Well, you’ve finally made it. A good job, maybe a three car garage, and a happy – but growing – family. And the salvage title 2006 Yukon you’ve been hauling your supposedly precious cargo (pets, children, random junk, etc.) around in for years simply isn’t cutting it anymore. Again, congratulations – you’ve now entered one of the most competitive buying segments in the market – the realm of three-row SUVs. But you’re smart enough to have narrowed it down to two of the front runners in the segment – the confusingly-doored and smog conscious Tesla Model X, and the the first of BMW’s supersized grilles on equally supersized wheels, the BMW X7.
Trims and Performance
The BMW x7 and Tesla are, first and foremost, separated by a nearly $15,000 price gap when new. The X7 undercuts the Model X, beginning from around $75,000, while the “base” Model X sits right around $90,000. For your $75K, the X7 xDrive40i makes do with 335 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, getting from 0-60 in a respectable five and a half seconds.
And the extra $15,000 isn’t wasted – the base “long range” Tesla makes rapid work of turning electricity into unapologetic speed. The same journey to 60 mph takes just under 4 seconds, touting a mighty 670 all-electric, plant-friendly horsepower.
The X7 M50i ups the ante and takes an even more Tesla-opposed approach by shoving a twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood, good for 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque and propelling the nearly 5500 pound SUV to 60 in just 4.5 seconds – admittedly, still slower than even the base Model X.
The Model X jumps in trim from the base “Long Range” to the “Plaid”: but we’re now talking about over $120,000, and more than $20,000 over the start price of the M50i. And while the Plaid’s 1020 hp and crazy fast launches might be worth it – I’m not sure that there’s much of a price comparison.
Of course, if you really need the top dog, you can always trade up to the ALPINA XB7 – a $150,000 version that isn’t all that much faster than the M50i, but it’s a whole lot more comfortable. You’re up to 612 hp now but that still doesn’t get you where the Model X Plaid does.
What it gets you is a whole lot of exclusivity – which you’re probably pretty on board with if you’re shopping at this price point. But if you’re looking to drag race your seven passenger SUV – and have the cash to prove it – the Tesla is the clear winner here.
The road presence commanded by the X7 is undoubtedly significant. The jumbo grills, high and narrow headlights, and 20” wheels (standard – they go up to 23s on the XB7) certainly make a statement and the car is sure to be noticed even in a parking lot full of comparable vehicles.
The colors are good, too – an array of whites, greys, blues, and blacks all come totally free of charge. There’s some more premium “Individual” colors you can add for (a very reasonable) $1,950, and they’re worth it – they’re all super metallic blues, purples, and grays with varying shades of metallic flake in them.
The Model X, on the other hand, gets a total of five colors available. And if you don’t care for white, you’re shelling out an additional $1500 minimum – even for a black car! Heaven forbid you want red – the launch color – since it will cost you $2,500 to order! There are only a couple of wheel choices – the standard 20s, and a…$5,000 upgrade to 22” turbine wheels.
The X7’s most expensive wheel option taps out at a still significant $2,300 for the insane XB7’s ubiquitous 23” ALPINA wheels – and all other trims only charge $1,300 for their most premium wheel selections. Wheels aside, I feel the Model X looks like every other Tesla on the road, basically resembling an egg, and have to side with the X7 in the looks department.
This is where things become even more subjective than exterior impressions. Strictly from an ease of use perspective, the Tesla multimedia interface is pretty intuitive. It took me all of 10 minutes to figure out the majority of “necessary on a daily basis” functions.
When I was first learning the iDrive7 system in the X7 it took me a bit longer than that – even coming from older versions of iDrive – but it does become second nature as soon as you know where everything is. One downside of the Tesla is the complete lack of physical buttons for simple functions – I don’t need a screen to adjust my air con, and it in fact mostly hinders the process.
Overall, I think the aesthetic and control layout on both cars is better or worse depending on how your brain works and what you need out of your interior – but for me, the X7 is a clear winner.
Another thing that will certainly sway your opinion one way or the other is how you feel about your “in-flight entertainment”, as it were. Tesla also allows you to “CARaoke” – which is a car-supplied karaoke track, as well as some included games you can play using (mostly) the steering wheel. To me, this adds nothing of value past novelty, but plenty of friends and thousands of anonymous internet strangers have tried to convince me otherwise.
Of course the usual Tesla treasure trove of Easter eggs exist here as well – such as a Mario Kart-themed Autopilot display, a Mars-themed Nav screen, and even a little “dance” you can force via the fob that makes full use of those crazy doors.
The Falcon Doors
Oh, yeah, the doors. This comparison would be totally remiss without mentioning the Model X’s insane “falcon doors” – which open exactly how the name suggests. Supposedly they are “practical” by virtue of the fact that they open up instead of out, theoretically making parking garages a breeze. In reality, they seem like just another quirky Tesla gimmick that you will either love or hate based on who you are and what you expect from a car.
So which one do you buy? Well, the elephant in the room is of course the limited range of the Model X. If you live in an urban area, and/or don’t travel much in your car, it’s likely this won’t matter much to you. For the rest of us, even in the most charger-progressive areas, a limited range can present somewhat of a roadblock if you have specific ideas about where your road trip should bring you. The X7 doesn’t suffer from these limitations.
Another point against the Tesla is price. Even if you’re factoring in running costs, it takes a whole lot of gas and a whole lot of maintenance to offset the time, increased upfront cost, and occasional inconvenience of owning an electric vehicle.
So, the verdict: if the Model X is both affordable to you and fits your lifestyle, it’s probably the better call. Those that desire a longer range or a more luxurious interior (or that just can’t stand those absurd doors) might want to opt for the X7 – in any trim. Having driven both, I highly prefer the more communicative steering in the X7 M50i over the wandering steering in the Tesla – a car mostly designed with the driver being the last priority on their list.
But drive both – which do you prefer?