by Sebastian Cenizo
If you want a big, spacious, three-row SUV with seating for seven, but you demand luxury and style, something like a Cadillac Escalade could be up your alley. However, when the consideration deviates from the American-made options, German quality is the only way to go. With unrivaled quality, performance, and style, the European offerings are market-leaders. For a company that once never had an interest in SUVs of any type, BMW has now produced one of the most impressive SUVs ever built. However, this is not your regular, affordable, family car. The BMW X7 starts at around $75,000. For that money, you get a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque under the hood. If that's not enough zing for you, two variations of a 4.4-liter twin-turbo can be had: one with 456 hp and 479 lb-ft and another producing 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. All models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and electric seats in every row.
For 2020, the existing range that included the 40i and 50i models is unchanged, but a new model joins the fray in the form of the xDriveM50i. This model features a unique M Sport body kit as standard, along with a number of performance enhancements that include a more powerful version of the engine found in the regular 50i (a model that can no longer be specced with the M Sport package), as well as 22-inch wheels, adaptive M suspension, and M Sport parts like an exhaust, a diff, and upgraded brakes. Five-zone climate control is also a new optional extra.
The X7 is controversial in its styling, but BMW claims that its buyers outside of Germany like the larger grilles that are the current bone of contention with BMW styling. Along with those humongous grilles, the front end gets disproportionately narrow LED headlights and fog lights, which help make the X7 look even taller than it is. A metal-colored accent strip runs from the front wheel arch all the way to the rear reflectors, beneath which sit pentagonal exhaust exits. On the roof, rails make the car look longer, while a choice of 21- or 22-inch wheels add further visual mass.
The BMW X7 is the biggest Bimmer ever made, and its height makes that clear. Sitting at just over 71 inches tall, something like a 2 Series looks like a matchbox car in comparison. It's a wide vehicle too, measuring 78.7 inches across, and to make that work, it's long - 203.3 inches long. The wheelbase is 122.2 inches in length, allowing for a breakover angle of 17.1 degrees. Ground clearance is 8.7 inches at its highest setting, with approach and departure angles measuring 23.1 and 20.5 degrees respectively. Thanks to adjustable air suspension, the height can be dropped to allow for easier access when parked or greater stability at higher speeds. Those dimensions mean a curb weight starting at 5,370 pounds for the 40i, 5,617 lbs for the 50i, and 5,661 lbs for the new M50i.
As standard, the X7 gets a wide variety of color choices at no charge, with the usual Alpine White and Jet Black making an appearance, and metallic options like Carbon Black and Black Sapphire also available. Other choices include Dark Graphite, Phytonic Blue, Arctic Grey, Manhattan Green, Vermont Bronze, and Mineral White. If you want a special Individual color, you can get your X7 painted in either Ametrin or Tanzanite Blue II at a cost of $1,950. Opting for the M50i model also adds various Cerium Grey highlights on the body, but no additional colors are unlocked with this model.
The new X7 M50i is now the range-topper and offers with its M Sport body a more powerful engine than either of the other two available trims. In this model, you get a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 developing the same amount of torque as the incredible M5 Competition super sedan. With 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque being sent to all four wheels, the M50i can engage launch control and complete the 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.5 seconds, a ridiculous time for a large premium SUV. However, top speed is limited to 130 mph (155 if you spec performance tires) just like the other two models in the range. All variants use an eight-speed automatic transmission that allows for paddle shifting, and all three are capable of towing up to 7,500 lbs with the correct towing hitch attached. Even the base model, with its 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder, is not slow, accelerating from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. However, this model doesn't manage higher speeds with better tires and is capped at 130 mph. Its output is rated at 335 hp and 330 lb-ft. In between the top and base trims is the xDrive50i, which uses a detuned version of the M50i's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 to produce 456 horses and 479 lb-ft of twist, allowing it to complete the benchmark sprint in 5.2 seconds.
The base model is known as the xDrive40i and is fitted with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that produces 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. With an eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox, the base X7 - and both other variants for that matter - are very smooth accelerators, with turbo lag all but imperceptible. The engine's responses are similarly refined, with a willingness to get you moving whether it be from a standing start or when you need to overtake.
