BMW X7 India review, test drive

What is it?

The X7 is BMW’s new flagship SUV and it’s here to take on the Mercedes-Benz GLS. Stretching the tape at 5.1m metres in length, 2 metres in width, and 1.8 metres in height, the X7, much like its chief rival, is just colossal. It needs to be; there’s a third row of seats in the back. See one in the metal and you’ll also conclude this is no stretched X5. The X7’s higher bonnet line and significantly longer rear overhang give it a more imperious look. The X7 stands confident on its 21-inch rims but the optional 22-inch rims wouldn’t look like overkill either.

What does look excessive, at least at first sight, is the grille. The X7 is the model that started the ‘large BMWs warrant large grilles’ trend, and it does take some getting used to. That said, while the grille is ginormous, it seems a more natural fit on the hulking SUV than on the 7 Series sedan. Everyone will have their take on the X7’s breathing apparatus but certain elements, like the slim headlights that fuse in to the grille and slender tail-lamps, have more universal appeal. Our test car’s M Sport body kit, which brings in sportier bumpers, dialled the visual drama to 11. Standard-spec Design Pure Excellence trim versions look relatively more elegant.

What’s it like on the inside?

Clambering onto the last row of seats isn’t the easiest exercise; and that’s despite the large rear doors and even the option to remotely (via the display key) drop suspension height by 40mm for easy access. What’s also a bit frustrating is how long the fully-electric middle-row seats take to whirr forward and out of the way. As for the third row itself, the news is good. Where the last-gen X5’s optional third row felt like a punishment posting, the X7’s seating is well-suited to human-sized adults. Sure, you sit a touch low, but it’s easy to reach a legroom compromise with the middle-row passenger, the large windows and third-row moon roof let in plenty of light, and the five-zone climate control system means you can adjust temperature at the very back too. What’s more, with all seats up, you still get a handy 326 litres of luggage room. Buttons in the boot also let you reconfigure the seats for maximum luggage space or maximum legroom.

The all-important middle row also makes a strong first impression. Our test car features the six-seat configuration with individual captain’s chairs, in place of the bench on seven-seat versions. The chunky seats are generously cushioned and the powered controls for recline and fore/aft movement make it real easy to find the ideal seating position. You can’t adjust the front passenger seat from the back to increase legroom, like on the 7 Series, but even in the stock setting you won’t be left wanting for space. The dual-pane panoramic sunroof makes the interior feel airier still, and what’s also nice is that electric blinds for the side windows are part of the package. The experience is great but it’s worth bringing up that a Volvo XC90 Excellence offers still more for rear seat passengers, with seat ventilation and massage functions, something the X7 only gets as an option for the front row.

Up front, there’s an immediate sense of familiarity. It’s all very new-age BMW in here and the dash, in fact, is shared with the latest X5. Not that you’d mind because the layered dashboard is befitting the BMW SUV range-topper. True, bits like the mirror work in the iDrive dial and the crystal-effect gear lever divide opinion but the overall ambience is at near 7 Series levels; and front-seat comfort is also up there with the sedan. The X7 gets the latest iDrive system (the screen are customisable), the voice assistant (it gets tripped on Indian accents), and the controversial digital dials that have a speedo and counter-clockwise tachometer flanking the navigation readout.

There’s a whole lot else in terms of comfort and convenience features too. The assembled-in-India X7 30d diesel, which will be the mainstay of the range in India, gets laser headlights (they have a 600m high beam range!), soft-close doors, five-zone climate control, heated/cooled front cupholders and rear-seat entertainment system with two 10.2-inch screens. Of the other features of interest, there is six-colour ambient lighting that extends to the sunroof. Some of the aforementioned kit is available as an option on the X7 40i (it gets seven seats as standard) and also the X7 M50d with us.

What’s it like to drive?

For the time being, the X7 range comprises the 40i petrol that’s powered by a 340hp, 3.0-litre straight-six and the 30d, whose 265hp 3.0 diesel powers the SUV from 0-100kph in a brisk 7.0sec. Come October, India will also get the mad M50d and that’s the version we’ve driven here.

BMW SUVs have built a reputation for taking the ‘sport’ in sport utility vehicle rather seriously. The ingredients are in place here too. The X7 is built on the same platform that underpins the X5, there’s BMW’s super-clever all-wheel drive, and air suspension with damper control is standard too. The one with us, the X7 M50d, brings in heavy armour, most notably in the engine department. The M50d shares its straight-six diesel engine with the X7 30d but with a crucial difference. It’s got not one, not two, not three but four-turbochargers! That’s two low-pressure and two high-pressure turbos. The final power and torque outputs stand at 400hp and 760Nm, respectively. And to make the most of the power in the bends, there’s a sport differential at the rear too.

Floor the throttle on an empty tarmac and you’ll immediately experience the full might of the engine. The X7 takes off like an angry gorilla, and the full-bodied exhaust note sure makes it sound like one too. You can feel the thrust in the small of your back, and what will leave you awestruck is the sustained pull; it feels like a free-revving petrol and is happy to race past 5,000rpm before the sublime 8-speed auto snaps in with an upshift. The transmission is also supremely indulgent to high rpm downshifts effected at the paddles and gear lever. BMW claims a 0-100kph time of 5.4sec. Just think about it – 5.4sec to 100kph for a 2,460kg SUV.

The X7 also backs up the performance with impressive handling. It’s not lithe or agile like a smaller SUV but is nevertheless happy to change direction, and it also turns in tighter and sharper than, say, a GLS ever could. On twisty roads, the X7 feels like a plus-sized X5, but on the brakes you can’t escape the feeling of commanding a huge and heavy SUV. The X7’s dimensions can be overwhelming in town, and when parking, you’d be wise to consult the readout from the multiple cameras onboard. Or you could even leave the job of parking to the electronics entirely.

What’s also really impressive is how the Adaptive drive mode reads the driving conditions and automatically selects the right mode for the job. And what helps fine-tune the experience is the option to mix and match settings. The X7 feels cushy and absorbent in Comfort, ideal in town, and taut in Sport and Sport Plus modes that are suited to highway driving. We didn’t venture too far off-road but it’s a plus to know the ride height can be raised by 40mm, to 260mm.

Should I buy one?

The BMW X7 is a bit of a big deal in more ways than one. While not the model to have buyers thronging to showrooms, it will be an enticing upgrade for existing BMW owners looking to stay with the brand. The X7 also opens up BMW to a new lot of customers to whom a full-size luxury SUV so far either meant a Mercedes GLS or even a Range Rover. Long story short, the X7 could disrupt the rarefied space of full-size luxury SUVs in India. The X7 M50d, which will be priced around Rs 1.8 crore, will play the part of the range-topper, when it comes around October this year. But for the moment, the standard X7 30d, priced at Rs 98.9 lakh (ex-showroom, India), promises to be a great entry point to the range.