by Jared Rosenholtz
BMW knows its customers are changing. Whereas the executive of the past just wanted to cruise the Autobahn at 150 mph in their quiet luxury sedan, today's champion of industry needs a vehicle that can do everything. This includes hauling the family around, towing the family boat and also keeping that 155 mph Autobahn run on the back-burner. That's why BMW has introduced the all-new X7, the largest SUV the company has ever produced. It sits above the X5 and X6 in the lineup and offers three usable rows of seating, each of which pampers its occupants in sumptuous luxury.
But being comfortable can not be the only positive attribute of a BMW. It has to drive well too. So can BMW's biggest model ever still ignite a spark while pampering up to seven passengers? BMW sent us a 2019 X7 xDrive50i (the V8 model) to find out.
Catering to the demand for something larger and more luxurious than an X5 to do battle against the GLS and the likes of the Bentley Bentayga, the BMW X7 is an all-new model for 2019. The long-awaited seven-seater is also the largest in the BMW SAV family and boasts a full complement of advanced driver aids, BMW's Live Cockpit Professional, and the Intelligent Personal Assistant. Based on BMW's modular CLAR platform, the X7 shares its CLAR underpinnings with the latest X5, 8 Series, and even the Toyota GR Supra.
Boasting the largest BMW kidney-grille ever, every aspect of the X7 is supersized - it may seem over the top initially, but it actually matches the vehicle's imposing stance the more you analyze it. It stands larger than any other BMW and has aggressive styling to add to that sense of presence. The large grille is underscored by assertively-styled lower fascias and tipped by twin Laser headlights that extend up to the grille, creating flowing lines that sweep through to the side profile. Big windows and long rear doors hint at the space inside, while 21-inch wheels (with even bigger 22s as optional equipment) fill the arches. A three-section panoramic glass roof is fitted as standard and even lights up at night.
The most substantial BMW model in the lineup, the X7 has a total length of 203.3 inches - longer than all but the 7 Series sedan - is 78.7 inches wide, and stands 71.1 inches tall - this is almost nine inches longer than its X5 sibling, and two inches taller. Stretched over a 122.2-inch wheelbase, the X7 has more than five inches over the X5 as well. At a curb weight of 5,370 lbs in its base guise, the X7 also weighs in at around 550 lbs more than the X5, and tips the scales at 5,617 lbs in its top-end variant. It has a ground clearance of 8.7 inches, while those who may dare take it off-road will find the approach and departure angles of 23.1 and 20.5 degrees decent but not exceptional.
The available palette for the X7 includes existing colors as seen on other BMW models along with all-new options. Standard options include Alpine White, Carbon Black (when the M Sport Package is equipped), Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Arctic Grey, and Vermont Bronze on the list. Jet Black, Dark Graphite, and Phytonic Blue have been added to the options as well. Our tester came finished in an elegant shade of Mineral White. While the X7 won't turn too many heads for its six-figure price tag, it does carry an imposing presence regardless of color. BMW's color palette for the X7 isn't too exciting but we doubt owners want their executive SUV to be finished in a crazy hue.
Two powertrains options are available for the X7: a 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged six-cylinder engine producing 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque is fitted to the base model xDrive40i, while the top-end xDrive50i gets a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 making 456 hp and 479 lb-ft. Both powertrains are paired to an eight-speed automatic, and BMW's xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive is standard.
The apex performer in the range is the V8, with its torque available across a broad rev band; this gives instant accelerating power and means that the sprint to 60 mph takes only 5.2 seconds. Additionally, when equipped with the appropriate tow hitch, the X7 can pull 7,500 lbs behind it with ease regardless of engine choice. While the lesser-powered six-pot might be slower than the 50i model, it's still no slouch, bringing up 60 mph in 5.8 seconds on its way to a limited top speed of 130 mph. BMW will also add a more powerful M50i version with 523 hp for the 2020 model year and an Alpina version with 600 hp is also rumored.
Although all-wheel-drive is standard across the range, models are differentiated by their choice between two engines. The entry-level model is decked out with 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six that makes 335 hp and 330 lb-ft. The more potent xDrive50i puts out 456 hp and 479 lb-ft from its 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 motor. Both engine options are mated to BMW's eight-speed Steptronic transmission, which - in classic BMW fashion - is smooth and precise.
Our tester was the V8 xDrive50i model but we've had the chance to sample both engine options in the X7. The base xDrive40i produces plenty of power but the xDrive50i raises the output to intoxicating levels. We think 90% of buyers will find the inline-six adequate but the V8 transforms the X7 into a barnstormer.
