I recently had the chance to drive the new 2019 BMW X7, which just went on sale at the beginning of this month. The X7 is BMW’s first full-size, 3-row luxury SUV, and it’s almost amazing how long it’s taken the brand to enter this segment — but now, they’re finally in it, and their first effort is truly impressive.
First, a little overview. BMW has been making SUVs for about 20 years now, since the first X5 came out for the 2000 model year. But while the 3-row Lexus LX came out in 1996, followed by the Lincoln Navigator in 1998 and the Cadillac Escalade in 1999 — and then the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GL in 2007 — BMW hasn’t wanted to go this big with their SUVs, including to focus on a plethora of smaller models, labeled X1 through X6.
Well, that changes now. The X7 is officially on sale, and it’s officially huge, weighing in around 5,500 pounds and standing at roughly 203 inches in length — about the same length as a Chevrolet Tahoe. It’s a massive vehicle, and it has powertrains to match: here in North America, the base-level X7 (the one I drove) uses a 335-horsepower turbocharged 6-cylinder that sends it from 0-to-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. There’s also a 456-hp V8 model that’ll do 0-to-60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Not surprisingly, the pricing matches the sizing and the market position, with the 6-cylinder version starting around $75,000, and the V8 available in the low-$90,000 range before options.
The sizing is also matched by an equally large grille, which has drawn ire from BMW enthusiasts. BMW’s kidney grilles have always been a distinctive design element for the brand’s vehicles, but with the scaled-up size of the X7, that meant the kidney grille had to be scaled up too — and many think it’s grown too large, too bulky, too gargantuan. Personally, I agree that it’s unusually large, but I think the increased size was necessary to match the larger size of the vehicle — a smaller kidney grille, I think, would look even stranger. Plus, I think the rest of the X7 is gorgeous, as it’s one of the best-looking SUVs on sale, if you can get past the grille.
And it’s the same story on the inside. The X7 I drove included a $5,500 optional "BMW Individual" interior, with 2-tone seating, a gorgeous suede headliner and hand-woven piping throughout. It’s a fantastic interior, though I’m not sure I’d pay more than five grand for it — but even the standard interior is nice, well-designed and well-thought-out, with easy third-row access, comfortable seats and a gorgeous dashboard and center control stack. The interior is also tremendously quiet, thanks to standard dual-pane glass, outside noise is incredibly muted in the X7.
Beyond noise, the rest of the driving experience is also fantastic. The most shocking thing to me was how stable and substantial the X7 felt, truly offering the "bank vault" and "king of the road" driving feel you used to get from the Range Rover. Seating position is tall, the vehicle is quiet and comfortable, the acceleration and ride is smooth, and just the overall feel really gives you the indication that you’re driving a secure, stable vehicle. I really enjoyed that feeling, compared to the loose and sometimes tinny feel of certain crossovers.
As for acceleration, the X7 I drove was fine. The 335-hp engine is certainly all you need. Some drivers, however, will definitely yearn for more power, so the V8 is available — but I’d skip it unless you just can’t have a slightly slower version of something. Steering and handling is as you’d expect — light, vague, unremarkable — though the X7 is less ponderous and prone to body roll than I was expecting. But, as stated, the real benefit of the "feel" of the vehicle is just how stable it is.
In the end, I was skeptical of the X7: like BMW, I wasn’t sure if it was really a good idea for the automaker to enter this segment. After driving it, however, I’m converted: this is the best full-size luxury SUV. I’d still consider a Lincoln Navigator, and the Navigator still has more room and more pulling power — but the X7 is the one that I, personally, would get. It’s big money, but I’m shocked to say this: compared to rivals, it really is the best in the business. And it’s worth the price.