SPARTANBURG, South Carolina – Although the new BMW X7 is new, it already seems as though it’s always been part of the German luxury carmaker’s expansive product portfolio. This, in no way, means that the X7 is past due, or lacking in modern features. In fact, the new 2019 BMW X7 will be on par technology-wise with the flagship 7 Series sedan and closely related to both the 5 Series and the all-new X5.
The X7 is exactly what you would expect a BMW wearing the number 7 to be, and more. The Bayerische Motoren Werke has thrown everything they got at their now-flagship SUV and the short of the review is that it is brilliant. Whether it’s the CLAR architecture chassis tuning, powertrains, comfort or technology, the BMW ticks all the boxes a full-size luxury SUV buyer searches for. And the surprising part is that the vehicles we drove were test mules, somewhere between 80 and 85% sorted out.
Note: Many details related to the 2019 X7 have not yet been made final, or even shared with the media. Some of the specs are speculations based on various pieces of information and your humble servant’s sheer brilliance.
The next-next step
The speed with which new product launches is unfolding at BMW is enough to make Bruno Spengler feel uneasy. The launch of the sixth-generation 7 Series in 2015, with its cutting-edge technology and CLAR platform, short for Cluster Architecture, created a ripple effect. BMW’s intent is to share these latest advances with as many products as possible and so, in less than three years, they’ve followed up with the new 5 Series, X5 and X7.
While the X7 is the subject of this story, the 2019 BMW X5, which we got a glimpse of, will arrive first, at the end of this year. That’s right; we drove an X7, expected in roughly a year, but only viewed the X5. It’s fair to guess that both of these SUVs share many components; however, it’s important to understand that BMW did not simply copy/paste the X5, stretch it and slap an X7 badge on its butt. The best way to sum it is that parts are pooled only if there are no compromises made. If a component from the X5 was barely good enough for the X7, BMW designed and built a new part for the X7.
The comfort road
The end result is a vehicle that drives as opulently as it is, or going to be, equipped. The 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i range topper exists to please those seeking the ultimate level of power. The presumed twin-turbo, 4.4-litre V8 should produce in the vicinity of 445 horsepower, while the turbo 3.0-litre inline-6 under the M40i’s bonnet should be good for 355 horsepower. In both cases, BMW’s xDrive AWD system will be standard, as will an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The brand’s air suspension will also come with the truck and it plays a huge role in how astoundingly refined the X7 is. We were warned that some rattles or unusual noises may rear their ugly heads during the drive, but none did.
We were given an opportunity to try the X7 in an off-road environment. The air suspension provides the truck with 80 millimetres of total travel, thus 40 mm up or down from the normal height. Set to max, the X7 easily crawled through mildly challenging ruts that occasionally put two wheels off the ground, if only for a second. To say the X7 is built for this is an exaggeration, but it served to demonstrate the utility vehicle’s wide set of skills.
The most pleasing combination I experienced was the M40i mated to BMW’s linear rear Integral Active Steering with active sway bars. My main gripe with the 50i was its steering which felt a little off. When I brought this up with an engineer, I was told that they actually had an updated steering program with them, but could not transmit it to the trucks for our drive.
Compared to the V8, the straight-6 might be down on power on paper, but the difference is only noticeable when passing on the highway, for example. On the topic of noticeable, the front end is lighter and far more alert than with the V8. The X7 drives smaller than it is, but the M40i almost feels as cozy as an X3. The tested M40i’s combined livelier front axle and rear steering changed everything. The big three-row X7 becomes fun to drive. Seriously. The takeaway here is to opt for Integral Active Steering.
On the topic of diesel powertrains, there will be two variants on offer elsewhere in the world from the get-go. The decision to bring them to North America still needs to be made, but I suspect at least one of the various outputs from the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine will be available at a later date.
The list of standard and optional features is, in a word, huge. And I only have partial information. Incorporated across the range will be a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that, although sets aside the traditional BMW gauges, looks great. A second 12.3-inch screen will also be standard and makes navigating through the newly revised menus far quicker and more intuitive. BMW’s seventh generation of iDrive (ID7) infotainment/connectivity will be included. As well, for this generation, BMW has pre-wired and prepared the vehicle for over-the-air updates.
A base X7 will hold seven passengers. Optionally, the truck can be fitted with a pair of captain’s seats in the second row. In all tested X7s, all first- and second-row seats were power adjustable and extremely comfortable. Gaining access to the third row is easy enough for those still semi-flexible or better. There’s enough room for two teenagers, but the real gain in the X7’s larger exterior dimensions are made in the boot, when the rearmost seats can be power-stowed.
Physically, it is difficult for me to share any real thoughts other than I’m convinced the X7 will look great. The extra-large kidney grille fits beautifully up front while the available 20- and 22-inch wheels give the truck all the desired stance. It is possible to imagine the X7 without the camouflage, especially after seeing the new X5 unmasked—it’s safe to say that it will be very handsome and muscular looking.
BMW will have no trouble convincing their typically loyal customers to step into an X7—most will probably state the obvious which is: “It’s about time!” The competition will range from the Audi Q7 all the way up to the big Range Rover, with the Mercedes-Benz GLS square in its sights. Again, I don’t think BMW will have any trouble selling X7s…