At Sin City, the X7 is out to prove bigger is better!

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Mar 21, 2019

Inspired by the flagship sedan?

Inspired by the flagship sedan?

Cohesive design The rear three-quarter is a good viewing angle for the X7

Cohesive design The rear three-quarter is a good viewing angle for the X7

Luxurious and feature-rich cabin is an oasis of calm

Luxurious and feature-rich cabin is an oasis of calm

Crystal elements lift the luxe quotient

Crystal elements lift the luxe quotient

BMW’s new flagship SUV is due to take on the big boys of the luxury class with its presence, build and space

BMW says that the new X7 represents the next stage in the brand’s ongoing model offensive and that the planned expansion of the X model portfolio is a key part of its ‘Number One > Next’ strategy.

That the X7 is set to be its flagship SUV, beating even the massive X6 is telling about the state of the market worldwide, where buyers’ appetite for even bigger vehicles doesn’t seem to have been fully sated.

It does seem ironic coming from the German luxury brand that was the first to launch an independent brand for electrics. But BMW has watched from the sidelines as competitors like the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLS have managed to pull in buyers who have sought size and space. And this is a fairly big market to ignore, not just in the US and China, but also in our own country.

The X7 is a 5.15-metre, two and half tonne behemoth that will help BMW cater to this audience. And unlike the X5’s tight 7-seater configuration, the X7 will have room to spare and some. In fact, even the third-row twin seats are very usable even by adults and there is no dearth for personal treats like auto aircon, charging slots and sunroof either.

The second row’s optional two (captain) comfort seats are even better offering the same level of comfort and flexibility as the front two – driver and passenger – seats. The standard configuration is a second row bench seat, which then means that the new X7 is offered either as a 6- or 7-seater configuration.

Design

That massive kidney grille, the biggest ever in BMW’s history, has been parodied quite a bit by international media. But, the designer’s purpose has clearly been to deliver a disproportionate impact at the front; to reinstate the position of the new SAV (sports activity vehicle) at the top of the portfolio. The rest of the elements stacked on a rather upright nose are all more appropriately sized. The LED headlamps are sleek units which remind me of the 7 Series, as do the horizontally-oriented taillamps with the connecting chrome bar. But all the elements need to be proportionately a little larger than in the other models. So, something like the BMW roundel right above the centre of the kidney grille is also bigger in the X7. Optionally, the headlamps can be specified with BMW Laserlight adaptive LEDs.

While the front design is meant to be aggressive, even intimidating – with the huge bonnet, and massive intakes and air curtains, the side profile and rear design seem much more cohesive and purposeful. The new X7 doesn’t seem to be as tall as the GLS, but when viewed from the side, the massive wheel arches that can house upto 22-inch rims, and the large window glass area, manage to visually lower the vehicle. The fact that this is a SUV which has rear seat occupants in focus becomes more obvious when you see that the rear doors are longer and open wider than the front two.

The rear design looks like a vertical reinterpretation of the 7 Series’ layered boot. The powered, split tailgate opens to reveal a relatively frugal 326-litres of boot space. But fold the third row and it becomes 750-litres and a humungous 2,120-litres with the second row folded.

All seats are electrically foldable and since two-axle air suspension is standard the vehicle can also be lowered by 40mm at the touch of a button in the boot to make loading easier.

Cabin

I had travelled earlier this week to Las Vegas in the US for taking part in the international media test drive of the new X7. In the middle of all the other big trucks and luxury SUVs on the roads of Sin City, the X7’s size didn’t seem daunting. Thankfully when you get behind the wheel too its heft pretty much vanishes. On the move towards Death Valley and beyond, I also quickly realise that the X7’s cabin is an oasis of calm. The quilted seats are perfect, the insulated glass and other NVH features completely banish external noise and vibrations. The cabin is dead silent even in Death Valley with no wind or tyre noise seeping in. It is also wide and spacious; in fact it is enough to allow an adult to get into the gap between the second row captain seats (without folding them) and slip into third row seats.

The cabin is also plush with acres of leather and electroplated trim. There are also the optional additions of the crystal glass elements for the gear selector lever and the iDrive controller. The panoramic sunroof and the dedicated sunroof for the third row too make it a well-lit cabin. It’s list of features are also equally focused on the driver and the rear passengers, with the latter getting their own controls for the sunroof, privacy sheers and fore/aft adjustments for the front seats. A whole host of other convenience and comfort features are available, including an optional Harman Kardon or Bowers & Wilkins music system.

Two control screens each 12.3-inches in size offer info, entertainment and connectivity options. One of them is the digital instrument cluster and the other centrally mounted infotainment screen on the dash also offers gesture controls. The Design Pure Excellence and M Sport equipment line packages can be chosen for further customisation options.

Performance

At launch, the new X7 is being offered with two petrol and two diesel engine options. All of them are paired with 8-speed steptronic transmissions. The X7 xDrive30d with its 3-litre, in-line six-cylinder diesel engine is likely to come to India, but was not available during the drive. Instead, I got to experience the X7 xDrive40i, which features a 2,998cc, in-line six-cylinder petrol engine that produces 340hp of peak power and 450Nm of peak torque. Featuring BMWs twin turbocharging and other tech such as variable valve timing and variable camshaft control, the 40i engine may seem undernourished on paper, but it is an extremely refined mill that still manages to deliver through the acceleration cycle. It has fairly strong mid and top-end whack too, though it can’t match the V8’s performance in the xDrive 50i. The over 2.5-tonne SUV clocks 6.1 seconds for the 0-100kmph sprint and has a top speed of 245kmph.

The gearbox shifts imperceptibly and there is a muted growl from the engine only when it is worked hard. Otherwise, it is complete isolation from the world for the cabin’s occupants.

The ride quality is also surprisingly pliant and accommodating even over some badly broken tarmac in Death Valley and the outskirts of Los Angeles, and that too despite the wide run-flat tyres that my X7 wore. Ride comfort is keeping with the positioning of the X7 as a potentially chauffeur-driven vehicle even in markets like the US. Big boost to ride comfort comes from the two-axle air suspension with self-levelling that is part of standard equipment. Integral Active Steering is available as an optional addition – a feature which can help make tight manoeuvres easy at slow speeds and can also help counter under or over-steer when working with the differential lock and its precise distribution of power.

The latest generation of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is another feature that the X7’s dynamics benefits from and links up with Dynamic Stability Control. Four off-road driving modes are also available to choose from.

Bottom line

The new X7 is being offered with a host of other driver assistance systems as standard. But for even more options, there is the Driving Assistant Professional package with its lane keeping and parking assistance features.

Despite its size, the X7 is surprisingly nimble, precise and fast. The steering is extremely precise and there is a pleasant centre-weighted feel to it.

There is negligible body roll and the compensations are so good even while taking corners fast that there is a strange sort of confidence that builds up after a few such turns.

Without giving out too much info, BMW officials claim that the X7 matched the lap times of the M3 at the Nordschleife in Germany. That is very impressive for a behemoth like the X7. So, though it doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly differently compared to a X5, it can be a worthy addition for a buyer looking for a 6-/ 7-seater that is not a compromise. Expect India launch before Q4 this year and prices upwards of a crore.

Published on March 21, 2019
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