Wednesday, 13 November 2019

2019 BMW X7 First Look Review: Keeping It In the Family

BMW finally gets on board with building a large SUV the whole family can enjoy.

For years, BMW refused to build anything larger than the X5. Despite the success of large luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and Lincoln Navigator, BMW has never ventured into the full-size segment. But as gas prices fell and demand for SUVs skyrocketed, BMW finally decided to introduce a flagship SUV above the X5. It's called the X7, and although it looks like an inflated version of the X5, it represents an entirely new move for the BMW brand. Now, when its time for you to have your third child, you won't have to go looking to trade in your BMW for something bigger. Instead, you can keep it within the BMW family.

Sizing It Up

The X7 is significantly larger than the X5, measuring nine inches longer (five of those in the wheelbase), two inches taller, and far more voluminous on the interior. We had the chance to drive the 2019 BMW X5 and felt that it could use more room in the second and third rows. The X7 will likely feel more spacious in both respects, making it a superior family hauler.

Dimensionally, the X7 isn't on the same level as the American competition, the Cadillac Escalade, and Lincoln Navigator. Those SUVs are still larger, though the X7 is a more direct rival for the aging Mercedes GLS. The X7 can seat up to seven people, though a more comfortable six-passenger arrangement is available with full-size captains chairs in the second row.

An Evolution Of The BMW Family

One of the reasons people love BMW is because the brand has long been known for its sporty, yet luxurious, driving characteristics. While we'd struggle to call the X5 a sports car, we will admit that it is fairly capable on a back road. The steering is light but not too vague, and the engine/transmission combination is excellent.

We'd expect the X7 to uphold a similar standard in a larger package. Engine options are shared with the X5 and include a 335-horsepower turbocharged inline-six and a 462 hp twin-turbo V8, both mated to an eight-speed automatic. If it is anything like the X5, the X7 will shift smoothly during normal driving and provide titillating performance when you are in an excitable mood.

Purists may bemoan the fact that BMW builds big, heavy SUVs like the X5 and X7, but they fail to see how many people grow attached to the BMW brand while their families grow beyond the usability of a sports car like a Z4 or 2 Series. The X7 will allow true BMW diehards to stick with the brand, even after their third child comes into the picture.

Not A Cheap Ride

Unfortunately, when you enter the realm of luxury seven-seaters, the price often increases along with the number of seats. If you want to be able to haul the kids around in this level of luxury, you'd better have a darn good job. The X7 is not cheap, with a starting price of $73,900 for the xDrive40i and $92,600 for the xDrive50i. This is $12,705 and $15,855 more than the equivalent X5 xDrive40i and xDrive50i respectively.

Considering that the nicely-optioned X5 we tested started at $61,195 and ballooned to over $81,000 with options, we'd expect even a well-optioned xDrive40i to approach six figures. This puts it within spitting distance of fully-loaded versions of the Navigator and Escalade, though not as much as the bonkers GLS 63 AMG - don't rule out an equally bonkers X7 M in the future.

Technology Overload

While the American competition has the X7 pegged on pure size, the BMW creams the competition in terms of advanced technology. The X7 will be fitted with BMW's latest iDrive 7 infotainment system, which is one of our favorites in the industry. Not only can the system be controlled with an optional glass controller, BMW has also added a touchscreen, excellent voice commands, and gesture controls. The choice is a bit overwhelming at first, but you'll likely find out which method of control works best for you.

The X7 is also chock full of safety technology, which is great considering it will primarily be used to haul lots of people around. BMW includes extended traffic jam assist and lane keep assist as standard, meaning the X7 can essentially drive itself on the highway at speeds of up to 37 mph. We found some of the safety features on the X5 to be a bit aggressive, but they can be toned down in one of the endless iDrive menus.

The Looks

One of the biggest considerations people factor in when buying a new car is how it looks. Obviously, looks are completely subjective because there are still hundreds of thousands of people per year in the US alone who decide the Toyota Prius is handsome enough to buy. Some people have criticized the X7 for its extremely large grille, but we frankly have no issues with the design. The X7 just looks to us like a slighter enlarged X5, which is a vehicle we find to be quite handsome. It is hard for designers to make any full-size SUV look eye-catching and we think the elegant interior more than makes up for the average exterior design. We'd love to hear what you think about the styling, given many modern car designs are hit or miss.

Will It Sell?

Without a doubt, we think the BMW X7 will fly off dealer lots. BMW has been missing out on the full-size SUV market for years, and we'd guess there are plenty of Escalade and Navigator owners out there wishing they could have a sportier three-row SUV. If anything, we are just surprised BMW didn't build an X7 sooner. Now all that's left is for BMW to sit back and rake in the dough.

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