BMW X7: First Drive Review

Benjamin Gracias
BMW’s flagship SUV gets a new face and a new heart

Photography: Siddhant Gadekar

BMW designs has been a controversial topic, right from the Chris Bangle era to the kidney grille that keeps getting larger. The current topic is called ‘Forwardism’ and graces the X7, i7 and now the X7. BMW’s flagship SUV had received a comprehensive update both inside and out, as well as new powertrains. We drove the diesel variant to find out more. The new Forwardism design works in the sense that despite having many design elements, nothing feels out of place. The X7 has a bold face which goes well with the rest of the bodywork and improves upon its already massive road presence. The massive kidney grille still remains the most important design aspect and is now flanked by split headlamps, with the LED DRLs on top. The large bumper has the air dam concentrated in the centre. The side profile is clean with a strong crease running across, below the shoulder line. It shifts focus towards the tasteful 21-inch wheels. The tail section gets slim tail lamps with a chrome strip running  across. Unlike the front, the rear looks bland owing to the slab-sided tailgate and the monotony is only broken by twin satin chrome-tipped exhaust outlets. That said, the split tailgate is a cool touch. The X7 is currently available in India only in the M Sport trim. This includes sportier bumpers, blacked-out trims and roof rails, those sporty wheels, M badges besides an M Sport steering wheel. My only grouse is that the kidney grill surround is not blacked out though one look at BMW’s M SUV lineup and it’s apparent that the black grille treatment is reserved for its sportier models.

Step inside and the cabin impresses with its blend of modernity and luxury. The interiors and dashboard feel more contemporary unlike the Art Deco layout on the iX. I love how the glossy Piano Black dash blends with the Merino leather upholstery which give off a feeling of warmth and comfort. The seats are snug and in typical BMW fashion, the dashboard features a driver-centric layout where even the wide curved infotainment centre is angled towards the driver. I am not fond of two design aspects though – the illuminated X7 strip that runs across the centre line of the dash and the toggle knobs to adjust the slim central AC vents. Both stick out like a sore thumb in the tastefully designed cabin.

The curved display is one of the most beautiful screens I have come across in luxury cars. It houses two screens — a 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 12.3-inch instrument cluster. While the screen is rich in display resolution and impresses with its intuitiveness, it follows one worrisome trend in the car industry. In a bid to declutter the dashboard, physical buttons are done away with and the only way to access them is through the infotainment system display. That means that before you could rely on muscle memory to change or to find the AC knob, you now need to take your eyes off the road to locate the controls on the screen, an exercise that can not rely on muscle memory and is a cause for distraction. It is a trend I cannot get behind.

Thankfully, the infotainment system does not rely on touch input only, you have the beautifully crafted rotary iDrive knob on the centre console. While it does not do away with distractions, it’s still a less detrimental option. Being a flagship BMW, the X7 has every conceivable luxury features including motorised everything, AR-guided navigation and even a 360-degree parking camera that can double up as a dashcam! It gets a 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system which offers good bass but lacks the warm notes offered by high-end music systems on its rivals.

It also gets ADAS features such as Lane Keep Assist, Autonomous Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control. Like its features list, the X7 is big on space as well. The X7 is currently available with captain chairs for the middle row. The seats are well bolstered and move front and aft to maximise legroom. Even the third row offers good space. The cabin feels airy thanks to two large sunroofs. Boot space is decent with the third row up and the electrically folding split tailgate is quite useful.

Besides a new 3.0-litre petrol motor, the X7 now features a new 3.0-litre twin-power turbo-diesel powerplant. We are driving the latter and it’s an impressive motor, delivering 340PS and an astounding 700Nm at as low as 1,750rpm. This allows the 2.5-tonne SUV to accelerate to 100kmph in an impressive 5.9 seconds while offering a claimed mileage of 14.31kmpl. What’s even more impressive is how anti-diesel the powertrain feels. It is quite responsive and surges forward even in part throttle, especially in Sport mode.

Of course, it retains diesel traits like that locomotive mid-range grunt. The credit is partly due to the brilliant 8-speed torque converter gearbox that offers swift and smooth shifts. The other impressive attribute is refinement. At low speeds, you’d be hardpressed to identify what’s under the hood — partly due to the engine and partly due to the fantastic cabin insulation. Overall, the diesel motor is one of the best powertrains in its segment. A reason why I love BMWs is despite their size and body style, they offer exceptional handling characteristics. The X7 too impresses with its tight body control in corners. It does exhibit a touch of body roll in corners due to its size, tall stance and well, physics. It impresses with its poise and grip levels though.

The ride quality is on the firmer side but manages to insulate passengers from bad roads despite running on low profile tyres. This is thanks to adaptive air suspension on both axles. You can also increase or decrease ride height which is quite helpful when you have to tackle that nasty speedbreaker.

The BMW X7 is a massive improvement over its predecessor when it comes to upping the luxury quotient. It might not feel as ostentatious as its rivals but it is more engaging and offers a kind of understated luxury that only a few can match. In the world of Guccis and Balanciagas, it is Gabriela Hearst — a form of quiet luxury. It’s the perfect SUV for those who have arrived in life but do not feel the need to shout it to the world.

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