Road tests

New BMW X7 2019 review

The BMW X7 is BMW's new flagship SUV and is aiming to tackle the Range Rover head on, but has it succeeded?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The first-ever BMW X7 won’t worry Range Rover’s marketing team all that much, but that doesn’t stop it being a seriously accomplished luxury SUV. It’s huge inside and out, excelling as a luxury limo and posh family bus in equal measure. Our UK road test will give us a better impression of the X7’s dynamic ability, but as a refined, beautifully built and suitably imposing SUV, it looks to tick every box and more.

BMW is no stranger to the SUV segment. Yet for years, the Range Rover has held its own as the ultimate off-roader; the long-standing default choice for those after the luxury of a limousine with the practicality and status of a 4x4. 

Yet BMW thinks the Range Rover’s days at the top are numbered. With the introduction of the X7, the German firm now occupies a broader spectrum of SUVs than near enough any maker on the planet. Depending on your needs and lifestyle choices, you can choose anything from the very smallest X1, to the mid-size X3 or larger X5 – with the sleeker X2, X4 and X6 sitting somewhere in between. But this X7 takes the company into unchartered territory.

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Due in UK dealers next month, BMW will offer the X7 with a choice of three six-cylinder engines at launch – each mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The entry-level 30d costs from £72,155 and uses the now familiar 261bhp 3.0-litre diesel unit. For an additional £2k buyers can select the 40i petrol, while just over £87,000 puts you behind the wheel of the flagship quad-turbo M50d.

Despite buyers swinging in favour of petrol or hybrid power, it’s the 30d that BMW’s reckons will prove most popular in the UK – at least to begin with. Unfortunately, that car wasn’t available to us on the US-based international launch, so most of our miles were covered in the 40i. With 335bhp and 450Nm of torque, it’s certainly not lacking punch; despite being more than 5.1m long and 1.8m tall, it’ll do 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds – and allegedly return more than 30mpg. 

BMW claims the X7 is a ‘paragon of quality’, delivering outstanding luxury and a full complement of advanced equipment features. As such, every version gets LED headlights, air suspension and a 12.3-inch digital display. Its sheer size means even the entry car gets 21-inch wheels, while the standard-fit three-part glass roof floods the cabin with natural light.

Quality is first rate, with every surface covered in leather, metal or soft-touch plastic. There’s a typically Germanic feel to the cabin – up front, especially – where it appears more clinically engineered than a Range Rover, and more logically designed, too. The infotainment system is easy to use, and it’s complemented by a row of shortcut buttons that allows the driver or passenger to quickly switch radio stations or instantly input a pre-set sat-nav destination. Like on the current 5 Series, the gesture control system feels like little more than a gimmick, however. 

Elsewhere, the kit list is generous. Every car gets the latest Parking Assistant Plus system and 360-degree cameras, but thankfully BMW’s CraftedClarity glass gear lever and associated buttons first seen on the X5, remain optional. M Sport spec, which historically has been a big money maker for BMW, adds racier trim and high gloss accents.

While it won’t waft like a Range Rover, the X7 is an incredibly refined SUV – certainly more so than the outgoing Mercedes GLS. Those air springs mean every X7 deals admirably with even the very worst lumps and bumps, and while the highways we sampled were pretty smooth, the occasional deep pothole refused to upset the grandeur or composure of the BMW’s latest SUV.

Unfortunately, our test route from the factory in South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia, comprised almost entirely fast, straight roads. While the few corners we did encounter showed it to feel much like a longer and larger X5, it’s simply impossible to pass considered judgement on what the new X7 is like from a dynamic perspective.

That said, the tried and tested straight-six petrol engine is lifted from the latest 540i and is as smooth and powerful as you’d expect. It pulls strongly in spite of the X7’s frankly absurd 2.4-tonne kerbweight, matched perfectly by the familiar eight-speed ZF box.

But the X7’s aspirations as a Range Rover killer mean this BMW needs to be as comfortable and complete in the rear, as it is up front. Gladly, there’s loads of room in the back; all UK cars get seven seats as standard, but for an extra £500-odd you can ‘upgrade’ to a six-seat layout with two armchair-style seats in the middle row. These slide and recline electrically, of course.

Four-zone climate control is standard, and you can even spec a five-zone set-up if you plan on regularly carrying a full suite of siblings. A Land Rover Discovery is perhaps marginally more spacious for those in the very back, but the X7 should prove more than sufficient for growing kids. You can specify rear sun blinds in the second row, and there are even controls to allow passengers to close the headliner.

But the biggest difference with the X7 versus a Discovery, is bootspace. Even with the rearmost seats in place, the BMW boasts a bigger load bay than you’ll find in the latest Mazda 3. Fold everything down and you’ll reveal a van-like 2,120 litres, while that air suspension system means you can lower the car slightly to make loading a little bit easier. It’s a colossal car, but the internal benefits of that huge footprint are clear as day.

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