The BMW X7 M50i feels utterly indomitable on the road. It is stuffed with excessive luxury and power, and has an exquisite interior with room for seven adults to get comfortable (or six to get even more comfortable). That space and interior finish make it a compelling and more practical Range Rover alternative, but it’s not as fun as you’d expect given the M engine and badging, and it’s awkwardly big for many places in the UK.
The BMW X7 is, in many ways, absolutely brilliant. Seven-seat SUVs are in demand, and those with space for two adults to sit in the rear without feeling cramped are few and far between. The X7 is one of them, though, and if you choose the optional six-seat layout, it can also deliver chauffeur-class comfort.
In fact, as a rival to the likes of the Mercedes GLS, Range Rover and Tesla Model X, it’s easy to see why you’d choose this flagship M50i variant. The X7 may be offered in more sensible 30d, 50d and 40i variants, but if you’re going to spend your bonus on a massive luxury SUV, you might as well go the whole V8 and get the one with the M5’s engine. Which is exactly what this is, complete with 523bhp and 775Nm from the twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8, as well as M Division braking system and differential – the latter of which can send all 523bhp to the rear wheels if necessary.
The result is impressive. The X7 delivers neutral, tidy handling, and that diff allows the X7 M50i to claw its way out of a corner quite gamely. Mind you, a Range Rover certainly steers with more natural fluidity.
And the engine is a gem, of course. There are significant revisions over the M5’s lump, including a damped crankshaft and stiffer aluminium block, with the clear emphasis on refinement. In Sport you get a muted but unmistakable whuffle and pop, yet on a steady throttle in any other drive mode, the sub-five-second 0-62mph time on offer isn’t even hinted at beyond a hushed mutter. The standard eight-speed auto is hard to fault.
What is disappointing is that, despite its evident talents, the X7 M50i never quite hits any one mark. It handles better than a Mercedes GLS or a Tesla Model X, but going quickly is still an exercise in managing its enormous weight, so it’s never what you’d call fun. In fact, if you can live without the seven seats, a Range Rover is the more satisfying driver’s car. It’s also a touch more comfortable than the X7 because the M50i’s standard 22-inch wheels mean its ride is a little on the lumpy side.
It’s quite understandable that there is so much movement from the X7’s body, since it weighs more than 2.5 tonnes and is 5.2 metres long. It may not come as a surprise that the X7 was created for American and Chinese markets, and that’s never so evident as when you contemplate one of Britain’s many awkward car parks or urban roads.
In truth, where the X7 excels is in its roominess and quality. Particularly if you add the executive seating, as well as a plethora of other options including the swanky Crafted Clarity glass finish to the instruments, the X7’s interior is truly exceptional in its perceived quality and comfort. It blows the Mercedes, Range Rover and Tesla away on that front, and feels up there with a Bentley Bentayga.
Mind you, you can go mad with options, even on the range-topping M50i. It’s disappointing that the fully adaptive LED ‘laser light’ headlights and the full-spec semi-autonomous drive mode are optional, for a start. But, while the M50i gets high-quality leather, arguably the best infotainment system on the market, a Harman Kardon sound system, and far more as standard, you can still choose to add a £20,000 ‘Ultimate Pack’ that brings rear entertainment, glass sunroof, massaging seats, upgraded climate control, those lights and adaptive drive upgrades. It says a lot about the sort of buyer BMW expects to be browsing the top-end X7. Clearly, the X7 M50i is expensive, but look to the Bentley Bentayga and there is reason to say that it’s actually pretty good value.
Viewed as a high-rise limo, the X7 M50i makes sense. Yet the truth is that it’s short on charm, if big on comfort and luxury, and it really is pushing the boundaries of what’s practical on our roads. In short, if your lifestyle and budget justify the indulgence and size of the X7, the less extravagant versions make a lot more sense.
|Model:||BMW X7 M50i|
|Engine:||4.4-litre petrol, V8, twin-turbo|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive|
Gallery: The most controversial cars of modern times (Motoring Research)