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by Tim Beissmann

The BMW X7 will become the largest SUV ever offered by the luxury German manufacturer when it enters production in 2016.

Following strong rumours last week, BMW Group chairman Dr Norbert Reithofer confirmed the company would invest US$1 billion ($1.08 billion) into its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, USA, to build the new flagship SUV.

“Plant Spartanburg was built to enhance and expand the BMW line-up, underscoring the BMW Group commitment to the United States” Reithofer said.

“In addition to the X3, X5, X6, and the new X4, we are today announcing another all-new, larger X model to be manufactured exclusively at this plant for our world markets: the X7.”

The BMW X7 will be a size larger than the X5 (pictured) and will rival models such as the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and the Range Rover. The X7 will sit on an enlarged version of the platform underpinning the X5, mirroring the strategy employed by Mercedes with the GL and the smaller ML. It will come standard with seven seats, featuring a larger cabin and a longer rear overhang.

Unlike the X5, which is available with four-cylinder engines and in rear-wheel-drive configuration, the X7 is expected to be offered exclusively with six- and eight-cylinder engines and in all-wheel-drive only, emphasising its flagship status. Plug-in hybrid technology will also feature in some variants.

BMW Australia corporate communications general manager Lenore Fletcher told CarAdvice the local division was “absolutely” interested in the all-new model.

“Australians love their SUVs and we already have huge success in this market with our X vehicles – the X1, X3, X5 and X6 – and we are expecting a great reception for our all-new X4 when it arrives in the third quarter of this year,” Fletcher said.

“You can rest assured that if the X7 is available in the right configuration for this market, it will be a vehicle that we will be very interested in.”

The X7 announcement coincides with the car maker’s celebration of 20 years of production at Spartanburg. BMW plans to boost annual production at the plant by 50 per cent to 450,000 vehicles by 2016 with the introduction of the new model, as well as increase its workforce by 10 per cent to 8800 employees. The expansion will give Spartanburg the largest production capacity of any plant in BMW’s global production network.