BMW X7 DRIVEN: Is bigger better?
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that BMW entered the SUV market with the X5. A car that was capable in Chelsea but not so much in Scottish Highlands. Fast forward to today and like most premium brands, BMW has almost every SUV niche covered. The X7 marks the latest in a long line but the first high-end luxury model to wear the X badge. Traditionally if you wanted a seriously luxurious Bimmer, you’d have to opt for a 7 series. Now you can have your opulence a few more inches from the ground.
So what is the X7?
The X7 is based upon the same architecture as the 7 Series saloon. Not only does that mean it’s as luxurious as the top BMW barge, it means it’s also huge. Nose to tail it’s around 17 feet long and you can really feel that size inside the X7. The cabin feels bigger than some London flats and there’s enough headroom for most basketball players. Thanks to plenty of glass, it’s also light and airy. My first experience of the X7 was from the back seat. There’s so much legroom and if you opt for the two captain-style chairs, it feels like you’re riding in first class.
Up front you have a familiar BMW cabin but everything feels just that little bit more upmarket. The materials are first rate. It’s not luxurious like a Rolls Royce or a Bentley but then it’s not meant to be. It’s more modern but still a wonderful place to spend your time. The jewel-esqe gear selector is especially bling but somehow works in this car. Some may feel the cabin isn’t a big enough step up from an X5 but I feel it suits the car perfectly.
What’s the X7 like to drive?
Firstly, the X7 is big. Not unusably large, just imposing. You sit above most other road users and if that’s what you’re after, it feels great. The seats are superbly comfortable and you could easily drive this across Europe without feeling tired. Motorway driving is something the X7 takes in its stride.
Turn onto a slightly twisty road and the X7 is surprisingly fun. Obviously it’s no sports car but for such a large vehicle, its turn of pace and agility are frankly amazing. Opt for the M50d and it’s fast too. Thanks to almost 400hp, it’ll hit 62mph in 5.4 seconds. That’s more than fast enough in a big car like this.
The X7 is most at home though if you sit back and enjoy the opulence. It glides over bumps and ruts in the road meaning you reach your destination relaxed and refreshed. BMW really have managed to take the business-class refinement of the 7-Series and apply it to an SUV package.
Can it go off road?
It’s pretty telling when the first thing that BMW get you to do is take the X7 to a proper off-road trail. BMW wants its SUV to work as well off road as it does on it.
Assisted by a professional instructor, we took the X7 through rivers, down steep inclines and across muddy rutted tracks. It handled it all with ease. It even impressed the instructor, who is more used to the prowess of a Land Rover Defender. The BMW went everywhere we were meant to and a few places we weren’t meant to go.
I doubt many X7s will see the dirt or mud but rest assured, if you do have to get muddy then the X7 is well up for the challenge.
The X7 wasn’t something I expected to like as much as I did. It’s looks are marmite for most people but in the flesh, it works. It’s a big, imposing SUV and the design language works well in that context. It’s as luxurious as a 7-Series but far more practical if you want to move people or stuff. Personally I’d feel more at home in the smaller X5 but if you’re after the ultimate SUV BMW has to offer then you can’t get any better than the X7.