From £70,1308

You will have probably formed your own opinion about the way the new BMW X7 looks by now.

It’s possible you will have also heard how some of those larger-than-life design cues (you know what I’m referring to) have been introduced to appeal to customers not just in the US but also China and the Middle East. Following this simple logical progression further, you might also have come to the conclusion that motorists in those particular markets lack taste somewhat. But, you know, horses for courses and all that.

Anyway, the X7 is the newest member of BMW’s line-up of luxury cars. The firm will tell you to think of it as a 7 Series that can go off road, as opposed to an X5 that has grown quite a bit larger (at 5.2m long, 1.8m tall and 2.0m wide, it’s now the largest car BMW has ever built). 

Nevertheless, its relationship to its smaller SUV sibling remains a fairly close one: it sits on the same modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform, uses a similar eight-speed automatic transmission, is available with BMW’s Off-Road package, comes with full air suspension as standard and shares the same line-up of 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Unlike the X5, however, it comes with seven seats as standard.

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week

While the X7 will be offered elsewhere with a mighty V8 engine, in Britain the 394bhp, 560lb ft, quad-turbocharged (yes, four) M50d represents the top of the range. There’s also a 335bhp 40i petrol, while the 30d - which is expected to account for some 60% of the X7’s UK sales mix - develops 261bhp at 4000rpm and 457lb ft between 2000 and 2500rpm. 

M Sport trim adds features such as 21in alloy wheels and a sportier bodykit to an already impressive roster of standard equipment that includes Merino leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, a 12.3in infotainment system and heated seats in all three rows. All up, our X7 xDrive30d M Sport test car starts at £72,630.

One benefit of driving the X7 is that from behind the wheel, you don’t actually have to look at it. But to write off this flagship BMW purely because its design is challenging would be a touch unfair. 

How does the X7 perform on the road?

In all honesty, there’s really very little about the manner in which the X7 conducts itself on the road that’s likely to upset you. But then there's little about its dynamic character that will really get your blood pumping, either – which is unsurprising, given the fact it weighs nearly 2.4 tonnes and is the size of an average bungalow.

Despite its vastness, it’s actually a car that’s relatively easy to place on tighter stretches of Tarmac. Even on the twisting, narrow B-roads that made up our Scottish test route, the occasions where you would instinctively breathe in when faced with an oncoming lorry were few and far between. A good part of this is down to fairly serious visibility. Admittedly, the rear screen seems a very long way away from where you sit, but the view out is commanding.

To say the X7 handles outstandingly would be a stretch, but there is a subtle athletic undercurrent present. Given its sheer weight and inertia, its willingness to respond to changes in direction are actually pretty confidence-inspiring, as is the amount of grip it generates when pressing on. There’s quite a lot of obvious body roll through corners, and you do need to concentrate while directing the X7 into bends, but it arrives in a reasonably gentle fashion. You can feel it loading up the outside wheels as you add on lock, and when it all becomes a bit too much, the resulting understeer is gentle and controllable.

Set in Comfort mode, it indeed rides comfortably yet doesn’t feel loose or prone to float over crests. The 21in alloys don’t cause much in the way of questionable secondary intrusions, either (although the same can’t be said of the optional 22in rims). Sport mode tightens things up, but in a car this size, such a feature seems a touch redundant.

The 3.0-litre inline six, meanwhile, doesn’t lend the X7 an incredible turn of outright pace, but it does provide a wealth of torque to get this gargantuan SUV up to speed in reasonable time. It’s a smooth powertrain, too: step-off is nearly seamless, while the 'box deftly swaps cogs as and when is required.

Is the X7 as capable off-road as it is on?

And while it’s highly likely that the only off-roading most X7 owners will do is parking on the kerb, a shout-out here is warranted. A locking differential and the Off-Road package allowed our X7 to tackle some impressively rugged terrain despite being fitted with summer rubber. A pinch of salt might be required here, but our guide seemed genuine when he said the X7 was as good over their off-road course as the Range Rovers they usually run. We're inclined to believe him.

If you really must have an SUV the size of a small county, by all means buy an X7. If you can see past the design (hell, you might even quite like it), there’s very little about the way it drives that will cause grave concern. The fact that it can genuinely fit seven adults in relative comfort is also a neat trick in a world of so-called ‘seven-seaters’ that can only really take children – and small ones at that – in the third row.

Where the X7 does feel a touch disappointing, though, is inside. Don’t get us wrong, it’s impeccably finished and the materials used are wonderful to the touch. But so too are those you’ll find in the X5. In fact, there’s very little that really differentiates the two, at least architecturally speaking. It’s all a bit too derivative. And in the world of flagship luxury SUVs, a world where you could easily spend more than £90,000 once you’ve added a few options, that seems like something of a missed opportunity.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - BMW X7

BMW X7

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week