“I am pre-programmed to resent a giant, heavy SUV purporting to be a BMW. Maybe the X7 can challenge my preconceptions.”
I know what you’re thinking. Why? What is MotorTrend thinking running a car that represents the antithesis of what BMW should be all about? Vast, groaningly heavy, as elegant as Jonny Lieberman on roller skates and fitted with a kidney grille you can see from outer space, the X7 xDrive40i seems to embody everything that’s gone wrong at BMW. It is the anti-Ultimate Driving Machine.
Thing is, that’s the point. If BMW has sprinkled this most unlikely of vehicles with some of its old magic dust, it really will be an achievement. If not? Well, the X7 will provide a snapshot of just how far BMW has shifted its philosophy. For better or worse, we’ll find out. Either way, it should be a fascinating year. At least we’ll never miss it in the parking lot…
In case you can’t keep up with the nomenclature of modern BMWs, the xDrive40i is powered by a 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-six producing 335 hp and offering surprising performance. TwinPower sounds like a twin-turbocharger, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s just a single twin-scroll unit, but there’s no arguing that this small, smooth, and efficient engine remains highly effective in pure performance terms. Our test team was more than a little surprised it could out-drag V-8-powered rivals when they performance tested the xDrive40i. How does 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds sound? Even better, the X7 excelled in braking tests (requiring just 110 feet to get from 60 to 0 mph) and performed well on the figure-eight course, too. Unsurprisingly, testing director Kim Reynolds found that the big X7 understeered like Jonny Lieberman on an ice rink (am I wearing out this analogy yet?) when pushed to the limit.
Of course, for the most part, we don’t live our lives on the limit. Or so I’m told. And that’s especially true in three-row SUVs more concerned with comfort, luxury, and capaciousness than lap times and lateral g. So how does the X7 stack up when silkily meandering around L.A. ‘s currently almost tolerable freeways and avenues?
Normally, driving an enormous SUV can be problematic on the traffic-choked 405, but I have to report the X7 is a pretty lovely place to be. Priced from $74,895, our car has a tasteful spec that almost allows the huge X7 to slip into the background and bumps up the sticker to a hefty $96,895. Painted Dark Graphite Metallic the sheer scale of the X7 shrinks just a bit. We didn’t opt for the M Sport package, which would have deleted the chrome trim and upped the aggression. Instead we embraced its more cosseting role with the Executive package ($4,100), with a panoramic roof, glass controls, and heated and cooled cupholders. Cooled cupholders! Love it. However, we haven’t gone completely soft—our xDrive40i also has the Dynamic Handling package ($3,850) and 22-inch wheels ($1,300). Anything less would be embarrassing, surely?
The interior is truly delicious, too. Coffee Merino leather everywhere you look, a stonking Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound system ($3,400), wonderfully comfortable seats and more room than a Brit could possibly know what to do with … This thing would barely make it down many of our roads, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to park it anywhere! However, it fits L.A. pretty perfectly. The powertrain is smooth and powerful, the active steering helps to create a sense of agility and is tuned to match the chassis’ reactions nicely, and driving this giant SUV is intuitive and, at times, almost fun.
Downsides? The ride is busier than you might expect thanks to those 22-inch wheels, the throttle and gearbox map feels too lazy in Comfort mode and too aggressive in Sport, and in truth the X7 never feels remotely sporty. Fast and effective? Yep. But it can’t disguise its bulk in the way the X5 so often does. It is huge, of course, and brilliantly functional for giant, well-funded families or English blokes who need a relaxing thing to drive after a long day filming Top Gear America. Maybe the BMW purist inside me (and the rest of the staff) will be slowly extinguished by the X7’s all-round competence. Maybe. Let’s find out.
|SPECIFICATIONS||2020 BMW X7 xDrive40i|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$96,895|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 6-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/335-hp/330-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,530 lb (47/53%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||203.3 x 78.7 x 71.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.2 sec @ 96.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.3 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/25/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/135 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.88 lb/mile|