Little wonder why BMW chose sunny Rancho Mirage in the Californian desert for the launch of its updated X7 flagship SUV, given the wide open spaces, endless off-road opportunities and Canyons for proper chassis proving.
It makes even more sense when you take a look at the global sales data for X7 and find the overwhelming majority of the US-built SUVs end up staying put right here in the United States – 47 per cent of them, no less.
The next largest market for BMW’s range-topping SUV is China which takes 21 per cent of production, followed by Korea with 7.0 per cent, while home market Germany accounts for just 2.0 per cent of global volume.
In stark contrast to BMW’s own global model mix overview, which favours the entry-level xDrive40i petrol version as the volume seller with around 74 per cent of total sales expected, Australian buyers will instead choose between the xDrive40d that replaces the xDrive30d, and the top-shelf M60i which replaces the M50i – predicted to account for 14 per cent and 12 per cent of global sales, respectively.
The new X7 is no nip-and-tuck treatment, either. Rather, it’s a thoroughly revised approach that focuses equally on design, tech, luxury and engineering in a wholistic attempt to lure more buyers over from its luxury German counterparts.
If you thought the old X7 cut a serious path on the daily school run or weekend game day thanks to its seven-seat, bus-like proportions, the new 2023 BMW X7 M60i tested in Verde Ermes, crushes it on every level.
The front end is where most of the design emphasis has clearly gone, with a similar split-light feature to its new-generation 7 Series sibling. The tiny LED slits on top are actually the daytime running lights, sans Swarovski crystals, while the lower level assembly houses Matrix LED headlights with an integrated ‘bad weather light’.
Love it or hate the new design treatment, it gives the latest flagship SUV a far more resolved profile and is more imposing still. Critically, though, the X7 takes on its own look with DNA from the plug-in hybrid XM and new 7 Series, rather than simply being a larger version of the X5.
The light signature is now unmistakable – just plain menacing in your rear-view mirror. Then, you factor in the illuminated kidney grille that’s lit from the top down under BMW’s Iconic Glow, and the X7 rises to a new level of prominence.
Some buyers (including me) will prefer the blacked-out elements of the M Sport Package Pro, while others will be keener to portray a more regal presence on their X7 with the standard chrome accented look of the Design Pure Excellence package.
Our Verde Ermes-coloured X7 M60i tester got the latter, with all-round chrome accents on display including side skirts and updated chrome bar now joins the new 3D-effect tail lights – but enclosed within a glass cover. That’s about the extent of the changes at the rear.
The side profile remains virtually unchanged, except for some new wheel designs, including huge factory 23-inch ‘BMW Individual light-alloy wheels’ for the first time.
Even the powertrains are new, with all available engines now boasting 48-volt mild-hybrid (MHEV) technology, along with various other upgrades for the exhaust system, turbochargers and oil cooling.
BMW also wanted the new X7 to have the widest possible settings between handling prowess and ride comfort (it was pretty good in the old version), meaning all the chassis systems have been retuned.
Safety, too, has been beefed up in the X7 by expanding the autonomous emergency braking system (AEB) and adding new assistance features like Parking Assistant Professional and Trailer Assistant.
Inside, it’s a more extensive makeover with X7 gaining an entirely new ‘Sensafin’ (vegan) dashboard, complete with the same curved display from the latest 7 Series as well as the i4 and iX all-electric models.
Sadly, there’s no suite of genuine Swarovski crystal glass controls for X7, except for the selector lever that looks and feels like cut glass. Nevertheless, you will find the latest BMW Operating System 8, the newest iDrive system and a watered-down version of 7 Series intensely vivid ‘Interation Bar’.
X7 buyers will also be able lock and unlock their vehicle with their Apple iPhone via BMW’s Digital Key Plus, along with loads of other remote functions.
For the first time on X7 buyers can also choose a six-seat configuration (instead of the standard seven-seat interior), with the second row gaining a pair of individual captain’s chairs instead of a split-fold bench.
Pricing starts at $166,900 before on-road costs for the entry-level xDrive40d and extends to $197,900 before on-road costs for the flagship xDrive M60i.
This xDrive40d is $26,000 more expensive than the outgoing xDrive30d, and the M60i is $8000 more expensive than the M50i it replaces.
