Looking at the BMW X7 in pictures you might not consider it to be a big deal. You’d be wrong though and it would become hilariously obvious the moment you met one in real life. The keyword in that first sentence is ‘big’ as this car is worthy of all sorts of comparisons that would put it right up there next to ‘Gargantuan’ or ‘Goliath’.
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To get a better idea as to how big this car is, you need to know that the Bavarians had to make a bigger than usual badge for the hood, in order to save the regular sized roundels from the humility of looking puny next to those huge kidney grilles. So yes, everything about this car simply screams XXL in all areas. Even BMW themselves say this is the biggest car they ever made. And that caused a bit of a stir.
Why Build Such A Large Car?
You see, BMWs aren’t usually seen as big, luxurious barges. People think of BMW and they immediately somehow imagine a light, agile car that can drift in and out of a parking lot as if it was something natural. That’s the reputation the brand has built for itself over the 100+ years of manufacturing and that’s something that won’t go away too easily. While normally that would work in favor of BMW, these days it’s not the case.
That’s because the world doesn’t seem to care anymore. Why? Well, trying to find a simple explanation for the current SUV boom is a rather futile exercise. Maybe it’s because people have more disposable income than ever and they want to spend it on big, imposing cars. Maybe it’s because gas is cheap and the engines are more efficient, making the running cost difference between an SUV and a sedan smaller than ever.
Or maybe it’s just because manufacturers offer a lot of car – literally – for the buck these days. No matter what the reason, the market/customer choice is evident. I was looking over a graph the other day, dissecting the sales of BMW brand vehicles over the last 9 months and was rather shocked to see some interesting discrepancies.
Whereas sales of cars like the 3 Series, 5 Series and 4 Series dropped on average by around 30 percent, sales of SUVs have gone up by as high as 70 percent for some models. Looking at these sales charts, it’s hard to believe that the BMW range was once made up of solely three of maybe four models. The champions of yesterday are today’s beggars and based on this particular market performance, BMW had to adapt.
Like it or not, the Chinese market dictates a lot of what car makers are doing these days. It is the biggest single car market in the world and that has had obvious effects on a number of things, from the way cars look to what they offer and cost. The BMW X7 was created from the get go for the US and Chinese markets, two large markets for the Germans and that means, it will feel rather peculiar for people from Europe.
From the outside, you’ll immediately be able to tell this is a BMW. Yes, there are huge grilles positioned up front, their size further exacerbated by the slim headlights to the sides. No matter what design style you go for, be it M Sport or not, you get an imposing front-end with huge air intakes on the sides of the front bumper.
The side profile is massive, making the X7 look tall and brutish, with massive windows and a big step to hop onto if you want to actually get inside. Come to think of it, everything about this car – which is a loosely used word in this case – is massive. From the windows and grilles to the wheels and even side panels. Everything feels big and massive, which is a good thing, by the way. It’s good because it exudes a feeling of power and I think that’s what BMW went for.
When you’re driving the X7 you feel like the king of the road, at least in good old Europe. That’s because unlike our brothers from across the pond, cars in Europe are still relatively small. That makes the X7 stand out, especially since there are few other models out there that can match its size and grandeur. You’re basically taller than everyone else on the road, nearly on par with truck drivers and definitely close to bus drivers. The only other cars that get close to you are also the rivals the X7 has to best: the Mercedes-Benz GLS Class and the Range Rover.
All that may sound great but turns into a bit of a headache when you have to navigate through narrow, tight streets, the kind you meet all too often in Europe. It’s not terribly hard to drive because you do get great visibility on all sides and a lot of tech to help you see better, but it does cause a bit of extra stress. The rear steering wheels also work wonders, but in the end, even if you do find a parking spot, chances are it will be too narrow for the X7, rendering you a prisoner in your own car in case you do get to squeeze the 2.4-ton giant into a regular sized parking spot. One feature I would’ve loved to have on my tester would’ve been the Remote Control Parking feature.
And while all of that might make you think this isn’t a fun car to drive, I’d beg to differ. All you have to do is make sure you have enough room and for that you can just leave the city limits behind and drive on a highway or a curvy back road. In that kind of an environment, the X7 was a revelation. Don’t expect it to be as agile as an M2, but for its size, this is one of the best-handling SUV in its class.
BMW did a lot of work to keep things in check and you can feel it. Our BMW X7 xDrive40i tester is the lightest in the range and even so, it still tipped the scale at just under 2.4 tons. That said, you don’t really feel like it’s that heavy when you’re driving a bit more enthusiastically. Sure, there is some pitch and the car has a tendency to lean but it’s not nearly as bad as you may think. Get it in Sport mode and everything stiffens up to a degree you didn’t think possible just moments ago. The one thing I would’ve liked was a bit more power.
