If nothing exceeds like excess, and anything worth doing is worth overdoing, then the first-generation BMW X7 has it made.
While BMW has offered seven-seat versions of its X5 range previously, it has never played in the ‘full-size’ three-row SUV market, while rival Mercedes-Benz has with the conceptually similar GLS range.
In the case of the X7, the closely related X5 provides the basics – sharing key engine, transmission, suspension and chassis components, but the X7 boasts more imposing dimensions: 22cm longer with a wheelbase extended by 13cm in particular.
The range kicks off with the X7 xDrive 30d from $119,900 at launch, but now listed at $124,900 plus on-roads in its most basic trim. The version you see here goes full luxe with the $15,000 Design Pure Excellence appearance package and $4500 Individual full leather trim package.
Standard spec is hardly lacking for high-end inclusions, with 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, soft-close doors, adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry and start, air suspension, head-up display, ‘Vernasca’ real leather trim, powered front sport seats with heating, power-adjustable second-row seats, a powered split tailgate, wireless phone charging and four-zone climate control. Just the tip of the iceberg, really.
A pair of 12.3-inch screens – one for the instrument panel and one for infotainment – support BMW’s latest OS7.0 software allowing ‘Hey BMW’ spoken commands, touchscreen, rotary dial and gesture inputs. Bluetooth, wireless Apple CarPlay (a one-year subscription), digital radio, connected services (a three-year subscription) and 10-speaker audio are all included.
As advanced as BMW paints its newest infotainment system, the software has its fair share of teething problems. Most of OS7.0's native functions are trouble-free, but voice recognition seems to struggle with Aussie accents, gesture control is nothing but a novelty you'll give up on, CarPlay activation is hit-and-miss, and Bluetooth glitches meant that while phones show as being paired, they aren't able to stream or make calls.
Having just dropped north of $120K on your vehicle, it wouldn't be out of the question to expect these systems to work as promised. It is outlandish that they don't, but in this instance we've scored the system on its promised potential, in the hope these issues are isolated or can be remedied with a future update.
Plumping for the BMW Individual interior option switches things from luxurious to outright opulent. Finished in upgraded ‘Merino’ leather with an Ivory White and Night Blue colour combo, this particular car looks every bit as upscale as a top-shelf 7 Series.
Linked with the Design Pure Excellence package, there’s also extended leather on the doors and rear inner panels, front Comfort Seats, sport steering wheel, Alcantara headliner, and Individual-branded sill plates to go with 22-inch wheels, Laserlight headlights, and premium Harman Kardon 16-speaker audio.
As for interior space, there’s absolutely no shortage of it. Front-seat occupants are out of elbow-striking distance of each other and get a commanding view of the road ahead.
The plush second row is sumptuously padded, with plenty of room to stretch out in all directions, plus the ability to adjust electrically. Never mind calling shotgun, this is probably the best place to while away the hours on a long trip.
The third row is also a star. It may not stack up to a purpose-built people-carrier like a Mercedes-Benz V-Class when it comes to sheer space, but two adults can easily and comfortably slot into the rearmost seats and emerge happy and cramp-free after extended stints on the road.
While a seven-seat X5 works for short trips with young passengers, the X7 fits a wider variety of human frames and trip lengths in the rearmost row.
As a flagship model, everything is electric. All three rows of seats can be folded with no physical effort thanks to buttons in the boot to allow maximum seating with 326L of boot space or maximum cargo carrying, 2120L, depending on what you might need.
It’s handy to be able to drop the rear two rows, or load passengers from the middle row without having to race around the vehicle, bear the brunt of spring-loaded seats or contort yourself to get things to lock into place. You will need to be patient, though, as the complete raise or lower process can take some time.
Once loaded up with crew and cargo, the monstrous X7 (at 5.15m long and 2.0m wide) becomes the automotive equivalent of a meditation retreat. Vault-like noise suppression keeps the din of the outside world at bay, and the daunting prospect of piloting such a big brute becomes a much more manageable task.
On adjustable air suspension, the X7 provides a soft and pillowy ride that glides over most roads, although smaller high-frequency bumps do still create a pitter-patter ride that reaches the cabin.
Steering is low effort with plenty of assistance, isolating most of the rough and tumble that might otherwise alert the driver to the full story of what’s happening beneath the front wheels. At 13.0m, the broad turning circle can be a limiting factor in tight spaces, too.
BMW’s 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder turbo diesel engine is a sensible choice for a car of this size. With a strong 620Nm of torque from 2000 to 2500rpm, there’s ample pulling power from just above idle to bring the X7 xDrive 30d up to speed without struggle or hesitation.
Diesel engines may not be famed for their refinement, but from inside the car, you'd be hard-pressed to pick what’s under the bonnet.
Peak power of 195kW at 4000rpm also stacks up well for a car that’s not aspiring to be a performance hero of any kind. There are more powerful engines higher in the range, of course, but a 7.0-second 0–100km/h claim endows the all-wheel drive X7 with more ability than most will ever need.
For those who tow, the X7 is rated to either 2700kg in standard form, or optionally can be pre-equipped from factory with a 3500kg maximum rating should you need the extra capacity.
Given that the X7 xDrive 30d doesn’t need to be as pointed as some more sporting BMW models, the eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission is syrupy smooth but not ultra alert. If you’re looking to up the pace it tends to kick down lazily, and despite having enough torque to maintain momentum, the car tends to feel a little sluggish at times.
You can remedy that by selecting the sport driving mode, which also dials back steering assistance a touch and firms up the ride a little. None of the adjustments transform the car in a major way, but are enough to notice a difference.
Mixed-cycle fuel consumption is claimed to be as low as 7.3 litres per 100km, and while diesels certainly can be frugal, given the size and 2370kg weight of the X7 xDrive 30d it seems a little ambitious. Unsurprisingly, after a week of driving that included a weekend of steady-state country touring, a figure of 8.6L/100km was the result, which is still decently impressive, if not a perfect match to the factory figure.
BMW offers a prepaid Service Inclusive program for the X7 that covers the first five years or 80,000km of maintenance, including fluids and filters as prescribed under the service schedule, for $1905. Adding a package that includes wiper blades, brake pads and discs brings the total up to $4914.
Warranty is a frankly embarrassing three years. Given most mainstream brands now run five years as a minimum, it's well beyond time for all prestige brands to stop treating customers with contempt.
Although it may not match the lofty heights of something like BMW’s own more expensive 7 Series range, the X7 – especially equipped with Design Pure Excellence and Individual leather packages – is so incredibly close.
The finishes, inside and out, are all designed to convey an undeniable sense of premium. There’s no shortage of tech highlights within, though unlike Benz’s gaudy dual screens and abundance of LED lighting, BMW ascribes to a more traditional appearance.
With comfort at the fore and no lack of luxury addenda, the X7 fits the bill as BMW’s SUV flagship, and given the equipment in this fully loaded version, it’s not hard to imagine a day when this model usurps the 7 Series as the brand’s pinnacle.