It’s not quite the level of lavish fit out you get in the latest-generation 7 Series, but BMW’s latest flagship SUV is still luxurious and offers a far more exciting place to be than its predecessor.
New to the X7 is the same tech-centric cockpit found in BMW’s all-electric models, as well as the new 7 Series. Front and centre is the expansive curved display integrating a 12.3-inch driver’s display and huge 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen; both with high-end clarity and colour reproduction.
Given its range-topping SUV status in BMW’s combustion-powered SUV range, it’s a little disappointing not to get the Swarovski crystal set of controllers like those in the 7 Series, but then again, that’s also a lot more coin.
Nevertheless, you get the latest centre console with a new drive selector in Crafted Clarity design, which looks like cut glass. Instead of crystal there’s a nice knurled dial for the latest iDrive controller, while above is a new slimline instrument panel with semi-hidden air vents.
The dashboard trim looks a bit like Alcantara, but is in fact wrapped in a new vegan material, called Sensafin, which also features on the door trims.
The X7’s light bar isn’t a patch on the outrageously vivid system in the new 7 Series, and there’s no My Modes; that can change the entire mood of the cockpit with a single touch panel.
It also misses out on BMW’s latest flat-bottom steering wheel, instead fitted with a perfectly acceptable and completely round M version – some will likely prefer the latter.
Looking skyward and the entire roof liner is super-soft Alcantara, while the multi-panelled Comfort seats provide some of the best long-haul support in the business. And that’s all six seats by the way.
Instead of the regular seven-seat configuration, our X7 M60i was optioned up with the more deluxe six-seat set-up, which ditches the second-row bench (that seats three) for two individual captain’s chairs, complete with dual, fold-down armrests.
Better still, they’re also mounted stadium style, affording those lucky passengers the best view in the house. Fantastic for those that might get a bit queasy on longer drives.
Even the split-fold third-row seats are upholstered in perforated Merino leather, along with dual cupholders, leather armrests, and offer ample leg and headroom for adults, if required. And, that’s with an enormous three-stage panoramic roof that naturally impedes on headroom.
Measuring almost 5.2 metres in length, the X7 offers all passengers generous all-round space, along with plenty storage cubicles for your daily essentials; i.e. phones, keys and sunnies – and wallets, if you’re older than me.
Load space out back is simply cavernous, with up to 2120 litres available with both rear seat rows folded dead-flat. But even behind the third row, you’ve still got 300 litres of free space for the weekly grocery shop with easy access through the split-section tailgate.
The range-topping X7 M60i still uses a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine, but now with a suite of genuine ‘M’ enhancements, featuring a cross-bank exhaust manifold, bank-symmetrical turbochargers, external oil cooling, a lightweight oil sump, along with an all-new ‘S68’ engine code.
The upcoming XM plug-in hybrid performance SUV uses a version of this engine.
It also gets a 48V mild-hybrid system in the interest of efficiency and a more responsive stop/start system, yet produces 390kW and 750Nm, giving the big SUV a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.7 seconds.
More surprising is the fact those outputs are identical to the previous X7 M50i, which the M60i replaces.
By comparison, the X7 xDrive40d is powered by a reworked 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel, also with a 48V mild-hybrid system and outputs of 259kW and 720Nm. BMW claims the X7 xDrive40d can do the 0-100km/h sprint in 5.9 seconds.
Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with drive sent through an xDrive all-wheel drive system.
BMW claims the both engines are more efficient, with X7 M60i using 12.2L/100km on the combined cycle, while the xDrive40d consumes 8.0L/100km.
Further testing under local conditions will be necessary to validate the factory claims, as the launch program was far too fast and furious for any real world averages on our part.
BMW’s current engineering philosophy has a knack for making big heavy cars feel and perform like much lighter vehicles, and the latest X7 is no exception.
The results are even more impressive when you consider the 48V mild-hybrid unit added another 120kg to the kerb weight of the new X7, but you’d never know it from behind the wheel thanks to various revisions made to the suspension.
The steering is quick and responsive, and yet somehow there’s genuine feedback by which the driver can position the big BMW bang on the apex. In fact, the chassis seems to relish the practice.
