Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Large-capacity, turbocharged line-up
  • Strong performance across the range
  • Entry-level xDrive30d is a great all-rounder

The BMW X7 comes with a choice of petrol and diesel engines – the latter of which will be the most popular options for the timebeing.

Pair of petrol engines

Just one petrol engine was available initially, but the xDrive40i offers an impressive combination of 340hp, 6.1-second 0-62mph time and up to 24.6-24.8mpg. The six-cylinder turbocharged unit is smooth even at high revs, pulls keenly from low speeds and feels perfectly fast enough at full throttle. The purposeful but subdued exhaust note fits the bill, too.

If you can stomach the high running costs (it’s got a big car to haul around), it’s a very satisfying car to drive in this form. It feels eager without being too frantic, and beautifully smooth and refined in its power delivery, thanks in part to the slick eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s also quick to respond when you put your foot down or take manual control via the paddles.

2019 BMW X7 automatic gearlever and drive mode selector

You can also tweak how response the steering, throttle and gearbox is via the drive mode selector – standard on all models. There’s a choice of Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Adaptive, with an Individual mode available for the Sport mode.

We've yet to drive it, but available to order from the end of summer 2019 was the M50i, the performance flagship of the range packing a 4.4-litre V8 engine producing a heady 530hp. Top speed is electronically pegged at 155mph, but the 0-62mph benchmark takes just 4.7 seconds.

Pragmatic diesel options

A pair of 3.0-litre turbodiesels are offered for the X7, but they differ signicantly in terms of performance. The xDrive30d delivers 265hp, a 7.0-second 0-62mph time and 43.5mpg, while the M50d ups the ante to 400hp, scorches to 62mph in just 5.4 seconds and still manages 40mpg. Both are paired with the same eight-speed automatic gearbox as the petrol, which shifts with great smoothness, but impressive speed too.

The xDrive30d is set to be the biggest seller for the UK, and is more than adequate in the X7. It doesn’t offer the immediate rapidity of the M50d, but that doesn’t really matter in a large SUV. It’s still more than punchy enough thanks to a large torque figure that hauls the car along with ease, and is quick to respond in any driving mode. It’s also very refined with a pleasing six-cylinder growl when you put your foot down, but never becomes unpleasant.

If grunt is important to you, then the M50d could be the one to go for. It’s been tweaked by the M Performance division but still uses a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel engine, but ups the power to 400hp. In everyday driving you don’t really notice the extra power and torque, but floor the throttle and it wakes up more eagerly and propels you to the horizon. If that’s what you’re after then it’s great, but for the majority of the time the xDrive30d is more than adequate, and just does without the M50d’s sportier exhaust and glitzier add-ons. The X7 really is a case of less is more.

Will there be a BMW X7 M?

Although BMW does offer both the X5 M and X6 M for those looking for high-performance thrills in an SUV package, just as there’s no M7 Saloon, an X7 M is highly unlikely.

What a BMW engineer did confirm to us though is that the firm’s V12 engine – as seen in the M760Li – does fit in the X7’s engine bay, but that alone didn’t mean it would definitely reach the marketplace. However, if there is sufficient demand then an X7 M60i developed under BMW’s M Performance branding, could see the light of day if demand is there.

What about a hybrid version?

Given all car manufactures are under pressure to lower their CO2 levels to meet ever-more stringent emissions regulations, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) X7 from BMW’s iPerformance wing is much more likely; expect to see that in 2020.

We suspect a fully electric BMW iX7 is less of a reality given the size of the car and the current limitations of battery technology.

Handling

  • Remarkably agile for its size
  • Optional four-wheel steering helps here
  • Standard air suspension and drive modes

For the engineering team in charge of developing the X7, the primary challenge wasn’t simply to make it comfortable – that’s comparatively easy. Instead, the hard work comes in terms of making it feel like a BMW, and on that score, it delivers.

Of course, it’s not as agile as a 1 Series Sports Hatch or a 3 Series Saloon, but that the X7 is comparable with a 7 Series is remarkable given its sheer size and elevated ride height. Air suspension is fitted as standard, allowing for greater suppleness in ride quality and more adjustability between the drive modes of Eco Pro, Comfort (the default setting) and Sport. Those air springs also endow the X7 with greater off-road ability thanks to the system that allows for up to 80mm of adjustment.

With the standard steering, Sport mode feels suitably weighty, encouraging you to hustle the BMW along, but the car’s more nimble overall with the optional Integral Active Steering (four-wheel steering) package. You lose a little bit of feel and weighting through the steering wheel, but gain because the rear wheels have up to three degrees of steering input, too. This is especially noticeable at lower speeds, a you can turn the X7 in a much tighter area than you’d expect it to.

At motorway speeds, they turn in the same direction as the front wheels for increased stability, which BMW claims improves passenger comfort as there’s less lateral movement for passengers in the back along curves in the road.

When speeds are much lower, they point in the opposite direction to the fronts, making the X7 even more manoeuvrable. Combine this with BMW’s Active Roll Stabilisation that prevents the car leaning so much when cornering, and it feels impressively responsive.

Is the BMW X7 also capable off-road?

BMW doesn’t really talk up the X7’s all-terrain credentials, but the xOffroad package is optionally available with modes for sand, rocks, gravel and snow.

While virtually no X7 customers will take their cars off the beaten track, BMW’s engineers understand that for it to be seen as credible, it has to be able to go off-road for the few who want to.

2019 dark grey BMW X7 off-road driving front elevation on incline

The four-wheel drive package, air suspension and trick steering system, which help make the X7 so capable on tarmac, also allow it to impress off-road, aided and abetted by Hill Descent Control – think of it as a low-speed cruise control for all-terrain driving.

We’ve tried the car on a very challenging off-road course meandering up and down hills, through a tight and twisty wooded area, as well as some tricky terrain that’s normally traversed by Land Rover Defenders – including some parts of river and loose, rocky inclines. It would have been challenging to walk it, let alone drive it, yet the X7 proved more than its match.

Whether it’s more capable than the similarly-sized, but lower-priced Land Rover Discovery isn’t immediately clear, but even if it’s not quite as good, the fact that it’s a discussion point illustrates how able the BMW is.