Test Drive:2019 BMW X7

Ron Sessions | Jul 30, 2019
2019 BMW X7 photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Introduction

The all-new 2019 BMW X7 headlines a 7-model sport-utility lineup, the broadest offered by any luxury automaker. Assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina along with the X3, X4, X5 and X6, the made-in-America X7 is BMW’s first dedicated three-row SUV, offering standard 7- or optional 6-passenger seating. Primary competitors include the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, Audi Q7 and Lexus LX 570.

The BMW X7 offers an all-turbo engine lineup. Powering the X7 xDrive 40i is BMW’s smooth-running 3.0-liter inline-6 turbo with 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Moving up to the top-of-the-line xDrive 50i nets BMW’s lively 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 456 horsepower and 479 lb-ft on tap. Regardless of engine choice, the powertrain layout includes ZF’s seamless-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.

Including the $995 destination and delivery charge, base prices for the 2019 BMW X7 are $74,895 for the xDrive 40i and $93,595 for the range-topping xDrive50i. An extensive menu of options can take both models into six-figure price territory.

2019 BMW X7 side view photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Styling and Design

It’s fitting that BMW’s largest sport-utility also features the largest twin-kidney grille in the Bavarian automaker’s lineup. Nose to tail, the three-row X7 is 10.1 inches more lengthy than BMW’s midsize X5 and stretches to within a half inch of the full-size Cadillac Escalade. The X7’s elongated 122.2 inch wheelbase and long rear doors allow easier ingress and egress for the second- and third-row seats.

Unique among competing SUVs, the X7 features a split tailgate/liftgate design with the lower third folding down akin to a pickup truck’s tailgate to act as a platform and ease the loading and unloading of cargo. The larger upper section swings up as with a conventional liftgate. Both the tailgate and liftgate feature electrical assist for opening and closing.

Cargo space is limited to a compact sedan-like 12 cubic feet with the rearmost seats up, but increase to a very accommodating 48.6 cubic feet when those are folded flat. Folding the standard second-row bench seats increases stowage space to a cavernous 90.4 cubic feet. However, the optional second-row captain’s chairs as found in the test vehicle slide forward but do not fold flat, limiting the ability to carry longer cargo. There’s even more storage located under the cargo floor when equipped with the standard run-flat tires. Opting for the optional space-saver spare tire (only available with 21-inch wheels) takes up most of that underfloor space.

BMW X7 dashboard + front row seats photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Features and Controls

Slip behind the wheel and you can really appreciate the X7’s spacious cabin. BMW’s SUV flagship raises the bar in terms of materials and design execution. It compares well with some of the better cabin layouts from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi, just to name a few. Although attractive and rich-looking synthetic leather seat coverings are standard fare in the xDrive 40i, leather hides come with the xDrive 50i. For a price, both trims are available with even softer, more premium leather packages such as the Tartufo Extended Merino leather included in the xDrive 40i test vehicle. All-day comfortable power heated front sport buckets in the xDrive 40i upgrade to generously bolstered multi-contour front perches for the xDrive 50i. An optional Luxury Seating package brings ventilated and massaging front seats as well.

The clean and uncluttered dash layout features BMW’s Live Cockpit Pro with a driver-configurable 12.3 inch high-resolution gauge cluster that includes navigation. A head-up display that includes speed, road sign, navigation and other information is standard in the xDrive 50i.

Other BMW X7 feature highlights include:

  • Standard 3-panel panoramic moonroof above all three seating rows.
  • Standard wireless phone charger.
  • Standard nighttime ambient lighting along the doors, console and dash.
  • Standard 4-zone automatic climate control for first and second-row seats.
  • Optional 5-zone automatic climate control that adds individual third-row adjustments as well as seat heaters for all rear seats plus the steering wheel and front seat armrests.
  • Standard power tilt/telescope leather steering wheel.
  • An optional rear seat DVD entertainment system featuring 10.2-inch displays in the backs of the front seatbacks.

The standard three-passenger bench is split 60/40, reclines and offers almost 6 inches of fore/aft adjustment. It has a slide and tilt feature to ease access to the third-row seat. The optional captain’s chairs offer seat comfort akin to the front buckets and slide fore and aft as well as tilt for third-row access, but they don’t fold flat. The gap between them does, however, present a convenient shortcut to the third row as it can be a tight squeeze sliding between the tilted second-row chairs and the rear door jam.

The X7’s flagship status dictates that all major seat adjustments are electrically assisted. Seat switches are conveniently positioned at the rear door openings, inside the liftgate and within reach of the driver. The electric motors powering the adjustments don’t seem to be in a rush, so some patience is required.

The third-row seats have seatbelts for two and offer one of the best accommodations among premium SUVs with decent headroom. Third-row legroom is just okay, but with low cushion height it’s not a place that adults more than 6 feet tall would want to take a long trip in. Amenities include padded armrests, cup holders, plus an optional third-row headliner-mounted climate control panel.

