Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The BMW X7 range starts with the mightily impressive xDrive40d which gets a 335bhp six-cylinder diesel engine that helps it cover 0-60mph in a very swift 5.6sec – an equivalent Mercedes GLS 400d does the same in 6.0sec. The xDrive40d is a brilliant engine, offering smooth and strong performance that demolishes motorway journeys while remaining very hushed and subdued around town.
If you’re not a fan of diesel power, you can opt for the six-cylinder petrol xDrive40i. Its engine is serenely quiet when you want it to be, and nice and snarly when you’re pressing on. What’s more, it’s impressively responsive, even at the very bottom of the rev range, and once you hit 2000rpm and the turbocharger really kicks in, there’s no stopping this 335bhp unit. It may be a little slower than the Audi Q7 55 TFSI, but not much.
If you really want the most potent engines in the X7 range then you’ll find them under the bonnets of the M50d and M50i. The M50d is a 395bhp diesel engine that can propel you up the road with near-explosive force and doesn’t sound too uncouth in the process. The M50i, meanwhile, is an even more powerful petrol version with a massive 522bhp which helps the X7 see off 0-62mph in 4.7sec – which is very quick, if not quite as quick as the 4.2sec a Mercedes GLS 63 will manage in the same sprint.
All X7 engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts gears relatively quickly and smoothly, but allows you to take manual control using paddles behind the steering wheel. There can sometimes be a small delay when you plant your right foot to ask for brisk acceleration, but it’s nothing compared with the pregnant pause that afflicts some rivals’ ‘boxes – yes, we’re looking at you, Q7.
When it comes to ride comfort, the standard air suspension does a fine job of soaking up whatever the road can throw at it, and it even gives the Q7 a run for its money on the motorway. The X7’s ride is especially impressive when you consider it sits on massive 21in (or optional 22in) alloy wheels. It’s certainly more comfortable than the Mercedes GLS, which sends uncomfortable thuds and bumps through the interior when navigating the same surfaces an X7 glides over. It's not perfect, though – larger potholes can still send a small but noticeable shudder through the car, something that doesn't occur in the cheaper Q7.
Unlike the smaller X5, the X7 really feels its size on winding roads – particularly narrow ones. Turn the steering wheel and the nose takes a moment to react, leaving you wondering if you’re going to plough straight on like an ocean liner. Fortunately, the X7 does change course – although there’s lots of body lean when it does so. It makes the Q7 feel positively light on its toes, although the Land Rover Discovery and Mercedes GLS are even more ponderous.
In common with other big BMWs, the steering is accurate, smooth and light. Its flaw, though, is that there’s precious little feedback to tell you what’s going on between the front tyres and the road.
Generally, the X7 is pleasant and relaxing to drive, whether munching through motorway miles or negotiating urban traffic. Here, the optional four-wheel steering greatly aids manoeuvrability at low speeds by turning the rear wheels very slightly in the opposite direction to the fronts for a reduced turning circle – it’s a real must-have if you do lots of driving in town.
Head off-road and the X7 will tackle rougher terrain than most buyers will reasonably ask of it, especially if you opt for the optional Off-Road package; this provides drive settings to suit different terrains, as well as adding underbody protection.
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