First Drive: 2019 BMW X7 Rushes into Large SUV Frenzy

March 29, 2019 by Ryan ZumMallen, @Zoomy575M

In many ways, the 2019 BMW X7 makes the famed German automaker bigger than ever.

The all-new X7 is the largest vehicle BMW has ever built and the marque’s first true three-row SUV. It’s also is part of a massive expansion at the company’s largest plant, and it arrives as the majority of BMW sales in the U.S. shifted from small cars and sedans to larger crossovers and SUVs.

Bigger isn’t always better, but the X7 gives the automaker stake in a booming segment of the luxury market. Built for buyers who want more excitement from their luxury crossover, it carries over some of BMW’s “ultimate driving machine” DNA. It rides on an extended version of the platform used in BMW sedans that enables a taut and enjoyable drive.

“We see big market potential,” said Carsten Groeber, vice president of product management for BMW. “These kinds of cars are not our home base, but we are trying to bring the BMW signature to it.

BMW’s plan is to combine the expected quality of German engineering with the space and versatility afforded by large crossovers. The combination will appeal uniquely to the U.S. market, as well as buyers in China, Russia and the Middle East, Groeber said

The new X7 faces a worthy group of challengers. Its closest competitors are the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90. BMW will also aim to siphon sales from mammoth SUVs like the Land Rover Range Rover, Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.

Sales in the large luxury SUV segment surpassed 250,000 units in the U.S. in 2018. It marks an increase of 3.6 percent compared with 242,000 vehicles the previous year. BMW is ramping up X7 production now to grab a piece of the action. The company built 687 X7s in January followed by 3,300 in February.

“The SUV segment is growing globally and will continue,” Groeber said. “Especially for luxury SUVs.”

Road Presence

Everything about the BMW X7 is imposing. Twenty-inch wheels are standard. Space behind the third row is generous at 48.6 cubic-feet. With the third row folded down the SUV boasts 90.4 cubic-feet of usable space.

The X7 rides on a lengthened version of BMW’s modular Cluster Architecture platform. Known as CLAR, it provides the underpinnings for everything from the upcoming 3-Series sedan to the redesigned X5 crossover. For the X7, the automaker lengthened the X5 wheelbase by 5 inches and the total body by 9 inches.

However, in person the X7 is not the hulking behemoth it appears to be in photos. The twin kidney grille front intakes, the largest in BMW history, come off as proportional rather than gaping. From its side profile the SUV wears an elegant and agile crossover shape. In reality the X7 is nearly 3 inches taller than the X5.

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Inside the cabin is as inviting and comfortable as expected for the price. Every surface is covered in premium materials. One test vehicle came with an ivory white and merino blue color palette, stunning both for its beauty and its $5,000 cost. A vibrant 12.3-inch touchscreen controls vehicle and infotainment functions.

Available features include massaging seats and a 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Accent lighting pipes throughout the interior and even on the panoramic moonroof glass itself, in selectable colors ranging from blue to bronze to lilac. The gear shifter is made of Swarovski crystal.

At launch the X7 will be available with two engine choices. The X7 xDrive40i is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine that delivers 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The top X7 xDrive50i offers a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 with 456 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque.

On the road, the X7’s versatile platform translates into a deceptive driving experience. The X7 glides thanks to standard adaptive air suspension. Switching the drive mode into Sport turns the refinement into agility – more than a 5,500-pound SUV would suggest.

It changes direction easily and accelerates in a hurry. The six-cylinder engine can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and the V8 reaches 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. The seating position provides a commanding view but is not high enough to detach the driver from the road.

As the X7 goes around corners it seems to shrink to the size of a compact crossover. Gears shift effortlessly thanks to paddle shifters connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission built by the German supplier ZF Friedrichshafen. BMW tunes the transmission and markets it as Steptronic.

The seamless work of the transmission, combined with impressive power from the engines and good construction quality prove the X7 can go big without going bloated.

The Adventure Factor

The X7 is not an adventurer out of the box. However outdoor-minded buyers can easily outfit their new SUV with a wide range of equipment. The optional Off-Road Package includes sand, gravel, ice and snow driving modes for $1,650. Raised roof rails are an option. There also is a towing package that increases hauling capacity to 7,500 pounds.

Yet the available cargo space and good dimensions prepare the X7 for trips to the outdoors. The X7 shares the basics of its off-road driving modes with the smaller X5 that debuted in 2018. Maximum ground clearance is 10.3 inches.

The X7 also features BMW’s outstanding suite of safety features. The optional lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control system are some of the smoothest currently available. Accurate radar and sensors identify other vehicles long before they change into the X7’s lane, helping the SUV excel at smooth acceleration and braking transitions – an area that most systems still struggle to master.

The thing that may give owners pause before charging into the wilderness is the cost. The X7 xDrive40i has a starting price of $73,900 while the V8-powered xDrive50i is priced from $92,600. Some models tested by contained options that brought the price to $117,550. The prices do not include a $995 destination fee.

The costs, though considerable, are in line with what customers are willing to pay. The average transaction price for a large premium SUV came to $87,247 in 2018, according to J.D. Power. That marks a significant increase of 26 percent compared with the average cost of $68,975 in 2012.

Fuel economy is good for a three-row SUV that weighs nearly three tons. The X7 xDrive40i is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 20 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. The thirstier xDrive50i is rated at 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined.

The introduction of the X7 marks a new day for BMW. One that the automaker expects to grow in importance as buyers look for bigger options.

Editor’s note: To facilitate this report, attended an event at which BMW hosted travel and lodging.

Chris Teague January 24, 2019
The new X7, the largest of BMW’s SUVs, comes in two models: the xDrive 40i and xDrive 50i.

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