The X7 is the bigger sibling of the better-established X5 SUV and is not only built alongside the X5 at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but no doubt intended primarily for success in the North American market, too. How much bigger is it exactly? The better part of a foot longer than the X5 and roughly two inches taller at the kerb; and it weighs about 200kg more, model for model.
Built on the ‘Cluster architecture’ (CLAR) platform that underpins all of BMW’s longways-engined larger models, the X7 has a monocoque chassis made of a mix of aluminium and high-strength steel. But even with that construction mix, our test car weighed 2583kg, which is at the upper end of acceptability for a luxury SUV’s kerb weight. A 12-cylinder Bentley Bentayga is slightly lighter, depending on equipment level, although a GLS 400d is heavier still.
Like the Mercedes, but unlike the smaller X5, the X7 offers seven seats as standard. Furthermore, it is claimed that the rearmost two offer proper adult-sized accommodation levels, which we’ll investigate thoroughly in due course.
While self-levelling air suspension is available only as an option on the X5, it is standard on the X7. Among luxury cars, an air-suspended BMW remains a relative rarity, Munich preferring steel coil springs in many of the types of cars where rivals use pneumatic suspension. Ride height adjustability is a key motivator here. The X7 typically runs with a 221mm ground clearance, but it can drop its body by 40mm for easier passenger or loading access, or raise it by the same amount on rougher terrain.
The M50i M Performance version we elected to test has its own special suspension tuning, as well as an electronically controlled torque-vectoring rear differential for its four-wheel drive system as standard. BMW’s Integral Active Steering, which combines an intelligently controlled variable-ratio steering rack with actively controlled, speed-dependent four-wheel steering, is an option and our test car had it.
The car’s engine is BMW’s twin-turbocharged 4395cc ‘N63’ V8, which produces 523bhp as well as 553lb ft. That’s as much torque as the closely related ‘S63’ M division V8 makes in any current BMW M car. Although it’s close, it’s not quite the 561lb ft made by the old quad-turbo diesel 3.0-litre ‘B57’ diesel straight six of the X7 M50d, which wasn’t Euro 6d emissions compliant and is being phased out of production this month.