TALLAHASSEE, Florida – We get behind the wheel of what’s now the crowning model in BMW’s X line-up. But will the BMW X7 prove as versatile as it is vast?

X marks a large spot

BMW’s latest addition to its extensive X range seeks to stake a claim in a premium SUV market, where the likes of Bentley’s Bentayga, Range Rover and the mould-breaking (for Rolls-Royce, at least) Cullinan hold sway, and it’s doing so in a large way. At 5 151 mm long, 2 218 mm wide and 1 805 mm tall, the X7 is spun off the firm’s versatile CLAR modular platform and is a hair larger than Mercedes’ GLS.

Despite sporting a wheelbase in excess of 3 metres, the X7 doesn’t look overly stretched or cumbersome; its simple, clean lines and sheet metal creases smooth themselves around that massive frame in a flattering manner. Things aren’t quite as harmonious up front, though, where you’ll find the biggest iteration of BMW’s signature kidney grille to date – and it’s a real opinion-divider…

Swiss Army cabin

The X7’s cabin can be kitted out with either a regular three-row seating arrangement (2+3+3), or a six-seater setup that nixes the second-row bench in favour of a access to the third row between a pair of supremely comfortable captains’ chair-type seats. Both arrangements are highly configurable via control panels for the electrically folding seatbacks in the driver’s-side B-pillar and luggage compartment. Depending on the seating permutations, the X7 can serve up a cavernous 2 120 litres of utility space. Most impressive is the 324 litres on offer with all three rows in place – something that usually renders seven-seater utility space to just a sliver of air.

A commanding driving position, considerable glasshouse and standard full-length panoramic glass roof lend the cabin an airy feel and everything feels beautifully crafted and solidly set. Barring the odd bit of tyre whine on rougher road surfaces, solid materials and acoustic glass do an impressive job of suppressing road and wind noise.

Diesel have to do

The local engine line-up will comprise the X7 xDrive30d, with its 3,0-litre inline-six turbodiesel (195 kW and 620 N.m) and the xDriveM50d, with a quad-turbo version of that engine producing 294 kW and a lusty 760 N.m. Despite its outputs comfortably eclipsing those of its stablemate, the M50d is only 0,6 litres thirstier per 100 km/h yet manages to breast the 100 km/h mark from standstill in a frankly eye-widening 5,4 seconds. This is especially impressive, given that it’s the heaviest car in BMW’s portfolio, with the both models tipping the scales at around 2,4 tonnes apiece. Our international launch fleet was a purely petrol-driven affair, so the xDrive40i, with its 3,0-litre inline-six turbopetrol worth (250 kW/450 N.m) would give the closest taste to entry-level diesel bound for our market. Although mechanically refined and smooth, the X7’s 2,4-tonne kerb weight blunts this unit’s low-end immediacy, although it’s fair to assume the 30d’s extra 170 N.m of torque should go some way to countering such shortcomings. 

Rock solid at sensible speeds

With all that weight under its belt, it’s fair to assume the X7 is never going to be any great shakes in the handling stakes; something that was especially hard to gauge on our predominantly arrow-straight motorway launch route. That said, with a couple of overtaking manoeuvres and the odd bit off weaving round the odd bit of debris left in the wake of a recent hurricane outside Tallahassee, its steering has a bit of life to it and the taut chassis helped it feel less ponderous than the similarly sized Mercedes GLS. The X7’s air suspension system isn’t afflicted by the occasional indecisiveness often encountered in large SUVs and the steering proved resistant to tramlining, despite our launch unit’s optional 22-inch rims and slim footwear.

Where does it sit?

It’s a little difficult to discern the X7’s exact purpose BMW’s already comprehensive SUV line-up. While it’s Range Rover-rivalling in size, the X7 is no dirt tracker, unless the optional off-roading package is specified, and it’s not the last word in dynamic handling, either. Perhaps the best summation would be to see it as a means for well-off family toting kids and associated trappings to side step the MPV option and go for something with a bit more street cred. 

FAST FACTS:
Model:
BMW X7 xDrive40i
Engine: 3,0-litre inline-six, turbopetrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Power: 250 kW
Torque: 450 N.m
0-100 km/h: 6,1 seconds
Top speed: 245 km/h
CO2: 198 g/km
Fuel cons: 8,7 L/100 km