At the moment, the BMW X7 is sort of the internet’s automotive punching bag. Fair or not, enthusiasts across the globe like to poke fun at the X7’s styling each and every time the opportunity arises. Most of that fun-poking is directed at the X7’s massive kidney grilles which, let’s face it, are comically over-sized. Despite the mockery, though, the BMW X7 is actually a surprisingly good car and one that actually has managed to convince many of its critics once they’ve actually driven it. Count me as one of them.
I was one of the people that mocked its styling, if I’m honest. Even still, long after its reveal and after a week-long test drive, I don’t like the way it looks. No one has ever considered me an expert on style, nor should they, so take my opinion for what it’s worth but I just don’t think it’s a attractive car. Its entire front-end is just flat-out ugly and its proportions aren’t quite right.
Having said all of that, all of those exterior criticisms simply disappear once sat behind the wheel. That’s because the X7 is shockingly good to drive, far more so than I had anticipated going into it.
It’s What’s Inside That Matters
Prior to actually setting off, it’s hard not to take a moment and just enjoy the cabin. Every BMW X7 is lovely inside but the interior of my X7 xDrive50i tester was gorgeous. The Ivory White/Night Blue color combo flat-out works in person. In photos, it might look a bit odd to some but, in the flesh, it’s just lovely. Its Merino leather is soft, the blue Alcantara headliner looks and feels ultra premium and even the blue steering wheel looks great in person; not too blue, just enough.
Combined with that stylish cabin is a material/build quality that can’t be matched outside of Rolls Royce or Bentley. Seriously, I’ve been in Mercedes-Benz’s new GLS-Class and, while a lovely cabin in its own right, it’s not as well built or well made as the X7’s. Look as hard and as close as you may and you won’t find a single piece of material, trim, button, switch or touch-point that doesn’t feel high-quality, sturdy and well made. Yes, its $108,000 as-tested price tag is a bit shocking but it feels every bit of that high cost from the inside.
Even the glass effects on the shift lever, start/stop button and even on the volume knob make the X7’s interior feel more special. Sure, they’re a bit gaudy and garish but they’re interesting and fun in a cheeky sort of way and that makes the X7 feel more special. Which is sort of what buying such a luxurious car is about, isn’t it?
That sort of luxury — build quality, material quality and interesting material choices — is old-school luxury. Decades ago, those were the only things that separated good luxury cars from bad ones. New-school luxury is techno-wiz-bangery; crazy technology and features. The BMW X7 evidently has the old-school luxury but it also has as much new-school luxury as anyone could ask for.
As High-Tech as They Come
At the top of the dash is a simply massive touchscreen, with the brand’s latest version of iDrive, and it’s brilliant to use. The graphics are bright and crisp, the resolution is high and the menus are clear and easy to navigate. It’s also intuitive to use with either the traditional rotary dial or by using the touchscreen. Gesture Control, where you make hand gestures in the air to control certain features, works better than ever before but it’s still not perfect.
One feature that also needs some work is BMW’s Siri-like “Intelligent Personal Assistant” AI. It’s designed to wake up just by hearing “Hey, BMW” from the driver. Then, you’re supposed to be able to ask it anything or tell it to do anything and it will handle it. When you’re trying to use it, it does work quite well. But I noticed that anytime I said the word “BMW” in conversation, without saying the full two-word command, it would wake up and ask me what I wanted. It was quite annoying, to be honest.
Ahead of the driver are two screens; the all-digital instrument panel and the Head-Up Display. The former is very good, with its dual digital dials that house other information and navigation directions in between them. However, it’s still not as good as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which is brilliant. The Head-Up Display is near-perfect, though. It’s bigger than ever before on the BMW X7 and so incredibly easy to rear and use while driving. In fact, it’s so good that it spoiled me for every other car without it.
When it’s time to actually drive the BMW X7, it rewards with some of the best vehicle dynamics of any car its size. In fact, considering its size and weight, I still don’t know how it moves so well.
No one will consider the steering in the X7 sharp but it’s far more accurate than one might think, judging by its size and weight. You can really place the BMW X7 exactly where you want it. Its front end bites and its well-balanced chassis responds. Helping it feel more nimble than it looks is the rear-wheel steering, which helps the X7 not only maneuver in tighter spaces but makes it feel more agile at low speeds. The BMW X7 is never going to be a canyon carver but if you’re on a road trip and you find a bit of a twisty road, you’ll be able to have more fun that you might initially think.
