We drive the biggest, baddest BMW yet

It is the biggest, boldest and brashest production machine ever conceived by BMW as part of the Bavarian brand’s ongoing luxury model. Offensive, and on size and looks alone it has clearly established itself as the new head of the BMW X family.
Yes, there is nothing unabashed about the first ever BMW X7 Sports Activity Vehicle. Developed by Munich to compete against ultra-luxurious SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover Autobiography, Lexus LX, Infiniti QX and the upcoming Audi Q9, the X7 fuses presence, exclusivity and spaciousness with agile, versatile driving properties.

Besides its considerable size, the X7’s prominent front end and ostentatiously large kidney grille sets it apart from its X5 siblings and gives it an undeniable sense of presence. While the huge grille may not be to everyone’s taste, it was incorporated on purpose, as its in-your-face brazenness resonates with customer preferences in the US and China – the two main target markets for the huge SAV.

At 5,1m long and precisely two metres wide with a 3.1-metre wheelbase, the 1,8m tall, X7 is imposing to say the least; more so even than the updated Mercedes-Benz GLS, despite being 12mm shorter than the Swabian. Yet its design, with many ques taken from the latest X5, is harmonious given its proportions. 

X7 also mimics its smaller sibling in terms of spec and standard kit, with large wheels (21-inch standard, with 22-inch as option), LED headlights (BMW Laserlight units are optional) and LED rear lights, a standard sunroof, a two-section split tailgate and Design Pure Excellence, M Sport or BMW Individual equipment lines.

Inside, the opulence continues with three rows of electrically adjustable seats in 2+3+2 configuration. There is also a 2+2+2 configuration, with twin individual chairs in the middle row. Whether in seven- or six-seat configuration (we drove both), legroom and headroom at the rear is remarkable, while boot capacity can be increased from 326 to 2,120 litres. 

This capaciousness is perhaps the X7’s biggest advantage over the X5, as there is virtually no difference in terms of interior materials and trim, dashboard layout, BMW Live Cockpit Professional instrumentation and control display, and other driver assistance systems (BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will be included in the operating system from March next year).

The X7 also shares its two muscular six-cylinder in-line diesel mills, delivering 195 kW in the X7 xDrive30d and 294 kW in the X7 M50d, with the X5, while the petrol-driven xDrive30i with a 340kW V8 engine will be available from October. As in the X5, all the engines are coupled with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission, BMW xDrive and (optional) M Sport differential.

Given these similarities, as well as sharing the same platform, one could expect the X7 models to behave very much like their X5 counterparts on the road, and so it proved on the extensive launch route in Gauteng. 

However, while the X7 M50d and the smaller engined xDrive30d proved surprisingly nimble for their size on the sweeping route, their added bulk certainly made its presence felt under hard braking and while turning in for corners at higher speeds.

They also displayed slightly more body roll than the X5 models in Comfort mode, while in Sport mode their ride was slightly choppier over undulations. Best is to stick in into Adaptive mode and leave it there. 

Also, the big BMW SAVs never felt compromised by their size, and despite their extra weight didn’t feel slower or less sprightly than their X5 counterparts. Similarly, they both proved ideal cruisers on the open road and competent on dirt roads, despite their wide, low-profile tyres… 

Personally, I found the xDrive30d (with optional OffRoad package and four extra driving modes – xSand, xGravel, xRocks and xSnow) the better of the two – despite not being as powerful and quick as the M50d it is a very competent package, and for R1,562,849, nearly R300k less than the M50d, it presents good value for money.

That said, the X7 is a worthwhile purchase considering the nearly R400k price difference compared to the X5? Perhaps for those who appreciate exclusivity and spaciousness above all else, or has a need for upper-class executive transport, or serving as personal transport for top company executives. In all other cases the X5 makes more sense… - Ferdi de Vos

BMW X7 Pricing
30d – R1.56M
M50d – R1.86M