The 2019 BMW X7 has grit, grille, and grandeur


Somewhere on the interstate between Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, it finally clicks, like the incessant drops of rain on the glass. We’re not getting any decent weather on this first drive of the 2019 BMW X7.

No useful turns, either. The descent into Low Country evaporates all hope of an interesting kink or two in the road. It’s flat and marshy and, thank goodness, it’s the celestial home of shrimp and grits, perfect food for both the brain and the soul.

When the last bits of yellow disappear from the bowl, we zero in on the big idea behind BMW’s biggest SUV. It’s been all but obvious since the first few miles we’ve spent behind the wheel: A dozen years after they sold the British brand, BMW finally has its own Range Rover.

MORE: Read The Car Connection’s 2019 BMW X7 review

It’s less distinctive than one of Gerry McGovern’s minimalist shapes, for sure, but with the X7 BMW’s finally settled into a sport-utility groove, at least from the sides and the rear. Typical BMW details affix themselves to what’s an ordinary SUV two-box shape, save for the faceted kink at the rear end that knits some heritage into the silhouette. The tail’s stacked in layers strong enough to support the cumbersome xDrive40i or xDrive50i badges that read like the password to the X7’s embedded wifi hotspot at a glance.

Up front, it’s a challenge. BMW’s put its biggest grille on the X7, and it sits high enough to hook on a belt loop on your jeans if you get too close. It drapes over the brim of the hood, manspreads across the nose, shish-kebabed by thin LED headlights. Give it a pass here, where there’s room for it to play; on the 7-Series, it’s tougher to swallow.

No one drives an X7 from the outside. Anyone who owns one will be delighted by the cabin, even when it’s stocked with the base black interior of the inline-6 car, sans options. It warms up nicely with red or reddish-brown leather; it’s sensational when appliqued with gray open-pore wood and when its infotainment clickwheel and shift lever get capped in glass and when it wears a blue suede headliner and a stitched leather dash. The Lincoln Navigator got there first, but the X7 looks just as swanky and just as convincingly luxurious in its kitschiest combinations.

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

Country cooking

South Carolina police are less friendly than those just to the west, but we dip into the X7’s deep reserves of power often, snipping off quick passes where the yellow tape breaks, or where it’s faded discreetly into the concrete.

For the first hundred-ish miles, it’s behind the wheel of the X7 xDrive40i. The X7 shares powertrains with the X5, and the single-turbo inline-6 puts out an identical 335 horsepower here through the same flawless 8-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive system. BMW quotes 0-60 mph at 5.8 seconds, and the X7’s big enough to disguise some of its swiftness with sheer mass—about 5,500 pounds with a slight-framed person at the wheel. It’s confident enough to slip along the highway at an 85-mph clip and pass easily when tractor-trailers and Toyota Priuses part, which isn’t often.

When we swap it for the twin-turbo V-8 in the X7 xDrive50i, we’re so smitten by its 456 hp and its 479 lb-ft of torque, its nearly $100,000 price tag rounds off just fine in our minds. It snaps to attention with a light foot on the throttle; from a lumbering pace, it downshifts into the heart of its powerband, barks an affirmative, and steps forward in an assertive salute. It’s loud, it’s proud, and despite a few hundred more pounds of girth, it can hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds—and feels like it can—while it reaches for a 130-mph top speed, same as the 6-cylinder. Both X7s get a maximum tow rating of 7,500 pounds, too.

We can’t say much for the way the X7 tackles tightly wound country roads, because we didn’t drive on any. As a part of a nation-crossing drive, we picked the first leg that left BMW’s South Carolina factory and ended up in Savannah by way of Charleston. The route’s a hotbed of…nothing. The most twisted roads are those under construction. On the few wide sweepers and 90-degree right- and left-handers we found, the X7 managed its considerable weight with grace thanks to the complex suspension and steering BMW’s designed. Control-arm front and five-link rear setups get adaptive dampers and air springs that post up with a perfectly measured, calm ride. Some X7s get added brainpower that weaves the adaptive suspension with data from onboard cameras to see the bigger bumps ahead, and to relax or firm up in anticipation. It’s the next step beyond satellite-data-infused transmission shifts, and it grants the X7 lots of exceptions to the ride-hard rules usually imposed by its massive 21-inch wheels and run-flat tires—22-inchers on our test vehicles.

Some X7s get off-road packages with up to 8.7 inches of ground clearance and extra underbody protection; others get an M Sport bundle with meatier brakes, a sport differential that torque-vectors across the rear axle, and rear-wheel steering that provides up to 3 degrees of countersteer at low speeds, which makes the X7 a bit easier to maneuver into tight spaces like the ones you’ll find in charming old-worldly cities such as Charleston and Savannah.

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7

Bateau royale

The X7 package draws out the X5 formula in a logical way. BMW grafts more than 5 inches into the wheelbase. It’s more than 9 inches longer than an X5. Interior space balloons; behind the front seats the X7 can stow more than 90 cubic feet of cargo, through a split tailgate, and with the help of the air suspension’s 1.6-inch-lower load mode.

But cargo is the least happy way the X7 should be used. Not only is the interior strikingly beautiful in its coolest palettes, but it’s also exceedingly comfortable. Head and leg room spread out in every direction, and the front seats can get cooling and heating and massage programs to go with multi-contour adjustment. We’d swap the middle bench for a pair of captain’s chairs that fit like those in front, with fewer adjustments and no cooling or massaging; they slide on a 5.7-inch track and pitch forward so adults can hop into a third-row seat that actually fits them.

BMW’s latest version of iDrive governs everything from the available rear-seat entertainment that keeps those back-seat passengers occupied, to the music that streams via Bluetooth-delivered Apple CarPlay. BMW still irks us with an $80 annual CarPlay user fee that begins a year after purchase; it’s a chintzy equivalent to an ad valorem tax on deviceswe already own. In other ways the infotainment system goes out of its way to show off its user-friendly ways: Gesture controls are a clever party trick to turn up the volume, and BMW’s voice-command system responds when you call it by its name: “Hey, BMW,” or whatever you change that to in its setup phase.

We like the $74,895 X7 with the turbo-6 engine; we’re overtaken by the $93,595 X7 with the twin-turbo V-8, with its handsome and handling-friendly M Sport add-ons, with the blue-suede headliner and the kitschy crystal-tipped shifter. Who’d have ever thought the Germans—or BMW, to be precise—would ever indulge in this much glitz? The same people who thought they could eventually build their own Range Rover, more than likely.

 

BMW paid for hotels in South Carolina and Georgia so that we could bring you this report; the rental Corolla to connect the dots, that was on us.



Source link

About the author