Stepping up to the xDrive50i earns you an exceptional 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, ensuring that you're never wanting for power. However, BMW realizes that its customers like to pay more for more, and therefore introduced the M50i, a performance-enhanced super SUV that steps output up to 523 hp and 553 lb-ft. Although this much power is probably pointless overkill, the M50i will sell well due to the fact that it's the most expensive and most powerful X7 currently on offer. With an adaptive M Sport exhaust as standard, this model is also a more aggressive-sounding beast that helps announce your arrival to everyone in the vicinity.
Despite its hulking size and height, the X7 is not what you may expect. Somehow, BMW has managed to eke their signature driving feel out of the chassis, even on the base model. All variants of the X7 come with adjustable air suspension, and the result is a drive that exhibits far less body roll than expected while still maintaining supreme comfort and quiet ride quality. The steering feels perfectly weighted and provides impressive feedback, yet cracks and ripples and other small road imperfections are all ironed out with admirable poise. Switching into Sport mode firms things up a little, but only the worst knocks are ever registered through the massive wheels. Naturally, you won't be taking any X7 out on the racetrack, but the M50i comes with an M Sport differential and M Sport brakes anyway, helping it define itself as more than just an appearance package with some extra grunt. While we wouldn't complain about the braking on the base X7, it's certainly reassuring to have even stronger stopping power in an SUV that weighs well over 5,000 pounds and can easily hit 130 mph. Overall, the X7 is a sharp car for something of its size, yet retains phenomenal ride quality and a truly isolated cabin. If you want to go off-road, a package for that equips the X7 with additional drive modes for various types of slippery surfaces too.
The X7 in base form is respectably fuel-efficient, returning figures of 20/25/22 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The V8-equipped models are predictably worse, but as SUVs, are not subject to a gas guzzler tax, despite figures of 15/21/17 mpg on the same cycles. All models share a 21.9-gallon gas tank, with the V8s returning an estimated mixed range of around 372 miles. The more economical 3.0-liter should yield around 481 miles between fill-ups. In an effort to be as efficient as possible, all models are also fitted with stop/start technology.
The X7 has a beautiful interior, exactly the sort of ambiance you'd expect from a premium luxury SUV, and a wealth of gadgets that include a pair of 12.3-inch screens, one of which manages driver info with the other for infotainment. The cabin also offers a variety of colors and finishes, with choices including wood, leather, and aluminum. A panoramic sunroof is standard along with extended ambient lighting, but extra style can be had with an ambient lighting feature inside the sunroof panels. You can even get five-zone climate control, allowing the third row to manage their own temperature settings. However, these seats are the tightest in the cabin and should only be used for smaller children. It's a small blemish on an otherwise excellent vehicle, but it makes us question the point of the three-row X7 in the first place.
The BMW X7 seats two in the front portion of the cabin, with 16-way power front seats as standard offering plenty of comfort, lots of motion range, and a good driving position with plenty of space for heads and legs alike, regardless of body type. In the second row, a bench seat is standard and offers impressive comfort and space for three, but taller passengers will hope that you opt for the pair of captain's chairs instead. While all three rows feature electric movements, the third row is the least efficient, folding at a glacial pace. If you do decide to put people in these seats, it's best to ensure that these two individuals can double as Snow White's companions in a stage play. Otherwise, you'll hear complaints about being cramped on the entire drive, even if it's a short one.
As standard, the X7's seats are finished in black SensaTec leatherette, but other options are available. If you opt for the M Sport package ($4,350), you automatically get black leather with brown contrast stitching. Alternatively, Vernasca leather can be had in colors like Coffee, Cognac, or Black for $1,450. Merino leather is also available in Ivory White, Coffee, Black, or Tartufo for $2,450. All of the above colors can also be had as part of a luxury package for $7,750, including a $1,000 Anthracite Alcantara headliner. The 50i and M50i models get Vernasca leather as standard, with Merino a $1,000 option. Trim options include various types of wood and aluminum, with most options at no cost. Individual options of Piano Black, high gloss silver Fine Wood Ash Grain, and aluminum Fineline Black cost $1,080. Glass controls can also be optioned in for the gear-lever, volume control knob, start/stop button, and the iDrive controller. This costs $650.
