The 2019 BMW X7 is not just the largest BMW ever built, it is also the most luxurious SUV the German manufacturer has ever offered.
The only surprise is that it took BMW so long to introduce it.
Luxury SUVs are not uncommon. The Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade and others have all gone down this road for years.
But what is deemed large in Europe still pales in relation to the competition the X7 faces in North America. While the X7 is longer and wider than the Range Rover, it is still 170 millimetres shorter in length and 46 mm narrower than the Navigator.
BMW is no stranger to luxury, of course, and the X7 has been preceded for a number of years by the company’s top-of-the-line 7-Series sedan, with its limousine-like amenities.
It is also the big brother to the five-passenger X5, no slouch when it comes to luxury in the midsize SUV segment.
In a way, the X7 borrows the best from both brethren.
Apart from extra millimetres, the X7 sets itself apart from the X5 by offering third-row seating.
There are two trim levels, starting with the X7 xDrive40i, at $92,500, which comes with a turbocharged straight six producing 335 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque.
The xDrive50i gives you a V-8 with 456 hp and 479 lb.-ft. of torque.
I drove the former model, with a few significant options, pushing up the list price to just shy of $112,000.
When you encounter the X7 in the flesh for the first time, you will be struck by the beast’s presence. As I stated previously, it is the largest BMW to date and it take a moment to process. Essentially, it is the same size as a Cadillac Escalade.
The twin kidney grille is equally larger and makes the X7 instantly recognizable, even among people who are not car enthusiasts.
Step inside and you will encounter a spacious and luxurious cabin for six or seven occupants. The optional second-row captain’s chairs delivers more than ample head and legroom for those basketball-player friends. The third row can even accommodate adults without their knees around their ears.
My tester had an over-the-top $15,000 Premium Excellence Package, with a list of features as long as my arm. Among the highlights are a massage function for the driver and passenger, ambient air package (with your choice of indoor scents), a glass shift knob (and other minor elements), Driving Assistant (a suite of active safety functions), laser headlamps and Merino leather.
A bit of a warning — the Driving Assistant includes a steering and lane-control program. If you decide to change lanes without signalling, you will literally have to fight with the steering wheel as it tries to get you back in line. Not recommended if you are cutting corners and driving at the edge of a road quickly.
The X7 may not have coined the term “sitting in the lap of luxury,” but it exemplifies it.
The 31-centimetre infotainment screen dominates the centre dashboard, while another 31-cm customizable screen in front of the driver presents information in a number of formats and colours.
The screen recognizes a limited number of hand gestures, such as swiping to accept a call or circular motions to adjust the audio volume.
But let’s not forget why you would choose a BMW in the first place — for its performance.
The 40i is merely the entry-level of the X7. It comes with a turbocharged straight six providing ample, but not sparkling, acceleration. BMW advertises a 0-100 km/h dash in about six seconds. There is a mode selector to give the drive a selection of drives, with Sport giving the best response to inputs involving your right foot.
But take it onto a secondary road, and the X7 puts some serious distance between it and its rivals. My tester also had the optional M Sport package that equipped it with, among other items, staggered 275/40 R22 front and 315/35 R22 rear wheels and tires. You need to park one of the competition beside the X7 to truly appreciate how large (and imposing) these tires look.
These summer performance tires, and an upgraded suspension, made the big boy dance in corners. Throw in a sportier exhaust and open windows to let in the summer air and an afternoon drive will make for lasting memories.
I can only wait for the time I get the more powerful engine to see if I can scare myself on the same stretch of highway.
Finished with the hooliganism? Dial it back to Comfort, close the windows, turn on the massage function and cruise home sedately.
This being Canada, it’s not all roses throughout the year. The included air suspension can raise the X7 up a few millimetres and the all-wheel drive (with an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential) will take you off-road or home after a snowstorm.
BMW might have been late to the full-size luxury SUV supper, but I have to commend them for making one heck of an entrance.
Apart for wishing for more power — which an outlay of $17,600 for an upgrade to the V-8-engined xDrive50i would cure — I can’t think of anything negative I can say about the newest member of the luxury club.
THE SPEC SHEET
Type: Full-size luxury seven-passenger SUV, front engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: Turbocharged in-line 3.0-litre six cylinder, 335 hp at 5,500 r.p.m., 332 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,380 to 5,200 r.p.m.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Dimensions (mm): Length, 5,164; width, 1,999; height, 1,806; wheelbase, 3,104
Curb weight (kg): 2,548 kg
Price (base/as tested): $92,500/ $114,295 (includes $2,245 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)
Options: Premium Excellence Package $15,000, M Sport Package $2,900, 6-seat configuration $750, Luggage compartment package $500, display key $300
Tires: Staggered 275/40 R22 front and 315/35 R22 rear on alloy wheels
Fuel type: Premium
Fuel economy (L/100km): 12.0 city/ 9.4 highway
Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car