I know, it sounds preposterous, but there’s serious enjoyment to be had from putting this sharpened-up land barge through its paces, whether that be going hell for leather out to Slot Canyon at Borrego Springs or tackling the more challenging terrain of the San Jacinto Mountains.
Naturally, you’ll want to hit the Sport button or even Sport + in the really twisty stuff, or equally if you want the listening pleasure of a few pops and crackles (not the offensive type) as you come off the throttle before jamming it again into the next set of choice twisties.
Miraculously, body movement is kept completely in check, with the X7 feeling more like a well-balanced mid-size SUV rather than the leviathan it is. It turns in crisply, albeit with the front end yawing ever so slightly – the result of the extra weight of the new motor.
Much of the magic is down to the standard Executive Drive Pro, which adds Active Roll Stabilisation, all-wheel steering and two-axle air suspension – all of which have the effect and making the X7 perform with a level of agility you might not have thought possible for an SUV of these proportions.
Pushing out of corners is also a lot of fun in this big Beemer bus, thanks to those systems listed above, and the M Sport differential at the rear. It really is more satisfying that it probably should be in this class of vehicle.
In Sport+ the suspension immediately firms up, as it deftly slices through some quite challenging corners – but not at the expense of ride comfort, and that was over fairly ordinary tarmac at times. The ride/handling balance is exceptional despite a wide variety of conditions driven on the test route.
The engine itself is a delight, responding instantly to the smallest throttle inputs, with little or no lag to worry about. It pulls hard throughout the entire rev range, though rather than feeling ballistic, it’s just quick but with a satisfying note from the V8 thanks to the standard M Sport exhaust.
Importantly, it’s not a motor that ever feels overworked or stressed, likely in the interest of maintaining a more mature, if not luxury character. Could there be a more powerful version in the wings? The upcoming XM should more than fit the bill if you’re looking for more thrust from the family chariot – although it won’t offer three rows of seats.
The shifts too, are smooth and relatively rapid, but not like the rifle-fire gear changes you get with a dual-clutch transmission. Under full throttle and left to its own devises in Sport+, I thought the shift mapping was a tad slow, but that’s just me.
Even brake pedal feel is more linear and predictable than it ever was, with stopping power truly excellent for a vehicle of this size and heft.
We’re likely pushing the X7 a lot harder than the average owner will ever do, but it’s nice to know it can still deliver lots of driver confidence with a thoroughly balanced approach to chassis dynamics.
And while it may not be quite as rapid as some of its rivals, ride comfort and suspension compliance is where the X7 really shines. Even when we dialled up Sport + on a fast run from Rancho Mirage to Borrego springs to counter the undulating tarmac, there were no sharp hits or thumps, just a heightened level of compliance from the twin-axle air suspension.
Off-road excursions in these parts might be more common than other parts of the US, and given my obsession with buggies and dirt bikes, we had cause to venture off into the desert to watch the weekend spectacle of hundreds of these machines tearing up the sand.
I don’t even recall hitting the appropriate off-road button, rather, the X7’s standard all-wheel drive was more than up to the task.
Also included in the new X7 is a wider range of active driver assistance system, including Level 2 autonomous technology. Driving Assistant Professional bridges the gap between cruise control and genuine autonomous driving is some respects.
We tried in on the Interstate highway and although it requires specific parameters to be in place for it to function effectively, it did indeed self-drive at times including active lane changing and route guidance, which is quite extraordinary to experience. However, it’s unlikely we’ll get those features for Aussie buyers due to legislation.
Towing won’t be an issue with your BMW X7, either, given it can haul 3500kg and gets a towball download weight capacity of 280kg. Maximum roof load is rated at 100kg.