Space in the X7 is why you would want to buy one, and with all of the rear seats up, there isn't too much of it - just 12.8 cubic feet. Although this is plenty for a pair of large suitcases, it makes it difficult to carry luggage for all the occupants. Nevertheless, if you want to be able to do that, you'll have to consider another full-size SUV. Fold the third row with its electric mechanisms in its 50/50 split and you may want to get someone to bring you a book and a cup of coffee - this takes a while. Once the third row is flat, you have an impressive 48.6 cubic feet available, and with all the seats stowed up to the first row, a cavernous 90.4 cubic feet of real estate is left before you.
In the cabin, each row gets a pair of cupholders, with heated and cooled cupholders in the forward section available as an option. The door pockets are decently sized, as are the glovebox and the space beneath the central armrests. You also get a spot in the center console that is big enough for a couple of phones and wallets.
The X7 is BMW's biggest car and, as such, needs to be big on tech too. It gets adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist, LED foglights, and adaptive LED brake lights too. Furthermore, all models are equipped with launch control, hill descent control, hill start assist, heated mirrors, adjustable air suspension, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof, and a power split tailgate with remote operation. Also included are 16-way power front seats (20-way massaging seats are an option, while the 50i and M50i both have 20-way power multi-contour front seats), electric adjustment for all rows, extended ambient lighting, and four-zone climate control. Continuing in the vein of comfort features, the front seats are heated along with the steering wheel, and you can opt for ventilated fronts, heated rears, and five-zone climate control. Other available options include a camera that scans the road ahead to better prepare the adaptive dampers, helping maintain comfort. Power rear sunshades, a head-up display, four-wheel steering, lane-keep assist, an evasion aid, an emergency stop system, autonomous traffic driving, a 360-degree camera, a parking assistant, a night vision camera, and heated and cooled cupholders, a drive recorder, and a perfume-wafting system can also be had. Standard safety tech includes post-crash braking, forward-collision warning with city-speed collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, active blind-spot assist with rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors at the front and the rear. A 12.3-inch configurable driver display is also standard.
The X7 uses a 12.3-inch touchscreen display to manage its infotainment system, a setup that includes navigation with real-time traffic updates, vocal controls, Bluetooth, a 32GB hard drive, a pair of USB ports, HD Radio, and SiriusXM satellite radio, with a ten-speaker sound system providing aural entertainment. A rear-seat entertainment system is also available, as are features like a Harman Kardon 12-speaker sound system. Along with iDrive 7, the system works brilliantly and is remarkably intuitive, although first-time users will likely take a little time to fully master its workings. The V8 50i models get a Harman Kardon 16-speaker setup as standard, but an astounding Bowers & Wilkins 20-speaker surround sound system can be specced too.
The X7 has thus far been subject to three 2020 recalls, the first of which was in late August for a steering rack that may fail. The second came towards the end of September and was for a faulty rearview camera display. The final recall was published by the NHTSA on the 30th of January and was for rear reflectors that did not bounce enough light back, decreasing visibility for other road users.
Warranty-wise, the X7 comes with three years/36,000 miles of complimentary maintenance and a 12-year/unlimited-mileage rust perforation warranty. Also included is a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and four years of roadside assistance.
The BMW X7 has thus far not been tested by either the NHTSA nor the IIHS, but with an impressive spread of standard safety features, it would likely fare well in a crash.
The BMW X7 is fitted with a wide variety of safety features as standard, including a rearview camera, hill start assist, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors (both at the front and in the rear), adaptive brake lights, a crash preparation system, post-crash braking with fuel and electrical shut-offs and SOS hazard lighting, a drowsy driver warning, lane departure warning, active blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and forward-collision warning with city-speed collision mitigation. Options include a head-up display, lane keep assist, an evasion aid, traffic jam autonomous driving, an autonomous parking assistant, and a surround-view 3D camera.
The BMW X7 is not what traditionalists and purists expected from the company, but that hasn't stopped them from making an astonishingly good SUV. The ride quality is remarkably brilliant, and the luxury and comfort features are truly impressive. Options like a five-zone climate control system and a perfume-wafting aeration system only elevate that luxury feel, making the X7 exactly what it's designed to be. In addition, the available V8 variants offer unbelievable, buttock-clenching acceleration, and with the adaptive suspension, it handles far better than it should while still being more than good enough to drive over the roughest roads. Even the base model is more than quick enough for most people, and it returns impressive fuel economy to boot. It's not perfect, though. The third row is terribly cramped, and the price is insane. But for those who can afford such a thing, it's just as good as it should be.
