After reading X7 in the headline of this article, you’re probably thinking: "Oh no, not another SUV". And yeah, you’d be right, it is another SUV.
German luxury automaker BMW launches its X7 in South Africa this week and Sean Parker drove the new flagship SUV in the City of Gold.
Available in two derivatives, for now, the X7 has been a car the motoring public either love or hate, and judging from the feedback on our Instagram, many have warmed up to it.
So, which derivatives are available?
For now, two. Both use the 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine, namely the xDrive30d (195kW/620Nm) and M50d (294kW /760Nm), which is adorned with four turbos.
The sole petrol-powered model is the M50i with a massive 390kW and 750Nm, BMW claims a 4.7 second 0-100km/h sprint time for this model. It’ll only be available here in October.
All three models use an 8-speed automatic gearbox and power is distributed to all four wheels. There is an optional sports transmission for the 30d that’s standard on the M-Sport models.
Built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the X7 shares the factory with BMW’s other X models.
Before I forget, it’s the first BMW that is available with seven seats as standard. It’s a 2+3+3 configuration and BMW will offer a six-seater option (with two individual seats in the second row).
When all seven seats are in use, BMW quotes 326 litres of load capacity. The tailgate is a split-opening system that can be opened and closed electrically.
Some background on the X7
I first saw the concept at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show and in the flesh, it looked horrendous. The kidney grille was bigger than Donald Trump’s ego and it certainly felt the scorn from many of our social media followers.
Fast forward to the end of 2018 and BMW held an exclusive unveiling of the X7 at Cape Town’s stunning Silo hotel, that was when I saw it up close and personal for the first time. And I still wasn’t convinced, perhaps the lighting wasn’t great.
But now, after spending a full day with it, I realised this SUV has a huge amount of presence. From the largest ever kidney grille on a BMW to the optional 22" wheels and an opulent interior.
In terms of dimensions: the X7 is just over five metres long, two metres wide and 1.8m tall, and with a wheelbase of 3.1m. Its direct rival is the Mercedes-Benz GLS, of which a new one is on the way.
Oh and it weighs a hefty 2.4 tons, which is almost as heavy as an adult male giraffe. Although it doesn't feel that heavy.
The X7 is available with a Digital Key (works with Samsung and Android devices) and up to five people can be given access to use their phone to unlock and lock the vehicle.
Driver assist systems cruise control with braking function, as well as the Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, which also now alerts the driver when a cyclist is detected as standard. It'll even learn your parking routine and control steering, acceleration and braking for up to 50m, nifty hey.
There's also lane-assist and the assisted driving mode seen on the new 3 Series, whereby the radar cruise control can follow the car in front and the car will steer itself before asking the driver to intervene.
What’s it like to drive?
Surprisingly good for a car that’s as tall as a building. The test drive route was made up of highway, gravel and few twisty bits as we made our way from the north of Joburg to the beautiful Magaliesburg region.
The X7 has a couple of different modes that alter the driving experience. In Sport mode, the throttle only needs a touch for the revs to climb as power is fed to the rubber. The M50d’s 760Nm is like tasting full cream chocolate milkshake for the first time, it’s extremely satisfying to mash the throttle. No wonder BMW claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.4 seconds top out at 250km/h.
Also, when Sport mode is engaged or the car’s speed exceeds 138 km/h, the ride height is automatically lowered by 20mm.
It feels calm and composed in corners thanks to the optional executive drive pro with active roll stabilisation which was fitted to our car. It uses electric swivel motors and enables swift and precise compensation of body roll when cornering.
BMW reckons the system not only makes the car more agile, and offers more stability when turning into corners, but also helps optimise traction when accelerating out of the corner.
It certainly doesn’t feel like you’re driving a massive SUV when you’re behind the wheel.
One blight I did have about the driving experience was the lofty driving position, I would’ve liked the seat to be able to descend much lower.
M-Sport models have an M-Sport differential, two-axle air suspension and adaptive suspension as standard.
I also took the opportunity to sit in the middle row and goodness was it comfortable. I could recline and move the seats back electrically and the cushioned headrest ala 7 Series is a nice touch.
Add the window blinds, and virtually silent cabin and most dignitaries or CEOs will find themselves working from the back pews with ease.
Luxury cars are wants not needs, we know this. But the fierce competition in the SUV segment shows that people out there want limousine levels of comfort with a raised ride height and that’s why the GLS and Volvo’s brilliant XC90 are around.
So, with the next GLS not touching down for another couple of months, BMW has smartly made people in that upper echelon market think very carefully about what ultra-luxury SUV should be parked in their driveway.