Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Test-driving the BMW X7: Gentle giant delivers chilled thrills behind a manic grille

I was told to expect vigour with Bayern’s new offering, but, like a mad Labrador appearing from nowhere and going for your shoes, all that oomph still caught me unawares

When you put your foot down in a big, heavy SUV, your cheeks aren’t supposed to ripple away as though you’re an astronaut in a high g-force simulator. Cars this size should not be able to move that fast. It’s the law.

Or maybe it isn’t.

While the reference to face-­wobbling might be hyperbole, climbing into the BMW X7 and flooring it is not for the faint of heart. When the material from the publicity people said the latest offering from Munich was powerful, they weren’t kidding.

In fact, there’s so much spare muscle in the X7 that driving it requires considerable care and attention. It almost goads you with its ability to reach 100 kilometres per hour from a standing start in 4.7 seconds, a feat that is possible because the 4.4-litre V8 engine under its ample bonnet can produce the best part of 462 horsepower at top whack. And were you to put the accelerator down until the speedometer stops rising, the display will read 250kph. All this from a 2.3-tonne vehicle.

We all know how the sensation of pace is heightened the closer you are to the floor and the greater the volume of noise going into your ears – that’s why super-low, open-top cars such as the Caterham 7 are so popular among those people who like race-circuit track days – but that’s not the case here.

The X7 is nowhere near the ground and it appears to have one of the quietest, most soundproofed cabins of any car on the market. You can set off, glance at your speedometer and see 25kph, drift on to the highway, then check your speedometer again a few seconds later only to discover you’re doing 100kph. That is all without feeling any sensation of the car accelerating. It’s delightful, of course, but distinctly unnerving at the same time.

That'll be that grille, then.
That'll be that grille, then. BMW

This is definitely a vehicle for those who want speed and power without any drama. Other cars can do (and have done) this, but really, not to the extent the X7 does.

The X7 has been described as the largest car BMW has produced and, standing next to it, that’s not difficult to believe. Bigger vehicles can be seen driving along roads in the Middle East, but many have nowhere near the presence of the X7. That said, this car also has a subtlety that is likely to give it a broad appeal among those who actually get behind the wheel.

When it comes to looks, you can’t miss that grille at the front. The X7 has a serious grin, maybe in the hope that a potential buyer will see it and follow suit (as long as they’re not caught up in a traffic jam, of course). Style-wise, though, it’s got the classic BMW DNA. While some manufacturers are opting for almost generic looks among their cars these days, this model is clearly related to its brothers and sisters.

It's all very serene inside.
It's all very serene inside. Courtesy BMW

Inside, the X7 has the latest version of BMW’s iDrive. It’s a system that, as well as having a rotary controller, can be easily navigated by touch or voice. And, unlike some of its cohorts, this car really does have seven-seat capability.

While we’re on the subject of interior comfort, it’s important to mention BMW’s proficient driver aides – all X7 models have automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-­traffic alert.

Technically speaking, the X7 isn’t an SUV, it’s an SAV (that stands for sports activity vehicle), but that’s one for the marketing people to squabble about. When news of the car’s release broke, we suggested that if it had all the power that BMW claimed it would, you might as well call it a sports attack vehicle.

Having driven it, it turns out that this is undoubtedly the case. The thing is, you’ll be blissfully unaware of any hassle whatsoever while you’re behind the wheel. There could be mayhem happening outside and you’d never know because of the tranquillity the X7 provides inside the cabin. That is all very calming (and charming), for sure, but make sure you keep an eye on that speedometer. Rippling cheeks are not always a good look.

Updated: October 3, 2019 04:52 PM

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