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Driving impression: BMW X7 xDrive 30d and M50d





31 May 2019


We’ve been fortunate enough to spend loads of time behind the wheel of the current BMW X5, which presents a bit of a problem.

The X5 is such a complete package that one can’t help but wonder why BMW even bothered building its bigger brother in the first place.

One could point to the two extra seats in the third row, but it’s highly unlikely BMW went through the effort of designing an entire new car and revamping its Spartanburg factory, simply so it could add a third row so your kids’ friends could tag along for the ride.

Surely it would have been more efficient to offer an X5 with two additional seats?

This car was built for one reason and it’s the same reason the Audi Q8 exists – the sedan is dead. Long live the SUV. (We’ll get back to the seats eventually, however)

With that in mind, manufacturers now need an entire line-up of SUVs to compete in the segments once dominated by sedans. The luxury barge sedan may still be around, but we reckon it has maybe one lifecycle left before it’s inevitably replaced by the likes of the big body Range Rover, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Aston Martin DBX and the currently nameless Ferrari SUV.

The X7 is BMW’s answer to the above. For now, at least. Last year we asked a BMW spokesperson whether there will be an X8 and he simply stated that BMW was always investigating emerging segments. At the time of writing, there rumours of an upcoming X8 are rife. We’re not saying it’s going to happen, but we most certainly won’t shocked if it does get the green light.

In any case, back to the X7. As the number in its nomenclature suggests, it’s meant to compete in the upper echelons of motoring. Prospective customers in this segment aren’t interested in “reasonable pricing,” but, for the record, we think the X7 is actually not that expensive. Compared to a few of the other cars mentioned a little further up in this missive, the X7 might even be called a bargain.

Styling

Normally we reserve comment on styling. What works for one person, doesn’t work for the next, so we usually leave it for you, dear reader, to decide.

In the case of the X7, we can’t not comment on the looks of the X7. There’s an elephant in the room and by now you’ve probably spotted it. It’s the elephant-sized grille and it has been a constant source of mockery since the first images of this SUV emerged online.

To us the huge grille makes perfect sense. The kidney grille is the most famous design feature in BMW history, so why not make it as prominent as possible on the biggest car you currently make.

We’re not saying it’s attractive, but it does make a statement as any aspirational SUV should. And to be perfectly frank, the X7 isn’t nearly as flashy or ostentatious as some other high-end SUVs out there.

It styling does exactly what it needs to do, in our humble opinion. It says, “I’m a big BMW and I cost a lot of money.” Job done.

 

Substance

As you’d expect, there are no small engines available. The entry-level – if one could call it that – is the xDrive 30d, which is equipped with a 195kW/620Nm six-cylinder turbocharged diesel. We know this engine well and it’s magnificent. It does everything adequately, while being reasonably light on juice. In the X5, the 30d is undoubtedly the model to go for.

Thing is, if you’re going to have the ultimate, you might as well have the ultimate engine to go with it. Luckily, BMW offers two engines that cater to individuals who want the most amount of power.

In the X7, we reckon the M50d is the one you want. Not because the 30d feels underpowered, but rather because the quad-turbo six-cylinder diesel suits the nature of the car better. Not in terms of power, but rather because of what it is. The 294kW/760Nm figures are massively impressive, as is the 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.4 seconds, but what really matters is how good you’re going to feel owning a car with four turbochargers. The only other production car with the same bragging rights is Bugatti’s Chiron.

For ultimate performance, you’ll have to wait for the M50i turbocharged petrol. It will only be available at a later stage, but it seems like it’s going to be the most entertaining out of the three engine options. With 390kW and 750Nm on tap, this particular model can sprint to 100km/h in less than five seconds.

For now, though, the 50d is the one to have. That surge of torque is magical, even in a hefty car like this.

All X7 models come as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

As for the ride and handling, it’s exactly what you’d expect from BMW. The X7 rides on an air suspension and it does a brilliant job on and off road. Even when fitted with optional 22-inch alloys, the X7 remains remarkably stable on a gravel road. And surprisingly comfortable.

On tar it’s even more impressive. The car can’t escape its weight, but we were expecting it to lean way more through the corners than what we actually experienced. Once again, BMW hit the nail on the head by finding that perfect spot between comfort and sport.

 

Gadgets

Being the halo SUV for the moment, the X7 is equipped with a lot of features. In fact, there aren’t as many options available as there are on the X5, simply because the X7 already includes most of what you want as standard.

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 classily designed control panel on the centre console to create a progressive re-interpretation of BMW’s customary driver focus.

Grouped together clearly in the centre console are the iDrive Controller, the transmission’s newly designed gear selector, the start/stop button, the Driving Experience Control switch controls, the button for the electric parking brake and the buttons governing the settings for the air suspension and optional off-road modes. The control panel for the heating and air conditioning system also has a modern design. And the light functions in the BMW X7 are likewise operated using buttons. High-quality glass applications for selected controls are available as an option. This exclusive, visually and haptically appealing design feature is used for the gear selector, the start/stop button, the Controller and the audio system’s volume control.

Standard specification for the new BMW X7 also 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. The telephony with wireless charging option allows compatible mobile phones to be topped up wirelessly in the tray ahead of the cupholders.

The likewise standard ambient lighting, with its precise LED contour lighting for the instrument panel, centre console and door trim, enhances the generous feeling of space during the hours of darkness. Customers can create their preferred light mood by selecting from six colour tones and a variety of settings via the iDrive control system. The ambient lighting system includes the Welcome Light Carpet – which illuminates the entry area to the car when the doors are unlocked or opened – and Dynamic Interior Light, which emits pulsating light signals in pre-defined situations. These signals appear on the inner panelling of an open door when the engine is running and on the instrument panel in response to an incoming phone call.

With its ten speakers, the standard-fitted hi-fi speaker system already treats the driver and passengers inside the new BMW X7 to impressive audio richness. However, 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. And the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 20 speakers and 1,500-watt amplifier lays on a particularly sumptuous listening experience. A digital seven-channel amplifier and additional sound sources in the roof area generate an absorbingly clear and multi-layered 3D sound experience for people in all seats. The likewise optional Rear-seat entertainment Professional system comprises a pair of 10.2-inch full-HD touchscreen displays, a Blu-ray-compatible DVD player, two USB ports, an HDMI socket and two headphone jacks. Another two USB ports are provided for the third row of seats. The system works using the BMW Operating System 7.0 display and control system, and so allows those in the rear of the vehicle to select and operate entertainment functions. The rear-seat passengers can use both their own media sources and those available in the front compartment. A navigation map and BMW ConnectedDrive services can also be accessed in the rear seats.

Then there are the seats. The standard configuration is two in the front, three in the second row and two in the back. As an optional extra, you can specify six seats – two in the front, two in the second row and two in the third row.

This is definitely an option to go for. The amount of space in the second row is superb, as are the seats. It’s the closest you can get to business class on the ground, which is exactly what you want in a luxury barge.

Summary

The BMW X7 is a superb vehicle, which doesn’t have any real competition at the moment. Its nearest rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLS, is still months away and every other seven-seater doesn’t offer as much right now.

If you’re in the market for the ultimate luxury barge with seating for six/seven, this is pretty much the only option out there. It’s just as well it’s a very good option.

Pricing:

X7 xDrive 30d: R1 554 500

X7 xDrive M50d: R1 853 200