Pricing on the 2020 X7 starts at $73,900 for the xDrive40i model, exclusive of a $995 destination and handling fee. The mid-range xDrive50i is naturally a lot pricier, starting at a base price of $92,600, while the range-topping X7 M50i starts at $99,600 - presumably below the R100k mark as a sales tactic. Fully loaded, however, you can knock on the door of a $120,000 price tag all too easily.
The 2020 X7 is available in three trims: xDrive40i, xDrive50i, and M50i. The base model is fitted with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six producing 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, all of which is sent through an eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox, with all four wheels receiving motivation. As standard, the base model comes with SensaTec faux leather, 21-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, launch control, a pair of 12.3-inch multimedia screens, a panoramic sunroof, and adjustable air suspension. Other features include heated 16-way power front seats, four-zone climate control, and extended ambient lighting.
The xDrive50i gets a larger engine, with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 generating 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. This model gets Vernasca leather as standard, along with a Harman Kardon sound system, remote start, a surround-view camera, parking assist, a head-up display, and a drive recorder. Among the other advances it gains are 20-way power-adjustable front seats.
The M50i is the fastest and best-equipped model in the X7 lineup. It uses the same motor as the xDrive50i but gets 523 hp and 553 lb-ft out of it, all of which is once again sent via an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. In addition, it gets a unique body kit, 22-inch wheels, an Alcantara headliner, and a number of M Sport upgrades.??
The X7 can be had with a Premium package for the relatively small sum of $2,800. This adds gesture control, a head-up display, remote start, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, soft-close doors, and electric rear window shades to the base X7. If you want the full experience, the Executive package adds the same features plus a Sky Lounge LED panoramic roof, heated and cooled cupholders, and glass controls for $4,100. The Luxury Seating package is another nice touch, adding massaging front seats with ventilation and 20-way adjustment for $1,600. Night vision is also available for $2,300 and features pedestrian detection. Replacing the second-row bench with two captain's chairs is an $850 upgrade and naturally reduces total seating capacity to six.
Despite how tempting the power and handling prowess of the M50i may be, this is a vehicle that should be as quiet and as comfortable as possible. The V8 options in the lineup are still very serene and exhibit tremendous ride quality, but they also feel a little bit like overkill. The base engine in the X7 is more than good enough and still makes the SUV quite rapid. If you intend to tow stuff, we'd recommend opting for the trailer hitch at $550, unlocking access to 7,500 lbs of towing ability. We'd also consider the Executive package as an option for its extra luxury and convenience. Finally, we'd add ventilated front seats and the obligatory full-leather package that this option comes with.
Although this model has not yet been released, the Audi Q7 is shaping up to be a hugely attractive vehicle. Its base engine is a 2.0-liter four-pot TFSI motor, like in the 2019 model, producing 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It, too, gets adaptive LED headlights and LED taillights, along with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Adaptive cruise control is joined by features like a 10.1-inch infotainment screen and a 360-degree camera. Despite all this tech, the base price is a much more palatable $54,800 before the $995 destination charge, making it a very attractive option. However, the luxury and power of the X7 go a long way to justifying its price premium, and although we'd have to drive the more-equally powered turbocharged version to have a definitive answer on which car is better, the Q7 is still likely to be outdone as a pure luxury SUV.
Starting at $58,900, the BMW X5 is another interesting proposition. Although not as big and as capable of carrying people as the X7, the X5 has proven to be an excellent SUV over the years, and in base form, it shares the same engine and output as the base X7. Thanks to a lighter body, it's quicker too. However, the X7's numerous standard features like a Wi-Fi hotspot, adaptive cruise control, a hands-free liftgate, and a premium sound system are all missing from the X5 in its cheapest form. Of course, if you're willing to shell out extra, there are numerous trims to choose from, each with increasing levels of power and comfort. However, for some, the status and the extra cargo space (a maximum of 90.4 cubes versus the X5's 72.3) may keep you from stepping down a notch to the X5. The choice will ultimately come down to your personal wants and needs, but either Bavarian bruiser is likely to impress.