BMW's X7 classily meets the needs of wealthy buyers wanting a super-luxury large SUV and needing to seat up to seven adults. It's essentially a super-sized X5, but it makes far more of a pavement statement and inside, feels very high-end indeed. If you don't much care what the neighbours think - or perhaps even if you do - then you'd probably quite like one.
Not every new car these days is designed with a specific eye on European buyers. Take this one, the BMW X7, an enormous luxury seven-seat SUV primarily aimed at customers in America, the Middle East, China and various Asian markets. But BMW thinks better-heeled buyers with larger families here might like one too. You can specify a third seating row on the brand's smaller X5 but the extra pews are for kids only. Here, seven adults can fit more comfortably in a car that BMW hopes will make a really big statement.
The brand wants you to think of this as a 7 Series that could go off road, rather than a larger X5. But it does share most with that SUV, including all its engines - there are three. Diesel-haters will want the minority-interest xDrive40i variant with its 335hp in-line six cylinder petrol unit but most will select the 261hp xDrive30d with its six cylinder diesel. Another six cylinder diesel is found in the flagship M50d, this one with no fewer than four turbochargers boosting output to 394hp. All units use the same familiar 8-speed ZF auto gearbox and, as you'd expect at this level of the market, feature full air suspension. Tellingly, the 'Off Road Package' that provides a locking differential and extra driving modes is only optional. The driver can adjust the body's ground clearance for off-road driving by pushing a button in the cockpit to raise it in two stages up to 40mm above the standard setting. Tarmac is of course this SUV's preferred habitat where it rides with suppleness in 'Comfort' mode and handles with actually quite a lot of verve if you set the 'Drive Performance Controller' to 'Sport'. The commanding driving position helps and it's necessary because otherwise, this car's sheer bulk might easily feel intimidating on narrower roads.
This is, by some way, the biggest car BMW has ever made. In size terms, it's a fraction larger than a Range Rover and a fraction smaller than the SUV that's probably this X7's closest rival, the Mercedes GLS. This BMW is 5.15m long and 1.81m high - compare that to an X5, which is 4.92m long and 1.75m high. There's a full 2-metres of width too. Like the X5, the X7 rolls down the production lines of BMW's US Spartanburg plant. Inside, you sit high and the rear window seems a long way off. Most of the cabin technology and architecture is predictably shared with the X5 - principally the 12.3-inch digital screens used for the centre-dash monitor and the instrument cluster - and there's a huge part-opening glass roof to flood the cabin with light. There's obviously plenty of middle row space (the centre row slides fore and aft) and even those consigned to the third row seats won't feel too short-changed, though getting to them past the forward edge of the rear wheel arch can be challenging. The standard boot capacity is 326-litres. Drop the two rear seating rows and 2,121-litres of carriage space is freed up. A button in the luggage compartment activates a loading mode that lowers the car by 40mm.
Prices start at around £72,000 for the base xDrive30d diesel variant with 265hp. A couple of thousand more gets you the 340hp petrol-powered xDrive40i. You'll need to find over £87,000 if you want the quad-turbo 400hp M50d diesel. All models get seven seats, 8-speed Steptronic auto transmission, xDrive all-wheel drive, air suspension and an electrically-operated panoramic glass roof. Most will want 'M Sport' trim, which gets you an M Sport steering wheel and a BMW Individual headliner in anthracite-coloured Alcantara, plus M-specific detailing for the pedals and driver's footrest. An M Sport differential is fitted as standard on the M50d and in conjunction with the optional Off-Road package. This electronically controlled rear differential lock also hooks up with the DSC system. This set-up combines to reduce understeer and makes a notable difference when exiting corners. It also increases traction on loose surfaces or roads that require differing levels of grip for the left and right rear wheels. The optional Driving Assistant Professional package includes Cruise Control with braking function, as well as the Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking that can alert the driver when a cyclist is detected, are standard. The optional Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function can bring car to a halt then set it back on its way automatically.
If you've heard talk that diesel engines are planet-polluting brutes, then shelve that for a moment while you examine the black pump-fuelled powerplants on offer here because they're nothing like that. BMW's raft of technological measures includes turbochargers with variable inlet geometry and common-rail direct injection systems operating at pressures of up to 2,500 bar. All model variants comply with the requirements of the EU6d-Temp emissions standard. We'll quote as usual what we've been given, which are fuel figures compiled under the strict WLTP standard and CO2 readings generated through the rather less strict NEDC cycle. The xDrive30d manages 43.5mpg on the combined cycle and 171g/km of CO2. For the M50d, the figures are 40.4mpg and 185g/km. For the xDrive40i petrol, you're looking at 32.5mpg and 198g/km. What else might you need to know? Well, routine maintenance is dictated by 'Condition Based Servicing' that monitors oil level and engine wear, taking into account how long it's been and how far the car has travelled since its previous garage visit. You can check all of this using menus in the 'iDrive' centre-dash display and the car will give you four weeks' notice of when a check-up is needed so you have plenty of time to book it. To help plan ahead for the cost of regular work, at point of purchase you'll be offered a 'BMW Service Inclusive' package that lasts for three years and 36,000 miles.
Really exotic super-luxury SUVs like the Bentley Bentayga, the Lamborghini Urus, the Rolls Royce Cullinan and the Range Rover are all very well, but they only actually seat five people. If you want to seat seven with ultimate SUV luxury and you want something a bit nicer than, say, an Audi Q7 or a Volvo XC90, up until now, your only option was the Mercedes GLS. Now though, we think you'll be drawn to this X7. There'll be plenty of people who'll say that this car is too big for our market. They said that about the Mercedes GLS when it was launched and were proved wrong: they will be again here. Bavaria's most imposing piece of automotive real estate will have a distinctive appeal if you like the brand's cool sporting vibe, have a large family and want the very best. Size matters. But then you always knew that didn't you.