X7 xDrive40d highlights:
- 22-inch light alloy wheels
- Matrix LED headlights
- Adaptive air suspension
- 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- Intelligent personal assistant
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system
- 5-zone climate control
- Comfort seats
- BMW Individual Leather Merino upholstery
- Anthracite Alcantara headliner
- Alarm system
X7 M60i adds:
- Black, illuminated BMW kidney grille
- M mirror covers
- M Sport exhaust system
- M Sport differential
- Rear-axle steering
- Active-roll stabilisation
- Ventilated and massaging front seats
- Second row outboard seat heating
- Third row seat heating
- Front row armrest heating
- Heated steering wheel
- Leather instrument panel
- Heated, cooled front cup holders
- M Sport leather steering wheel
- M-specific pedals
- M seat belts
- Fine wood trim
- Fineline Black interior finisher, high-gloss metal effect
M Sport Package ($NCO xDrive40d)
- M front and rear bumper design
- M high-gloss black roof rails, window trims and lower body accents
- M Sport brakes with blue-painted calipers
- 22-inch M light alloy wheels
- M Sport leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Fine wood trim
- Fineline Black interior finisher with high-gloss metal effect
- M-specific pedals
- Access to M-specific exterior paint colours
Design Pure Excellence Package ($NCO xDrive40d)
- Satin roof rails and window trims
- Pearl Chrome exterior trim highlights
- Silver underbody guard
- 22-inch grey light alloy wheels
- Sports leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Fine wood trim
- Fineline Stripe interior finisher with high-gloss brown
Connoisseur Suite package ($10,000 xDrive40d, $5000 M60i)
- CraftedClarity applications
- Sky Lounge panoramic glass sunroof
- Privacy glass
- Gesture control
- Ambient air
- Remote engine start (M60i)
- Illuminated BMW kidney grille (xDrive40d)
- Ventilated and massaging front seats (xDrive40d)
- Second row outboard seat heating (xDrive40d)
- Third row seat heating (xDrive40d)
- Heated steering wheel (xDrive40d)
- Front row armrest heating (xDrive40d)
- Temperate cupholders (xDrive40d)
M Sport Pro package ($4000, xDrive40d)
- High-gloss black kidney grille with illumination
- M exhaust system
- M Sport brakes with high-gloss black-painted calipers
- M seat belts
- 6-seat configuration: $1500
- 20-speaker Bowers and Wilkins Diamond surround sound system: $8500
- M Multifunction front seats: $3000 for xDrive40d, $1500 for M60i
- 23-inch Jet Black alloy wheels: $3500
- BMW M Carbon Fibre interior trim: $1700
- BMW Individual Ash open pore: $800
- BMW Individual Piano finish black: $800
- Alpine White
- Mineral White metallic
- Black Sapphire metallic
- Sparkling Copper Grey metallic (NEW)
- Manhattan metallic (NEW)
- Skyscraper Grey metallic (NEW)
- M Marina Bay Blue metallic (NEW)
- M Carbon Black metallic
- M Brooklyn Grey metallic (NEW)
- Tanzanite Blue BMW Individual metallic
- Dravit Grey BMW Individual metallic
- Ametrine BMW Individual metallic
- Frozen Pure Grey BMW Individual metallic
Metallic paint is now standard across the X7 range, with the majority of the BMW Individual metallic paint finishes costing an extra $2400. Frozen Pure Grey BMW Individual metallic costs an extra $5000.
Extended Merino leather is optional on the X7 in the following colour combinations:
Ivory White/Atlas Grey
- xDrive40d: $5500
- M60i: $3500
- xDrive40d: $5000
- M60i: $3000
- xDrive40d: $5000
- M60i: $3000
The BMW X7 hasn’t been crash tested yet by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- 8 airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Junction detection
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Front, rear cross-traffic alert
- Driving Assistant Professional
- Lane change assist
- Lane keep assist
- Exit warning function
- Surround-view cameras
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Reversing and manoeuvre assist (200-metre memory)
- Trailer manoeuvre assist
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Dash cam
All BMWs are now covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
While it officially came into effect on November 1, 2022, it will also be applied retrospectively to all BMWs, Minis and BMW motorcycles registered after October 1, 2022.
Buyers also get three years free roadside assist as part of the new warranty program.
There’s a five-year/80,000km BMW Service Inclusive package available for X7, which costs $2370.
It’s not the fastest luxury SUV – does that really matter? – but the X7 does the balancing act between driving dynamics and ride comfort better than anything I’ve driven in this segment.
Again, the Bavarian Motor Works from Munich has created something quite special in the latest X7.
With genuine improvement across all facets of engineering and tech to create one of the best vehicles in its class, that just so happens to provide genuine driver enjoyment and passenger comfort in equal measure.
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