Since its launch in 1999, BMW’s flagship SUV has always been the X5. However, over the years the buyer profile of SUVs has changed and buyers’ expectation of luxury has catapulted. To capitalise on this emerging market, BMW has launched a foray of X models from the run-about X1 all the way to the largest, the all-new X7.
This car is more than just a larger X5 − BMW have gone all out to showcase an SUV that has more space, more tech and more luxury for those who just want more. In line with the BMW naming convention, the 7 represents the luxury saloon that everyone has become accustomed to. And just like the 7 Series saloon, this vehicle is not cheap.
BMW X7 is a large SUV, but thanks to the clever designers in Stuttgart, the X7 does not look much bigger than the average SUV on the road. That is, until you pull up or park next to it. The vehicle dwarfs the common X5-size vehicle in both height and length. Even though it is such a big vehicle its silhouette makes it look sleek, almost like an athlete.
Upfront, the BMW kidney grill has been magnified and runs through to midway down the bumper. The sleek headlights that wrap around the front of the vehicle give a sense of sporty sophistication while the bonnet ridges, with an almost aggressive stance, ensure that the car ahead knows that this vehicle means business.
From the side, the vehicle is simple with just the waistline crease and a lower crease to split the height of the vehicle. Unfortunately there is no hiding of the vehicle’s length. In keeping with the front, the taillights are sleek and are joined to each other by a brushed aluminium strip that showcases that it’s a class above.
Open the large front doors and you are welcomed in typical BMW fashion by luxurious leather seats that can be adjusted to fit any body type, as well as a comfortable leather steering wheel and screens for the dashboard and infotainment system. In keeping with BMW style, a plethora of tech, from Apple CarPlay, to voice command and auto parking are welcome features. One feature I though was a gimmick addition but after using it, have grown to love is the last-50-metre memory. This effectively means that the vehicle remembers the last 50 metres before being switched off and can reverse those last 50 metres with pinpoint accuracy. This makes getting out of tricking parking spots a simple touch of a button. On a vehicle of this size, this feature is almost heaven sent.
The second row of seats is possibly the best place to be in the vehicle, as you have ample leg room to stretch out while enjoying your own personal screen as well as controls for the rear blinds and sunroof. The test vehicle was spec’d to be chauffeured around, with individual electric rear seats that incorporated heating and cooling. However, leg room in the third row of seats becomes tricky if you have adult-size feet, as there is not much space under the seats in front of you. Getting into the third row is quite an experience, as the second row moves automatically out of your way as you lift yourself off the ground and slide into the rear seats. Third-row passengers do have their own creature comforts like personal temperature controls, USB connectors and a fixed glass roof for when you just need to see the stars.
On the road, the X7 is as easy to drive as any SUV, although at high-speed cornering you do feel the weight and size of the vehicle. Even though BMW engineers have done a great job to get the centre of gravity low (the air suspension assists by lowering the car at high speeds), the vehicle still does have body roll. In the city centre the vehicle size does come to play and you feel like you are driving a tank, especially when you try to get into a normal parking spot.
On the open road is where this vehicle belongs and where it is in its element. It cruises along swallowing up the kilometres and you feel like you are on a floating carpet, which is impressive considering the over-22-inch wheels. The well-insulated cabin feels solid with little wind or road noise protruding. Thanks to the many driving aids, this car literally drives itself with a check every now and then on the steering wheel.
On the whole, BMW has lifted the bar when it comes to SUV luxury and is now in a league where it competes with the super-luxury brands like Rolls-Royce and Bentley. They have produced a vehicle that not only looks amazing but drives amazingly as well and is capable off-road. The luggage space is decent with all seven seats in place but when you drop the rear seats, you have space for your entire closet. BMW has created a vehicle for people who want more and more is what they will get, but at a price.
AUTHOR | Azim Omar (Torque Talk), a member of SAGMJ