While BMW is normally the first to fill a niche wherever one exists – its invention of the ‘Sports Activity Coupé‘ is clear proof of this – but when it comes to having a full-size seven-seat SUV to rival the likes of the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Volvo XC90, and even the Land Rover Discovery, the Bavarians have been notably absent from this growing market segment.
That is, until now, with the arrival of the all-new X7. Positioned above the popular X5 as the company’s new flagship SUV, it’s a car that has big shoes to fill as if you’re going to arrive late to the party, you better at least bring enough to make up for it.
Starting at $119,900 for the xDrive30d – our tester with the Design Pure Excellence package bumps that up to $124,900 before options – and topping out at $169,900 for the faster and fully-loaded M50d, it’s priced right alongside the competition. However, unlike in some rivals which come with either five or seven seats, it’s seven-seat only for the Beemer, as if it could come with any less given the badge.
Although late to the party, it hasn’t stopped BMW from going with rather a bold outfit for its entrance, as the X7’s styling has certainly divided opinions a lot recently – primarily due to that big front grille. Although it didn’t exactly look that great when the press photos first began to circulate earlier in the year, I actually really like the look of it in person. Yes, it’s big and there’s no denying or hiding that fact, but given the mammoth proportions of the rest of the car, I think its actually rather fitting.
Overall, I think it’s a handsome thing, especially from the back. As a fan of boxy SUVs for their function-over-form appearance, BMW has done a great job of making it sit right in the middle, as it not only looks purposeful but still remains stylish enough to fit in anywhere with its big wheels and just the right amount of chrome bling. One friend who spotted me out and about in it one day messaged me to say that I looked like I was “ballin’ out of control” in it, so if it can make someone like me look cool, it’ll easily do the same for you.
Of course, the real reason BMW has kept the rear of the car nicely squared-off is to maximise the interior space, and its on the inside that the X7 makes the best case for itself. Say what you will about the styling, but there’s no doubt that this interior is one of the finest I’ve encountered in a long time.
The space utilisation is absolutely excellent, with palatial amounts of headroom and legroom not just in the first and second rows but in the rearmost seats as well. With the rear pew being heated and gaining its own individual sunroof, it’s easily the best third row seat I’ve ever come across hands down.
However, if you have no need for all seven seats, at the push of one button, the second row will whir further back to allow for some limousine level legroom. The front seats, of course, are excellent as well, with seemingly limitless amounts of adjustability.
Also worth noting is that not only are the seats all power adjustable, but in a big positive for parents with lots of kids and shopping to deal with, the seats can all be folded away or back into place with just a single press of a button inside the boot, with the whole process of folding all seats away or back into place taking under 20 seconds. The boot is massive, too, it should be noted – especially so with all seats in place, as many seven-seaters will lose almost all rear cargo room with the third row up.
The top-notch quality of the materials only adds to the interior’s strong list of positives, as every surface you touch feels incredibly supple. From the two-tone leather dashboard to the open-pored black Ash Grain trim and even the few plastic items you’ll encounter, there’s not a single surface that’ll make you wince in here.
It’s impressive on the technology front as well not just with regard to its screens – although the slick and incredibly responsive iDrive 7 infotainment system is most impressive, as I’d previously noted in my review of the 3 Series, and the gauge cluster is crystal clear – but it also has facial recognition tech to detect driver distraction or fatigue, and Level 2 semi-autonomous driving that actually reads and conforms to posted speed limits. Clever stuff.
This being a BMW, it’ll come as no surprise that there’s a straight-six under the bonnet whether you opt for the xDrive30d tested here or the range-topping M50d. Both are 3.0-litre turbo diesels paired to the fantastic ZF eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive as standard. Although straight-six and V8 petrol engines are available in other markets such as the US, it’s diesel-only for us Aussies.
In this entry-level X7, its strong outputs of 195kW and 620Nm are more than enough to get it going nicely. Sure, its 0-100km/h time of 7.0 seconds mightn’t exactly be blistering, but it’s most impressive for a 2.3-tonne diesel-powered tank like this.
