Despite its eminence in the crossover and SUV field, BMW has historically lacked one thing that many of its competitors in the luxury space have had for some time, and that is a dedicated model with three rows of seating.
That changes for 2019 with the arrival of the X7, which becomes the largest utility vehicle in BMW’s history and the first to come standard with seating for seven.
BMW has in the past offered its mid-size X5 with three rows, which lined it up nicely with the popular Acura MDX, but the X5 is not spacious enough to go up against other European models, most notably the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class (formerly the GL-Class) and Volvo XC90.
The first-ever BMW X7 comes in two distinct flavours which are, as is the Bavarians’ way, built around their engines. At the entry level is the xDrive40i, powered by a 3.0L turbocharged six-cylinder engine making 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. The move up takes you to the xDrive50i, which derives its motivation from a 4.4L turbo V8 that makes 456 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque.
As their designations suggest, BMW’s xDrive AWD system is standard with both engines, as is an eight-speed automatic transmission.
BMW says the latest version of xDrive is better at apportioning power between the front and rear wheels, and can run in full rear-drive mode even at full power until the traction situation requires some thrust be sent forward.
Chassis features include active comfort drive, which uses cameras to predict road surface conditions and adjust the air suspension and active roll system accordingly. There’s also a four-wheel steering system that turns the rear wheels either in the same or opposite direction as the fronts, depending on vehicle speed, to aid highway stability and low-speed maneuverability.
BMW breaks little ground with the X7’s looks, which borrow styling cues from all over the rest of the carmaker’s lineup but presents them in a more aggressive-looking package, a descriptor that is particularly true when viewing the car from the front.
Overall, however, you can tell that the company’s designers know there’s only so much you can do with a big utility’s look if you want it to be practical. There nothing resembling the rakish rooflines you’ll find on the X4 and X6; it’s not hard to see BMW was going for a family resemblance between the X7 and X5.
Standard features include a three-panel sunroof, air suspension with a lowering function to make loading cargo and passengers easier, a split tailgate (both halves of which are electric), artificial leather upholstery (the xDrive50i gets real leather as standard), LED headlights and the BMW intelligent personal assistant.
Also included are active safety items like blind spot detection, lane departure warning, rear collision warning, frontal collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, city-speed collision mitigation and rear cross traffic alert.
Options include a locking rear differential, a panorama sky lounge LED roof that emulates the look of a starry sky and other nigh on ridiculous (but cool-sounding) items like glass finishes for the engine start button and transmission gear selector.