I drove a $108,000 BMW X7 to find out if the largest BMW ever built is worth the price - here's the verdict

BMW X7Matt DeBord/BI

  • The BMW X7 is the largest vehicle the Bavarian brand has ever produced.
  • We tested a $108,000 BMW X7 XDrive50i, outfitted with a 4.4-liter V8 engine and crammed with technology.
  • The BMW X7 is intended to go up against the Mercedes GLS, the Audi Q7, the Volvo XC90, and a host of other premium, seven-seat, full-size SUVs.
  • The X7 strays from the Ultimate Driving Machine ethos that defines BMW, but there's no question that it's the three-row giant the brand needed, and the price is actually something of a bargain.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

All the major premium automakers have taken the three-row plunge, as SUV sales have taken over the US market. BMW was a laggard; its wonderful X5 was a hit with customers, but the lack of a third row was losing the Bavarians some sales. You could jump from a BMW to Audi and its Q7, if you added a third child to the family or simply wanted to haul some extra friends around.

Enter the X7, BMW's big boy. He's a 5,600-lb. baby! BMW let me look after him for a week, and I did my best to see if the guy was as large and in charge as he looked.

Here's how it went:
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Say hello to the Big Bimmer! Our 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i tester arrived in a dashing "Arctic Gray Metallic" paint job. The X7 is built in South Carolina, and without options, this SUV costs $92,600.

Say hello to the Big Bimmer! Our 2019 BMW X7 xDrive50i tester arrived in a dashing "Arctic Gray Metallic" paint job. The X7 is built in South Carolina, and without options, this SUV costs $92,600.

We'll get to the grille in a second. Although right now I'll say that head-on, the now-familiar, modern, sleek headlights — sophisticated, adaptive LEDs, no less — are completely out of proportion, as is the BMW badge.

We'll get to the grille in a second. Although right now I'll say that head-on, the now-familiar, modern, sleek headlights — sophisticated, adaptive LEDs, no less — are completely out of proportion, as is the BMW badge.

Side view: Hmmm ... Well, the X7 is definitely large. In fact, this is the first BMW I've ever tested that has so much physical bulk that you lose the famous "Hofmeister kink" at the end of the side windows.

Side view: Hmmm ... Well, the X7 is definitely large. In fact, this is the first BMW I've ever tested that has so much physical bulk that you lose the famous "Hofmeister kink" at the end of the side windows.

Yep, the grille. HUGE! It looks like it fell off a Bentley from the 1920s. I hated it at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I appreciated the ambition.

Yep, the grille. HUGE! It looks like it fell off a Bentley from the 1920s. I hated it at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I appreciated the ambition.

The 21-inch Y-spoke wheels were actually not an extra on this X7. The M-Sport brakes were: $650.

The 21-inch Y-spoke wheels were actually not an extra on this X7. The M-Sport brakes were: $650.

The rear-end is minivan-level bad. And there's no enormous grille to rescue it.

The rear-end is minivan-level bad. And there's no enormous grille to rescue it.

BMW has tried to mitigate the massiveness with tail lights that look far better than the headlights, a nice swath of chrome, and those cool exhaust pipes. But ultimately what we have here is a great big door.

BMW has tried to mitigate the massiveness with tail lights that look far better than the headlights, a nice swath of chrome, and those cool exhaust pipes. But ultimately what we have here is a great big door.

The X7 badge is a bright spot, given the number "7" lends itself to a dynamic lean to the right.

The X7 badge is a bright spot, given the number "7" lends itself to a dynamic lean to the right.

Beyond that gaping maw is an available 90 cubic-feet of cargo area.

Beyond that gaping maw is an available 90 cubic-feet of cargo area.

With the third row of seats deployed, however, there's only about 13 cubic feet — a problem for all seven passenger SUVs.

With the third row of seats deployed, however, there's only about 13 cubic feet — a problem for all seven passenger SUVs.

The privacy screen carries some X7 branding.