This does not feel like a three-row SUV, it feels like a two-seater sports car. That's what we were thinking from behind the wheel of the X7. No SUV weighing more than 5,000 pounds should be able to take a corner like the X7 does, let alone feel this comfortable when the road gets bumpy. The X7 features double-wishbone front suspensions and a five-link rear suspension with dynamic damper control, self-leveling air suspension, and active roll stabilization. Together, these systems combine to eliminate the body roll you'd expect from such a large SUV, making the X7 feel more nimble than its massive size would imply.
But BMW hasn't sacrificed comfort in pursuit of performance. The X7 is among the most comfortable SUVs money can buy. We drove the X7 over Orlando, Florida's roughest highway, I-4, and the X7 eliminated all of the typical tire dronings and choppy ride that most vehicles experience on this particularly terrible stretch of road. As for the driving experience, BMW hasn't let its signature driving dynamics fall to the wayside. The steering offers plenty of weight without feeling too heavy while the included drive modes firm up the suspension and sharpen the throttle.
While the mandate of a full-size luxury SUV is hardly one of eco-friendliness and being light on the pocket, the X7's two powertrains don't perform too insufferably. Premium unleaded is the requirement for both motors, with the most economical option being the xDrive40i's smaller-displacement six-cylinder. It's good for an EPA-claimed 20/25/22 mpg city/highway/combined, while the bi-turbo V8 in the xDrive50i claims estimates of 15/21/17 mpg. Very much on par with what the X5 manages in terms of gas mileage, the X7's hefty curb weight doesn't stop it from outdoing the Mercedes-Benz GLS, the Merc offering paltry figures of only 16/22/18 mpg in six-cylinder guise, making the X7 a class-leader in this regard. With its 21.9-gallon tank, you could tour around 482 miles before running out of gas.
The X7 has three rows of seating that can comfortably seat up to seven passengers - and for a change, even the third row of seats isn't torturous to sit in. The second row can be optioned with two individual comfort seats, and the third is spacious enough to incorporate armrests, cupholders and even USB ports. Power-adjustments are available for all seats in the cabin, and leather trim is standard. In terms of dashboard layout, BMW has done a superb job of anticipating driver needs: the iDrive Controller, gear selector, control witches, and drive-mode settings are all logically grouped together and within reach, and with great visibility due to large windows, makes for a comfortable vehicle to pilot. As a flagship luxury SUV (or SAV as BMW prefers it to be called), the interior quality is superb, with upper-class materials, modern design, and no expenses spared in terms of luxury - even to the point of offering the iDrive controls in Swarovski crystal.
You will be comfortable no matter which row you choose in the X7. Up front, the diamond-stitched leather chairs offer heating and ventilation (which can be used simultaneously for some reason) as well as a massage function with several modes. The second row, while not quite as pampered, offers power adjustment so even taller occupants will find a comfortable seating position. BMW says the X7 sports 37.6-inches of legroom in the second row, which is small compared to the segment, but it doesn't feel so in practice.
And those back seat riders will never grow bored with the number of fancy tech toys to play with. Each of the captain's chairs has its own touchscreen, which can control the car's infotainment independently or co-dependently with the main system up front. Riders can also enjoy playing with the X7's powered sun visors and massive sunroof, which BMW calls the SkyLounge - it lights up at night in gorgeous fashion. And as for the third row, it offers a usable amount of space in the rear even for adults. Third-row occupants even get their own glass roof, climate controls, and UBS ports.
Our 2019 X7 tester came sporting a Tartufo Extended Merino Leather package for $1,000, pushing the luxury envelope beyond even our lofty expectations. An X7 will never be a spartan vehicle in any configuration but the extended leather covers almost every touchable area in the car, making it feel worth every bit of its six-figure price tag. BMW offers a variety of color options on the interior including Cofee (dark brown), Cognac (light brown), Black, and Ivory White. Buyers can also opt for a two-tone Ivory White and Night Blue interior, giving the X7 a beautiful nautical theme inside - perfect for towing your boat to the yacht club.
With three rows of seating in place, just 12.8 cubic feet are available in a relatively narrow cargo bay. 48.6 cubic feet is available for cargo storage when the third row is folded away (which is done electronically with the touch of a button) and further opens up to 90.4 cubes with the second row stowed away, too. It is worth noting if you opt for the captain's chairs, like our tester, the second row can not fold flat. This space is more than enough for a family of four to accommodate all passengers as well as vacation luggage in the cabin. As with the X5, the X7 offers a split-folding opening, with the liftgate opening upwards with a button press, and the lower tailgate folding down electronically for added convenience in loading. Both close automatically when prompted to do so, making this both practical and user-friendly.
