By Helmut Dostal
As large SUVs in the luxury segment go, BMW has come rather late to the party. However, the marque’s new entry—the long-awaited X7—is going to be a mighty competitor in a field that was previously owned by Land Rover, Cadillac’s Escalade and, more lately, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
In 1999, BMW entered the SAV (sports activity vehicle) category, as BMW prefers to call it, with its successful X5. Since then, the SAV format and the “X” designation, which stands for BMW’s all-wheel “xDrive,” have become available on all models.
As the star of the parade, the X7 leads in size (5,151 mm long and 2,000 mm wide), loading capacity (2,560 litres, with the second and third rows folded down) and a number of seats (seven), configured in three rows. And it does all this with a luxurious interior of fine leather, open-grain wood and more glass than a beachside villa.
A trip to cottage country
For a true test of the vehicle’s interior capacity and highway performance, I packed my daughter, her husband and their two rambunctious children—plus all their gear—into the car for a long-weekend trip to their cottage in Haliburton. Loading up was made easy by the power split gate and great access to the third row of seats. The second-row seats moved out of the way for the kids with the push of a button. Our three-hour drive was extra comfortable, given that the front seats are equipped not only with heating and cooling but also with an amazing massage function.
The X7 is available with a six- or eight-cylinder engine, turbo-charged for a power output of 335 or 456 hp, respectively, delivered by xDrive to all wheels via an ultra-smooth, eight-gear auto transmission. As with most BMW models, I expect an M (Motorsport) version will be not far behind. This would further boost the 50i version’s already the respectable performance of 0–100 km/hr in 4.1 seconds. That’s less time than it takes to dial a phone number.
A safe harbour
On our drive, there were plenty of warning signs for moose or deer crossing and, once darkness had fallen, the infrared, heat-sensing display on the driver’s side of the windshield was a much-valued feature that could have saved our lives. Equally valuable is the GPS-powered advance-warning system, which checks the road ahead for potential dangers.
Of course, the X7 offers all the possible safety equipment that might be expected in a vehicle of its class, including blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, cross-traffic alert and front-collision warning, which even detects cyclists ahead.
As we near the cottage, the bumpy lane leading from the main road to the lakeside has more than a 30 per cent decline. No worries. I take my foot off the brake, and the X7’s hill-decent feature takes over and makes the downhill ride safe and calm with, to my delight, remarkable agility.
Of course, the children slept through it all. Note to my adult children: This vehicle might be worth the step up from your current X5.
BMW X7 xDrive 50i
Engine: Eight-cylinder, twin turbo-charged
Power: 456 hp
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Price as tested: CAN$111,950