Designed in America, for America (and also China and the Middle East), the massive new X7 is a BMW like no other. But how well will its size and brashness fit in in tiny Singapore?
Here’s a little nugget of Teutonic trivia for you: the new BMW X7 is the fourth-largest car on sale in Singapore. Occupying 10.3 sqm of road space, its footprint is smaller only than that of the Audi A8L, Infiniti QX80, and Rolls-Royce Cullinan; it’s also larger than the floor space of some HDB bedrooms. You know what they say, you can live in a car but you can’t drive a house…
The X7 was developed to fill what BMW noticed was a gap in the sport utility vehicle market. Luxury SUVs like the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE had been well-established but apart from the Range Rover and Mercedes GLS, there was nothing bridging the size (and price) divide between the smaller cars and hyper-luxe off-roaders like the Cullinan and Bentley Bentayga. That’s where the X7 comes in.
BMW would like you to think of its biggest ever model as a 7 Series that’s been stretched upwards (hence the “7” in its name), but in reality it’s more an X5 that’s been stretched lengthways (it’s 23cm longer), and with the luxuries turned up a notch.
With its upright, enormous kidney grille, the X7’s face does bear more resemblance to the company’s big limo than the X5. Its looks may have courted controversy when it first debuted in concept form in 2017, but finding acceptance for it isn’t too tough- it’s hard to deny the massive grille (which is wider than a banquet serving tray) sort of makes sense in the context of the rest of the car’s size. Particularly so if you’ve seen the absolute nightmare that is the snout on the new 4 Series Concept.
Its upright and boxy profile though, speaks volumes about the X7’s utility, which is far more appealing than the absurd concessions to “style” that plagues coupe-SUVs like the X6 and GLC/E Coupes. Indeed, you immediately feel it when you’re aboard the X7.
Space and roominess play a big part in the perception of luxury, and the X7 has these in spades. Unsurprisingly, with a wheelbase just 10cm shorter than a 7er lang, the electrically-adjustable middle row offers nothing to criticise, but even the seats right out back are commendable. The X7 isn’t the first three-row BMW of course (the X5 has a third row setup, and there’s the 2 Series GT MPV), but unlike those, its sixth and seventh seats are actually usable by adults.
Like the X5, the middle row moves out of the way with just a button prod, and the X7’s long doors make it a doddle to climb in the back. Once there, you’ll find there’s an entirely decent amount of headroom and legroom on offer. I’m 1.8m tall, and genuinely wouldn’t mind a trip into Malaysia back there.
Of course it certainly helps that there are amenities aplenty, with rearmost occupants getting their own USB ports, sunroof, and climate controls.
Such a square body naturally also makes for excellent cargo-carrying capacity, with 326-litres available with all seats in place, up to 2,120-litres once you drop the five rear seats (again via a single button in the boot).
Up in front, anyone who’s driven a new X5 will be instantly familiar, as the X7’s dashboard is nigh-on indistinguishable save for nicer trim materials and extra toys to play with.
Apart from space, luxury also comes from how insulated the inside of a car feels from the outside world, and here the X7 excels. Air suspension means all road imperfections are simply flattened beneath the monstrous 285/45R21 wheels, acoustic glass means there’s never more than a hush of noise from wind or traffic, and the silkiness of the familiar 3.0-litre straight-six “40i” engine means that if you’ve not got an eye on the speedo, you could get up to illegal speeds completely without noticing.
That’s right, in spite of its size and 2.4-tonne weight, the X7 can pile on speed at an improbable rate, with 100km/h coming up in just over six seconds. Not that you’d want to go quickly on anything other than the highway though, because capable as the X7 is, it can’t surmount the laws of physics.
When he drove it in the US, big chief Ju-Len summed up the X7 as feeling “smaller than you’d expect” to handle. That’s true to a certain extent – it’s remarkably composed for its size – but you never forget how tall the car is, with the high centre of gravity making it wallow noticeably more than an X5 at low speeds.
Where it certainly doesn’t feel at all small is in our carparks. Never mind that its 5.15m length is longer than the Land Transport Authority’s minimum stipulated parking lot size of 4.8m (thank goodness for parking cameras), it’s the X7’s 1.8m height that causes anxiety.
You’d need to do a lot of homework beforehand to make sure you can actually get into your destination, and avoid embarrassing predicaments like being unable to enter a carpark with a line of cars behind you (ask us how we know).
So, is BMW’s biggest worthy of your attention? That depends on where you’re coming from.
If ultimate luxury’s what you want, then a limo like the 7 Series is more pleasant to drive and more palatial in the back.
For family use meanwhile, it’s hard not to bring up the equally versatile Land Rover Discovery, or if you don’t need the extra seats, the similar-feeling X5, both of which cost S$100k less. Amongst three-row SUVs, that’s pretty much your lot, as the similarly large Mercedes GLS is really long in the tooth now, and all other competitors are a size down from the X7.
Ultimately, where the X7 finds its own niche is in offering a larger package that still feels like a BMW. It’s got one of the lustiest engines in the business, drives better than you’d expect, and the tech onboard is amongst the most intuitive across the whole car industry. In short, it’s the best large SUV out there at the moment, if you can afford it. Being bigger and bolder can mean better, but it comes at a price.
BMW X7 xDrive40i Pure Excellence
|Engine||2,998cc, inline 6, twin-turbo|
|Power||340hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||450Nm at 1500rpm|
|Fuel Efficiency||9.5 L/100km|
|Agent||Performance Motors Limited|
|Price||$453,888 with COE|