The cabin offers numerous small-item storage options, including a substantial space below the third row of seats, deep door pockets, and an average glove box. The available cupholders are actually useful, though, and offer a nifty heating/cooling function as well as part of available package upgrades.
As the crown jewel of the BMW SUV range, the X7 is stock fitted with an abundance of features, including four-zone automatic climate control (five-zone being optional), a panoramic moonroof with controls available to rear-seat passengers, keyless entry, push-button start, Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless device charging, and heated front seats as standard. The steering wheel can also be power-adjusted, and an Intelligent Personal Assistant is on hand to respond to voice prompts and adjust temperatures, seating positions, and remember routes, as instructed.
On the upper-spec xDrive50i, the BMW head-up display is standard, which can be added optionally onto the base model. The list of onboard driver-assist systems is substantial, too: a rearview camera, active driving assistant that imbues the X7 with blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, rear collision warning, frontal collision warning, pedestrian alert, and city collision mitigation. The active driving assitant is among the best we've tested and even borders on self-driving in certain circumstances. Cross-traffic alert and automatic cruise control are included as well, while the optional Driving Assistant Professional Package adds emergency stop assistance, automatic lane changing, traffic jam assist, and evasion aid - this package is standard on the xDrive50i.
BMW's iDrive infotainment system, now in its seventh iteration, has come a long way towards being usable for the non-techy folks. Most of the basic functions are easy to access but as with previous incarnations of iDrive, more complicated tasks require you to sift through menus. Stepping into the X7 for the first time will make you feel like a 5th grader taking the SATs but with enough time, the system becomes easier to figure out. A touchscreen now joins the iDrive controller as a second option for controlling the system and BMW's gesture controls are a fun gimmick to show your friends once before you forget they exist.
Android Auto is a notable omission but Apple CarPlay is available and can be used wirelessly, though you will have to pay $80 per year for the right to use it. Other automakers offer it at no cost.
Five recalls have been issued for the X7 during its short lifespan, with issues such as rearview camera display problems, loose wheel bolts, leaking fuel pumps, improperly installed airbags, and badly installed seats plaguing the X7's reputation. J.D. Power does not offer a reliability rating for the X7 yet. Still, BMW offers a four-year/50,000-mile full warranty, a 12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, a three-year/36,000-mile maintenance plan, and roadside assistance for four years/unlimited miles for added peace of mind.
Although not rated for safety by the IIHS and the NHTSA, BMW has gone out of its way to add sufficient safety features to the X7. We expect the X7 to be rated highly by either agency in any event, due to the long list of safety features on board.
Starting with a full house of eight airbags, including front-, side-, overhead-, and knee-airbags, the X7 is remarkably well specified in terms of safety. Additionally, standard driver assist systems equipped on both models incorporate interconnected sensors and cameras to interpret radar-acquired data and translate it to a variety of warnings and alerts. This includes blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, rear- and frontal-collision warning, pedestrian detection, cross-traffic alert, and city collision mitigation on the base model. The top-spec xDrive50i adds to this with a top-view camera, a head-up display, and active driving assistant, which further installs extended traffic jam assist, lane-keeping assist with active side collision protection, and automatic lane-change feature. Active cruise control and evasion aid can be optioned on to the base model while being incorporated into the Active Driving Assistant Professional package included on the xDrive50i.
In short, the X7 does for the SUV what the 7 Series did for the saloon. It offers unparalleled comfort and refinement with driving dynamics that won't make you fall asleep at the wheel. The X7 does not have many weak points and those it does have do not take away from the experience. BMW knows its wealthiest customers are evolving and offering a flagship sedan just isn't enough anymore. People want to carry their whole family in sumptuous luxury and for this task, the X7 is the right tool for the job. It isn't just an SUV, it's a 1st class family jet.
The 2019 BMW X7 xDrive40i is the entry-point to the X7 range and has an MSRP of $73,900, while the top-end xDrive50i costs a sizable chunk more, at $92,600. This excludes taxes, licensing, and registration. A destination charge of $995 applies to both models, with various available packages and standalone options available as well.
The 2019 X7 range is comprised of two models, namely the xDrive40i and the xDrive50i, differentiated initially by their powertrains, and subsequently kitted out with varying degrees of convenience features and on-board technology.
