The BMW X7 is the Bavarian automaker's contribution to the segment of lavish (and very profitable) three-row yachts-on-wheels, a segment that was practically invented in the United States. It competes with the Mercedes-Benz GLS, the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer and, of course, the undisputed champion Cadillac Escalade. Even if the X7 doesn't wear a sparkling belt, its popularity in the U.S is undeniable from the manufacturer's point of view.
Indeed, 47% of the X7's production is sold there, compared to only 2% in Germany. Hence, it's only logical that it should be assembled there, along with the other models in the brand's X line of utility vehicles, at the Spartanburg plant in South Carolina.
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That's where The Car Guide went to test drive the 2023 opus to the three-row SUV, which has received a series of cosmetic, mechanical and technological updates.
Enhanced Physical Shape
Among the cosmetic iterations on the X7’s list, we find newly designed daytime running lights, a front grille that's as imposing as ever – but that gets its very own lighting features (just like on the X6), redesigned taillights and a few other bits.
With room for up to seven people, the X7 is first and foremost a family vehicle for the wealthy. But BMW is trying hard to inject its sporty philosophy into all its products, and that must inevitably include the biggest of them. And while some popular rivals use recycled pickup truck engines and compromise on driving dynamics, the X7 tries hard to stand out.
The engine lineup is getting a revamp this year. The six-cylinder turbocharged mild hybrid in the base 40i engine carries over from the previous generation, but gets a few tweaks to unleash a horsepower bump of 40 to 375 and torque by 52 lb-ft to 398 lb-ft.
The M60i model gets an all-new new engine. Although the 4.4-litre V8 keeps the same displacement as the outgoing unit, its gets a new design and is now paired with a new transmission that includes a 48V mild-hybrid system. The output is impressive, with 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft.
At the top of the X7’s pyramid, the XB7 gets the biggest output. Alpina sorcerers got a hold of the M60i’s engine to inject and additional 630 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.
As far as chassis dynamics go, the X7 offers interesting bits. Two-axle suspension air suspension is standard across the board, but the M60i gets standard four-wheel steering (it’s available on the 40i).
The M60i variant gets a specific M Sport differential, as well as its own set of suspension settings with adaptive anti-roll bars. Its suspension also comes with a standard proactive system that anticipates road conditions using data from the cameras and navigation system to adjust damping accordingly.
Screens and (lots of) Gadgets
Curved screens and loads of gadgets, that's the trend in the posh family SUV segment. And the X7 takes part in the mouvement beautifully with a new dual screen setup that is curved to span across the top of the dashboard. The cluster is 12.3-inches and the infotainment screen measures 14.9-inches. The vehicle gets the latest OS8 software, which includes a new infotainment interface. There are less physical buttons than ever in this X7.
The interface that is complicated at times, and BMW hasn’t nailed the ventilation controls yet. Although the temperature setting are always displayed and can be adjusted at the bottom of the screen, you still have to scroll through the climate menu to adjust fan speed and other features, which can become an irritant. The system has automatic settings that are dynamic and try to dial in the perfect tempeture to take away the need to go to the menu, but the systems cannot logically always adapt to every preference or body temperature.
The new OS8 system grants access to a lot of gadgets, such as advanced parking assistance systems, towing aids and several other items are standard or optional. These can be more or less useful and reliable depending on one's lifestyle.
In the centre console, the shifter has been axed and replaced by a toggle like the one you will find in the iX. Beautifully finished wood trim, four-zone climate control and a panoramic roof are among the 40i's long list of standard features.
All models treat occupants with comfortable seating paired with plenty of room. Except maybe for the ones in the third row, who have to carefully manage 846 mm of legroom. For comparison, the redesigned Escalade has 886 mm (930 in the ESV variant) and the Mercedes-Benz GLS reserves 878 mm for these passengers.
The 48V systems clearly show their contributions to both engines in terms of response. In fact, for your everyday needs, the 40i's 6-cylinder engine provides a more-than-decent amount of performance to handle the X7. Powerful accelerations followed by comfortable delivery all the way up the powerband and convincing acceleration best describes the straight-line experience of the base X7.
In terms of handling, the air suspension is calibrated for comfort and does an excellent job of compensating for road imperfections, but also for the huge 23-inch wheels that fit the X7. This is the first BMW to be equipped with such large wheels. They're great, but you'll have to plan for expensive winter tires if you want to keep them on.
The M60i, on the other hand, is an almost totally different animal in terms of driving dynamics. While it retains many of the signature comfort qualities, it is decidedly more aggressive. The V8 provides riveting accelerations, but it's done in a rougher fashion. The M60i is always ready for tight turns and is surprisingly solid on its feet considering its size. This thing can handle itself.
But in the end, where does sportiness fit into a three-row vehicle? The X7 surely impresses in terms of driving dynamics. But the Escalade, known for its straight-line talent, has not said its last word with the recently introduced V variant. So manufacturers surely see opportunities there...
In the end, the 40i provides enough performance for most people, it’s a plush ride with plenty of comfort and amenities. And it’s available starting at $108,500. Those who opt for the M60i are just asking for it, and won't be disapointed in terms of handling. With a starting price of $129,000, it's quite a bit more agressive than the 40i and will appeal to drivers at heart... who still have to run errands and get to soccer practice on time.