During our week with the xDrive30d, we averaged 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres over 290km of driving skewed towards urban stints. This is 2.0L/100km higher than BMW’s claim, but we suspect a better result would be returned with more long-distance runs.

 

Warranty and servicing

 

As with all BMW models, the X7 comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance. Service intervals are every year or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

 

Verdict

 

If you haven’t worked it out already, BMW has knocked it out of the park with the X7. Simply put, it rocked up on the first day of school and showed its entire class who the new top dog is.

 

Yes, its looks may turn away some buyers, but there’s no denying that it has presence by the boatload. And add to that the much more important element of luxury and you have a seriously compelling package. If that’s not enough, don’t forget that this is a BMW, too, so it also ticks all of the driving boxes.

 

So, as it stands right now, the X7 is the default buy when it comes to upper-large SUVs. But just do yourself a favour and get the xDrive30d. It has and does everything you want at a relatively reasonable price. Bravo, BMW.

 

Rivals

 

Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 200kW (from $106,900 plus on-road costs)

It might play in the segment below, but the Q7 is a natural rival for X7 due to its seven-seat layout. A heavily facelifted version looms next in 2020.

 

Mercedes-Benz GLS350d (from $118,370 plus on-road costs)

With a new-generation model due in a matter of months, the GLS perhaps makes for an unfair comparison to the X7, but it is a traditional rival, nonetheless.

 

Range Rover SDV6 Vogue (from $196,102 plus on-road costs)

It may lack a third row, but the Ranger Rover has been setting the luxury standard for upper-large SUVs like the X7 for a very, very long time.

Model release date: 1 May 2019

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