The xDrive40i comes with the B58 3-liter straight six engine under the hood and it is a great little mill no matter how you look at it. It has the ability to turn cars like the M240i or the Toyota Supra into good sports cars but that’s not the case with the X7. It couldn’t be since we’re talking about a weight difference of almost exactly 1 ton.
Don’t get me wrong, the X7 even in xDrive40i guise is a perfectly good car for 90 percent of the people out there. They won’t be looking to drag race this thing or take it to the track. However, for some, a bit more oomph would be great.
It’s because the engine is so down on torque mostly that the fuel consumption figures are not extraordinary either. Around town I saw an average of around 20 l/100 km (14 mpg imp, 11.7 mpg US) while outside the city limits the fuel consumption was around the 9 l/100 km (26 mpg US, 31.3 mpg Imp) with an average speed of 85 km/h (53 mph).
That said, I think this time round I’d go for a diesel engine. I don’t say that often, but in the case of the X7 it is torque that you need most. I’d be willing to bet that the BMW X7 M50d would return considerably better figures with its 400 HP and 760 Nm of torque. I know in some parts of the world that car is not available and that the M50i model might be too expensive to consider. That includes the US market and in that case, I’d probably stick with the xDrive40i but, as I said before, it will depend on what matters to you.
A Luxurious Cabin
That’s because regardless of the engine, all X7 models are luxurious and extremely comfortable. They offer ample space in any seat you might want to occupy and will make due even in xDrive40i guise. I, personally, felt like the car was running out of breath at triple-digit speeds but then again, some people could find the power levels simply adequate.
Plenty Of Space For Everyone
Speaking of space, inside the cabin you get more room than you could dream of. No matter where you sit, you’ll be comfortable and yes, I am including the third row seats and yes, that applies to adults as well. What BMW did this time round was to create a true 7-seater that can accommodate adults for longer trips.
The two front rows are spacious and luxurious. You get all the latest tech and the best materials you can possibly buy in the BMW range. This is, to all means and purposes, a 7 Series SUV. Our tester had Nappa leather in Cognac and felt just as luxurious as the 7er.
I would’ve preferred the two-seater configuration for the second row of seats but I can understand those who go for the bench instead, looking to carry three people abreast in the back. And that’s really easy to do as there’s more than enough room. The bench can be reclined and moved forward by using a set of buttons on the side. This way, you can allow people to get in the back, in the two extra seats back there.
There’s enough room in the third row for adults too, as I already mentioned. They won’t be feeling like they are left out anymore either as BMW made sure to give them their own AC climate zone (the X7 is the first production car with true 5-zone climate control), their own sunroof and even USB charging ports and cupholders.
The only problem with those seats is that after a two-hour trip your hips might start to stiffen up. That’s because your knees will be sitting rather high for the entire trip and that can lead to a sore back. It’s not a huge issue though. Other than that, me and my friends found it a rather nice way to travel together, in absolute comfort and luxury.
Getting in those third-row seats is a bit of an acrobatic exercise but not nearly as bad as you may think. The second row folds a long way forward and even moves the front passenger or driver’s seat accordingly if you need them to, just by pressing a button. Speaking of buttons, there’s a set of them in the boot as well, allowing you to control all the seats except the first row. You can either fold the second and third row altogether to get the most space possible or you can raise them all to accommodate as many people as possible. It’s quite a clever trick, to be honest, saving you a lot of time and running around the car to press each button individually.
Once everyone’s settled in, the BMW X7 will take you literally anywhere in absolute comfort. The ride is almost on par with the 7 Series and I think they would’ve been even if there was better less sound making its way into the cabin of the X7. It’s not that the X7 has less sound deadening but the XL wheels and the square overall shape of the thing do create more noise, it’s inevitable.
Even so, the atmosphere inside is serene most of the time and coupling that with the comfy seats, ambient lighting and extra-large panoramic sunroof creates an ambience that’s hard to match. Long trips with friends will be an absolute joy.
Should I Buy One?
So, we’ve established there’s ample room inside, the car feels as luxurious as possible and drives better than expected. What’s the conclusion then? To be frank, I think BMW should’ve launched the X7 earlier. To some, this car does feel a bit odd, as it may be perceived as too big and heavy. Those are definitely not traits you’d normally associate with the blue and white roundel. But then again, we do live in a weird world, where people just don’t buy sedans anymore and go for SUVs.
In this new world, the BMW X7 is a star and sales of the car will definitely prove it. The main markets for it will be China and the US and the X7 is already doing great in both. Will this be a long-term success for BMW? I definitely think so because it’s not just big and luxurious, it also feels like a BMW, if you adjust your senses to the sheer size of it.
What we’re looking at here then is a very close case of having your cake and eating it too.