As is the case with all oilers of this size, it’s tuned more for pulling strongly through the lower rev range which is does excellently. On the open road, it’s got plenty of punch on tap when you need to overtake someone quickly – which is a necessity when driving through a tourist-fuelled region like the Barossa.
While, as you may expect, some very minor clatter can be heard on idle from outside the car, inside the X7 it’s easy to forget that it actually is a diesel. Not only is the noise suppression from all elements in the cabin already good enough to keep it library quiet, but the engine itself remains unbelievably muted on the move too, and even when you do lean onto the throttle, what noise it does make is simply more like that of any old six-pot – not an agricultural diesel.
But then, this engine clearly isn’t agricultural in any way and is more so an example of just how technologically advanced BMW’s ICE powertrains can be. Nothing exemplifies this better than the indicated 8.6L/100km fuel consumption figure I achieved after 800km behind the wheel – an impressive return when compared to its optimistic 7.3L/100km claim. For an engine of this size in a car this heavy, that’s remarkably impressive, especially when you consider that I wasn’t just taking it easy on it the whole time.
Of course, having your hands reek of diesel after you fill it up isn’t quite as glamorous as every other experience you’ll have with this car will be, but it’s a small price to pay as I see it, especially when diesel power is your only option.
Not only is the X7 very quiet on the move, but it’s incredibly comfortable as well thanks to its five-position air suspension system, which will typically ride in the second or third settings, while you can fully stance it out or lift it right up for light off-roading – something I didn’t really bother with given it’s far from the car’s main focus, but on a gravel road, for instance, it won’t feel too far out of its comfort zone.
The bump absorption this system offers is truly befitting of its luxury-focus as it remains level and composed over even the worst of surfaces, with little vibration to ever be felt in the cabin – not that much of it could get through the plush seats anyway.
Through the bends, you can feel it adjusting and working away to keep the X7 as level as possible there, too. Now sure, it’s far from the most agile or dynamic car BMW has ever made, but it feels as BMW-ish as a car of such stature ever could. There’s no more body roll than is acceptable even in its softer Comfort mode, the steering feels nicely-weighted between the different drive modes, and manages what minor understeer there is that’s detectable acceptably well.
But for what positive dynamic abilities the X7 does possess, it’ll always be better served as an open-road cruiser. With such a smooth ride and noiseless cabin at any speed, it makes for the perfect sort of car for driving through a picturesque region like the Barossa – especially since you’ll be able to fit all of your friends without a single complaint.
Not only is the X7 an incredibly good seven-seater – in fact, I’d say it’s my new yardstick for which all other seven seaters I test would be stacked up against from this point onwards – but it’s one of the very finest luxury cars out there right now. Think of it as a 7 Series with more headroom and two extra seats for half as much money, and it almost looks like the bargain of the century, which isn’t something you can often say about a car with a six-figure price tag.
When a car’s as good as the X7 though, every one of those dollars feels justified. Plus, before options, it’s not even that much more expensive than something like the perennially popular 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser Sahara, and if you don’t really need the off-roading capabilities of something like that, the X7 is an incredibly attractive and far more luxurious alternative for the more well-heeled Aussie families out there, and after my week with the one you see here, I honestly couldn’t recommend this thing enough.
2019 BMW X7 xDrive30d Design Pure Excellence List Price: $124,900 | As Tested: $131,900
Pros: Incredibly smooth and balanced ride, straight-six oiler is both powerful and economical, well-planned interior layout and design, outstanding interior material quality
Cons: Mammoth size becomes apparent in carparks, that grille still divides opinions
In a nutshell: The X7 is not only the new benchmark for seven-seat SUVs, but it’s one of the finest luxury cars around right now.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by BMW Australia for a week with a full tank of diesel. Additionally, our friends at MPF Detailing gave it a complimentary Express Detail for us prior to its photoshoot.