The xDrive40i is the base model, and hosts a 3.0-liter turbo inline-six engine under the hood, has all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic. It produces 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Inside, you'll find four-zone climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and power-adjustability for all seats, rearview camera, third-row seating, air suspensions, ambient lighting, park distance control, and full LED lighting. The basic active driving assistant is included, as is the live cockpit pro, and 21-inch wheels. Standard on the xDrive40i is a ten-speaker Hi-Fi sound system with 205-watt amplifier, paired to a 12.3-inch infotainment display with SiriusXM and HD Radio, as well as Apple CarPlay functionality.
Moving up to the xDrive50i swaps out the powertrain for the robust 4.4-liter V8 that produces 456 hp and 479 lb-ft. It adds multi-contour seats, a head-up display, and a premium Harman Kardon surround sound system. Also standard on this trim is active driving assistant pro and parking assistant plus, which extends driver aids substantially to include the likes of extended traffic jam assist, automatic lane-change assist, and evasion aid.
As is the norm for German vehicles, the X7's base price can be quickly pushed up through a range of available options and packages.
Available packages include a Cold Weather Bundle for $1,200 to add heated seats, armrests and steering wheel, as well as five-zone climate control. The Dynamic Handling Package can also be optioned on for $3,850 on the xDrive40i and $4,750 for the xDrive50i to add M sport brakes, active steering, active comfort drive on the base model, and additionally an M sport differential on the upper trim.
The Driving Assistance Professional Package, which is included on the xDrive50i, costs $1,700 on the base model, which is a worthy investment for the brilliant extended traffic jam assist, and active driving assistant pro, which installs lane-keep assist, automatic lane-change, evasion aid, and cross-traffic alert in the front. It is equipped as standard on the 50i.
For ventilated front seats with massage function, you can also select the Luxury Seating Package. At $1,600, this also installs multi-contour seats on the base model, which are already equipped to the xDrive50i, and thus only costs $1,200 on the top trim.
An Off-road Package is also available for $1,650 or $2,950 from base to upper trim, as well as the Parking Assistant Package on the entry-level model ($700). A Premium Package adds remote engine start, soft-close automatic doors, heated and cooled cupholders, gesture control and - for the base model only - a head-up display and the premium Harman Kardon sound system. This is priced at $3,000 for the xDrive40i and $1,550 for the xDrive50i.
Equipping the fantastic Sky Lounge LED roof and glass controls are available exclusively to the xDrive50i and will set you back an additional $2,100. The M Sport Package, with all its aesthetic and mechanical enhancements, costs $4,350 or $3,550 for the 40i and 50i models respectively.
Recommending which X7 to buy is like choosing between designer handbags - they are all nice, it's just a matter of preference. We think the xDrive40i model offers plenty of power, so it could be worth saving nearly 20 grand if you are not an aggressive driver. Opting for the six-cylinder car may also help you keep the X7 under the six-figure mark if you can control yourself with the options. But if you like to rule the road knowing that you have an atomic bomb sitting at the command of your right foot, ready to pass lesser vehicles in the blink of an eye, either of the two V8 options might be more your speed.
Ranging in price from to $53,550 in entry-level guise to $68,700 fully-loaded, the Audi Q7 isn't nearly as luxurious as the X7 is, although it offers excellent performance and comfort in its own right. Coming in at $20k cheaper at entry-point to the range, the Q7 offers either a 2.0-liter inline-four (248 hp and 273 lb-ft) or a 3.0-liter V6 making 329 hp and 325. While this isn't as powerful as the basic engine on the X7, it's a satisfying option nonetheless. Still, it doesn't hold a candle to the space, comfort, luxury, and long list of features available on the X7, and doesn't perform as economically either. It may seat seven as well, but it does so in much more confined quarters, and with much less convenience and practicality to boot. Admittedly, the Q7 compares better to the X5 but remains a worthy consideration either way. The X7 simply outclasses the Audi though and justifies the price premium.
The main difference between the X7 and the X5 is in its size and relative seating capacity. With a smaller chassis overall and only seating five passengers, the X5 is the X7's little brother - but is still a force to be reckoned with. Sharing the same 3.0-liter engine as the base model X7, the X5 offers similar outputs performance-wise but makes for slightly improved fuel economy due to its lower weight. With the X5 costing $60,700 for its base model xDrive40i, the price difference is relatively large too - however, there is a good reason for it. For a bit more than $13k, the X7 offers class-leading efficiency, luxury, space, and technology, even at the entry point to the range. While it is by far the more plush interior, it doesn't discount the X5 entirely. Do you need to ferry around more than five people? Or do you need to have the best that BMW has to offer? If the answer to either of these is yes, then opt for the X7. Otherwise, the X5 is a great stepping stone to get there.