BMW X7 infotainment photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Safety and Technology

A large, 12.3-inch landscape-oriented infotainment touchscreen perches atop the dash center. Equipped with standard Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto) connectivity, in-car Wi-Fi, it’s the gateway for running all of your music, apps and in-car communications on the go. The touchscreen can display as many as three different app functions simultaneously. With BMW’s latest iDrive 7.0 system, the driver can access and control infotainment functions with voice commands, onscreen tiles, gesture control, the console iDrive controller wheel, steering-wheel as well as good old-fashioned but easy to operate at a glance dash hard buttons and knobs. BMW equipped the X7 with the latest design USB-C charge ports for powering mobile devices at all three rows, however using older devices may require an adapter.

Standard fare is an AM/FM stereo with SiriusXM and HD Radio. Other sound system choices include an optional Harman Kardon surround sound system as well as a potent (and rather pricey) 20-speaker, 1,500-watt Bowers & Wilkens system on top of that. The Harmon Kardon system installed in the xDrive 40i test vehicle offered a rich sound and clear fidelity akin to some home entertainment systems.

As BMW’s flagship SUV, the X7 is equipped with an extensive array of safety systems and driver-assistive technology. Standard in all models are automatic emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, a backup camera, road sign and speed limit information, a lane-departure warning system, active blind-spot detection, as well as front and rear parking sensors. Moving up to the top-of-the-line xDrive 50i adds standard smart cruise control, a surround-view 3D camera to replace the standard backup camera, lane-keep assist, plus the Extended Traffic Jam Assistant which brings lane-centering with limited hands-off-the-wheel time when driving on limited-access highways. Also on V8 models is the Driving Assistant Professional package that also includes front cross-traffic alert, Evasion Assistant and Automatic Lane Change (when using the turn signal with the smart cruise control turned on). To make sure the driver stays alert and isn’t lulled into complacency with such a wide array of semi-autonomous safety gear, the X7 uses an infrared camera to make sure the driver is still paying attention or it will sound a warning beep.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet tested the 2019 BMW X7 for crash performance.    

2019 BMW X7 driving on the road photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Driving Impressions

Considering that the X7 is a large SUV weighing in at well over 2-1/2 tons, BMW’s flagship doesn’t tarnish the brand’s ultimate driving machine heritage. Its primary mission, of course, is to offer a calm cabin free of unwanted road, wind or engine noise, as well as a compliant ride with good body control and stable dynamics. The latter is accomplished via a well-sorted standard air suspension teamed with load leveling and adaptive shock absorbers. Vehicle ride height is adjustable via a console-mounted switch.

For this test, the X7 xDrive 40i test vehicle was equipped with the optional Dynamic Handling package. It adds larger M Sport brakes, the M Sport active rear differential (V8 models only), active rear steering (which aids high-speed stability as well as low-speed maneuverability) plus Active Comfort Drive with Road Preview. The system’s forward-facing cameras detect road imperfections ahead to help the adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars to maintain ride comfort and keep the wheels from dropping into potholes. It also uses the X7’s navigation system to prepare the suspension for upcoming turns and curves in the road. Considering that the test vehicle was equipped with run-flat 21-inch tires, ride quality was luxury-flagship worthy with only the occasional bit of impact harshness over the more severely underfunded road sections.

Acceleration with the xDrive 40i’s 3.0-liter turbo six is effortless, although I think that the twin-turbo V8 in the xDrive 50i would present just a bit more of the flagship-worthy performance consistent with top-tier luxury. The xDrive 40i can accelerate from rest to 60 mph is just under 6 seconds with the xDrive 50i outdragging it to the 60 mph mark in a bit over 5 seconds. EPA estimates are 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway for the xDrive 40i and 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway in the V8-powered xDrive 50ifor the V8. In three days of testing over 150 miles, the test xDrive 40i averaged an indicated 21.7 mpg, not too shabby for such as large luxury ute. It was also equipped with the optional M Sport package which imbued the SUV with a suitably sportier exhaust note at wider throttle openings.

Both 6-cylinder and V8 versions of the X7 can tow up to 7,500 lbs when equipped with the factory-installed hitch.

2019 BMW X7 front view photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Conclusion

As BMW continues to fill out its ranks of sport-utility vehicles into every conceivable niche, the new 3-row X7 firmly plants the blue and white Roundel flag in flagship territory. The new X7 has the confident design, exquisite interior detailing and infotainment and safety features premium buyers are looking for. And while it’s a long way from the corner-carving sport sedans the brand made its reputation on decades ago, the X7 acquits itself pretty well when the road is something less than board straight and smooth as glass. BMW’s first dedicated 3-row SUV is on sale now. 

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