Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The BMW X7 range starts with the mightily impressive xDrive40d, which has a 335bhp six-cylinder diesel engine that helps it cover 0-60mph in a very swift 5.6sec. The equivalent Mercedes GLS 400d does the same in 6.0sec.
It's a brilliant choice, offering smooth, strong performance that demolishes motorway journeys while remaining very hushed and subdued around town.
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 – 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 BMW X5, the X7 really feels its size on winding roads – especially narrow ones. When you turn the steering wheel, the nose takes a moment to react, leaving you wondering whether you’re going to plough straight on like an ocean liner.
Fortunately, the X7 does change course, and 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.