BMW is that car company that one can call elite and successful. They have everything from luxurious 7 series machines to standard 3 series sedans. Their M performance department should be blamed for giving us awfully good sports cars like the M3, M4, M6 and the BMW i8.
Did you know that Rolls Royce is also owned by BMW? Well now you know! While all this is happening, there is one thing that BMW has been missing all along. And that is a three-row seven-sitter family SUV. That’s right, BMW despite giving us the best cars across the categories has been missing out on this one. But that narrative has been changed
Fact file: BMW stands for (Bavarian Motor Works)
The Bavarian company is built on a reputation of driving dynamics, and has completed one of its biggest challenges to date: the development of a huge, three-row SUV that still drives like a BMW.
The 2019 BMW X7 easily becomes the biggest beast in the BMW lineup. Offered as a six- or seven-passenger SUV, it was designed to keep customers from diverting to other automakers when they want a full-size family vehicle. Despite having a seven-seat option, at best the X5 is really a 5+2 and will remain so until the introduction of the X7 as the true 7-seater.
BMW first showed the X7 as a concept at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show where its sheer mass was almost off-putting, and the kidney grille was downright intimidating. The production model is expected to be shown in November this year, which is roughly the time production models will start rolling off the line at the Spartanburg plant Germany that will be the sole source of the SUV.
The prototypes on the internet are definitely not enough to describe this car but with all the features that have been noted, it is possible to predict what kind of a beast the x7 will become. Still, some of the components on the prototypes are open for change after review by various experts before the SUV is sold to the public late this year.
New Architecture Key
The secret to the new X7 is that it rides on the same CLAR flexible architecture that underpins rear-drive cars from the 3 Series to 7 Series and the rear-drive SUVs from the latest X3 to X7. Only the current X5 is not on the new platform but it migrates over with the next-generation X5 coming soon.
Putting X7 on CLAR makes many things possible. It is engineered for a more diverse driving experience from Comfort to Sport as well as off-road capability. CLAR also has the electrical wherewithal to offer more features, many of them driver assist and other safety systems, as well as more advanced connectivity.
Sharing underpinnings makes it possible to build the X7 in the Spartanburg plant that also makes the X3, X4, X5, and X6 – which should promote quality while using economies of scale to help reduce cost and keep pricing reasonable.
BMW put its best guys on the X7, a divergence from the usual practice of having a mix of senior engineers mentoring their juniors who are still learning. It is a testament to the importance of getting this vehicle right.
X7 Engine variants
A plug-in hybrid is expected but will not be available at launch. The idea is still the subject of some debate, given that China does not like hybrids. A four-cylinder also makes sense for China and Africa, but would not be offered in the U.S.
What makes more sense is a V-12 but there has been no confirmation yet. And no talk of an X7 M, although there will be an M performance package offered. Also, there are no plans yet for a coupe (X8) unless there is customer demand, executives say.
The I-6 is the engine BMW has in mind for most markets. Even in a vehicle likely to tip 2500kgs, it provides nice, even, smooth acceleration. It is pleasing to listen to, reminding you there is ample power, although not as blunt as the louder and more audacious V-8. Exhaust notes are a combination of the real thing and some sound enhancement.
When the I-6 is not working hard, it is remarkably quiet; sometimes drowned out by some errant wind noise over the hulking X7 body. If the goal is a soothing and comfortable five-hour drive with the family, this engine does the job nicely.
The V-8 prototype had 21-inch wheels. The X7 will offer a choice of 20-, 21-, and 22-inch wheels. The V-8 feels and sounds more powerful but somehow the vehicle also feels bigger on the road than the one with the I-6, not ideal in a segment where the goal is to feel smaller and more agile.
Air Suspension Standard
Like the 7 Series, the 2019 X7 will have a two-axle air suspension standard on all trim levels and body height adjusts up or down 3.1 inches in total. By contrast, the base X5 has steel springs front and back. Also standard on the X7 is Dynamic Damper Control to sop up the road’s imperfections.
We should applaud the differentiation between drive modes. Sport lowers the SUV by 0.4 inch, tightens the steering, and immediately raises the decibels on the engine sounds coming into the cabin. Body roll is noticeably reduced in Sport, but on bad stretches of road, the suspension is too stiff and rear-seat passengers will feel the bumps the most.
Comfort mode does a much better job of smoothing out the chatter on uneven surfaces and sopping up the bigger bumps on bad pavement. Adaptive mode detects where and how you are driving and adjusts the throttle accordingly.
In Eco Pro mode, the suspension stays in comfort, the throttle essentially goes dead, the vehicle finds its glide path and dials down the air conditioning. The dash graphics turn blue and show mpg and battery info—info you will want when a hybrid is added to the lineup.
All-wheel drive is rear-focused for better steering and cornering but it is a stretch to describe this huge SUV as playful. But the X7 was designed to go off-road. There are terrain modes for sand, gravel, and rock—but not snow.
Active anti-roll bars and a limited-slip differential are optional. The off-road package includes more robust skid pads and rear axle lock. As tested, the X7 did surprisingly well on a packed mud course proving it’s ability.
Expect a full suite of safety and driver assist systems that brake, steer, and accelerate, with a vibrating steering wheel to warn you when you drift out of your lane. Also likely to appear: an optional camera to monitor the driver’s eyes for signs of fatigue or inattention, especially with autonomous features.
Exact dimensions have not been released but the X7 is about 201 inches long, 79 inches wide and 71 inches high. Weight is about 2500kgs. The most direct competition is the Mercedes-Benz GLS that is reaching the end of its lifecycle, the Audi Q7, the Infiniti QX80 which was recently refreshed, and the Lexus LX 570.
Even though BMW does not see American automakers as competition, BMW should be wary of the new Lincoln Navigator. BMW expects some 7 Series customers will migrate to the X7, and some BMW X5 buyers will trade up, but the target is conquest buyers.
We are a long way from learning pricing but the 7 Series will remain the priciest vehicle in the portfolio as long as it has the 601-hp 6.6-liter V-12. But if the day comes that the X7 gets the V-12, the price mantle could shift.