What’s even more impressive is how its suspension handles all of that mass. It’s easy to make a big luxury SUV feel soft and squishy. It’s also probably not too hard to make a big, heavy SUV handle well. But to make it do both? That’s truly impressive.
In Comfort mode, the BMW X7 just floats along the road, completely ironing out bumps and imperfections, isolating its passengers from them almost entirely. I think a different tire choice than our test car’s Continentals would help even further, as we heard bumps more than we felt them. The only time the X7 transmitted any road harshness into the cabin was over really rough stuff but, even then, it was still comfortable. It doesn’t ride like an S-Class but no one is going to complain about the ride comfort an in X7.
Switch it to Sport mode and the steering weights up and the suspension gets a bit tauter. Body roll is kept mostly in check, even though it’s never really a problem in any mode, and it’s slightly more fun to drive. Mostly, the X7 needs to stay in Comfort, though. It’s a luxury car and should be driven like one. While it’s more fun to drive than it looks, it’s still by no means sporty. It’s like a war elephant; athletic for its size but still no athlete. Keep it in Comfort, enjoy the ride and its surprising accuracy, just don’t try and push it.
It Looks Powerful Because It Is Powerful
While not a triathlete, the BMW X7 xDrive50i could pose as a track star in a straight line. Its 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 pushes out 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, which is good enough to hustle the mighty X7 from 0-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds. That’s about as fast as a BMW Z4 sDrive30i or a Volkswagen GTI. In a three-row, million-pound SUV. So it’s quick.
The best part about its powertrain is its effortlessness. Just gently squeeze the throttle and the Big Bimmer’s V8 surges you forward with ease, while the eight-speed gearbox expertly shifts gears without a hint of its operation reaching the passengers. If there’s ever been an internal combustion powertrain could emulate the ease of electric torque, it’s this one. All the while, you can hear a faint V8 growl in the background. Whether it be synthetic or otherwise, it sounds great and always put a smile on my face while driving it. It sounds good from the outside, too, which is nice to show off.
Its Size Actually Makes Sense
What makes the BMW X7 a truly special vehicle, one that stands out from every other luxury SUV, is its practicality. This is also where the BMW X7 makes a case for itself over the 7 Series sedan, which costs about the same, per engine. Sure, the 7 Series will handle a bit better and its interior is a touch more luxurious. But the X7 can seat seven passengers comfortably. That’s a huge benefit in the real world.
Most seven passenger vehicles can only fit children or really small adults in the last row. The BMW X7 can genuinely fit seven adults inside. I’m essentially the average white American male; 5’9″ and about 160 lbs, so maybe not the best judge of interior space. But still, I can sit comfortably in the third row of the X7 and could probably stay there on a long journey. Not only is that third row spacious enough to house average sized adults but it offers third-row passengers their own sunroof, climate zone, heated seats (optioned in our test car), cupholders and USB-C ports. Basically, passengers 6 and 7 won’t want for anything.
When it comes time to fold those last two seats down, for more trunk space, it’s easy as pie. In the trunk, there are six buttons; two to operate each of the third-row seats, two to operate each of the second-row seats and two to operate all of them at once. With the seats folded down, the BMW X7’s trunk swallowed up my son’s stroller, a diaper bag, all of my camera gear, my backpack and my wife’s backpack and still had more than half of its cargo space left. It’s a seriously capacious machine.
Don’t Let the Looks Fool You
I’ve stated this before, over and over again, but I’m going to repeat myself: I don’t love SUVs. As good as some SUVs are, I’d prefer a sedan, wagon, coupe, hatchback or basically any other body style to an SUV. I’d rather be low to the ground and have a lot less weight. However, for the money, I’d have a hard time choosing any other luxury car in the segment, including BMW’s own 7 Series. Not because other cars are bad or even necessarily worse than the BMW X7. But because the X7 offers so much value-for-dollar. For the same money as a 7 Series, the BMW X7 has effectively the same amount of luxury, far more interior space, more seats, more practicality and semi-off-road capability.
Sure, the BMW 7 Series will handle better and be more enjoyable to drive but not by much. It’s still a luxo-barge at heart. So the BMW X7 just seems like so much better value and, if it were my money, I’d have a very hard time passing it up. So don’t let its hilarious, over-sized grille fool you — the BMW X7 is the real deal and a surprisingly excellent luxury car.