The privacy screen carries some X7 branding.

Drop all the seats and you could transport a pony. Note that the liftgate is also a split design.

Drop all the seats and you could transport a pony. Note that the liftgate is also a split design.

Let's step inside and check out the "Ivory White/Night Blue Merino" interior.

Let's step inside and check out the "Ivory White/Night Blue Merino" interior.

I would argue that although the X7's cabin is luxurious and comfortable, legroom on the second row could be better.

I would argue that although the X7's cabin is luxurious and comfortable, legroom on the second row could be better.

But interestingly, legroom for the third row — often an afterthought — is quite good.

But interestingly, legroom for the third row — often an afterthought — is quite good.

The triple-pane moonroof floods the entire cabin with light, and that's welcome because a vehicle this large could easily feel like a rolling cave.

 The triple-pane moonroof floods the entire cabin with light, and that's welcome because a vehicle this large could easily feel like a rolling cave.

The leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel has paddle shifters, brushed-metal trim, and affords a view of the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

The leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel has paddle shifters, brushed-metal trim, and affords a view of the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen runs BMW's iDrive system. It works great, with superb navigation, excellent device-pairing and connectivity, and the Harman Kardon audio setup is sublime.

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen runs BMW's iDrive system. It works great, with superb navigation, excellent device-pairing and connectivity, and the Harman Kardon audio setup is sublime.

The center console consolidates the crystal joystick shifter, drive-mode selector, and the knob and buttons for the iDrive infotainment system.

The center console consolidates the crystal joystick shifter, drive-mode selector, and the knob and buttons for the iDrive infotainment system.

The crystal shifter works well with the woodgrain and leather, but I still found it a tad too blingy.

The crystal shifter works well with the woodgrain and leather, but I still found it a tad too blingy.

Now let's pop the hood and check out the engine.

Now let's pop the hood and check out the engine.

That's a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, making 456 horsepower with 479 pound-feet of torque. The inline-six-cylinder motor produced 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

That's a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, making 456 horsepower with 479 pound-feet of torque. The inline-six-cylinder motor produced 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel economy for the BMW X7 is not really that great, with the big V8 engine: 15 mpg city/21 highway/17 combined.

So what's the verdict?

So what's the verdict?

I tested out some the BMW X7's more exotic technologies for an episode of Cars Insider's "Real Reviews." They were a mixed bag, and you can watch the whole thing here.

I also tested BMW's suite of driver-assist features, and those technologies worked as advertised, although the X7 is certainly not capable of driving itself.

Otherwise, the X7 provides what the Ultimate Driving Machine needed: a three-row hauler to slot in atop the X5. It's sort of a bimmer bus, but what ya gonna do? We're a long way from the turbo 2002 of the early 1970s.

The X7 serves up what you'd expect from a $100,000-plus SUV, from the elegant yet purposeful interior to the forceful output of the V8 motor and surefootedness of the all-wheel-drive system, yielding a 0-60mph time of about five seconds.

To this bimmerness, the X7 adds a cargo area that can be configured to work like a small pickup truck, while also seating two extra humans if the third row is deployed. It's all good, but these days I have to admit that I look at these large premium SUVs as a segment, rather than as individual vehicles. The X7 does the same job as the Audi Q7 or the Volvo XC90 or the Mercedes GLS. And so it goes and so it goes, and where it's going everybody knows: fatter profits for the luxury automakers.

My X7 tester came with nearly $10,000 of optional packages, and with the V8, it represents the highest expression of what BMW can do at this scale. It's impressive. It wasn't exactly fun to drive, but that — Gasp! — isn't really the point. And it was fun in a straight line and when passing semis on the freeway, when the X7 felt like a freight train.

If you consider the price as objectively as possible, you'd have to admit that you're getting a whole lotta SUV with the X7. I honestly guessed the sticker at $125,000. So if you can can live with the grille (and I could), the X7 might be the titanic Bimmer of your dreams.

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