5 May, 2018 11:00pm
Slowly but surely, BMW’s newest flagship is taking shape. The first pre-production X7s are already rolling off the line in Spartanburg, USA, conspicuously covered in heavy camouflaged cladding. At 5.2 metres long and over two metres wide, it’s the biggest SUV that BMW has ever built. In fact, it’s bigger than a Mercedes GLC (5.13 metres), and even longer than the not-for-UK Cadillac Escalade (5.18 metres).
To see what’s in store, we were invited to South Carolina for an early drive in the German firm’s forthcoming range-topper. Even in its pre-production disguise, its clear the X7 won’t lose any of BMW’s recognisable design cues. The front is dominated by an oversized kidney grille, while the LED headlights are a nod to those found on the latest X3. The 3.2-metre wheelbase means there’s plenty of space inside, even in the third row of seats.
The cabin is covered, too, but it’s clear BMW will lift the ambience with plenty of high-quality materials. The driver gets a fully digital display, which sits behind a steering wheel lifted straight from the 7 Series saloon. The central screen houses everything from sat-nav to media, and is operable via voice, gesture or touch, as well as through the familiar iDrive controller.
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Lots of the X7 is crafted from lightweight aluminium and composite materials. While engines and specs are unconfirmed, it’s likely European buyers will get a choice of six and eight-cylinder petrol and diesel motors, as well as plug-in hybrid versions later down the line. Power is delivered via BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Our first taste came courtesy of the range-topping 4.4-litre V8 version. It’s the same engine found in the 750i, albeit with power boosted to 456bhp, and gives the X7 a dual personality. It feels like a raging bull under hard acceleration, but slacken things off and the big SUV presents much milder manners.
The sharp controls, all-round air suspension and active stabilisers seem to shrink the X7 through tight corners. The double glazing and extra sound deadening mean it’s incredibly quiet at high speed, too. This is an SUV designed from the outset to argue with the 7 Series for the title of quietest BMW.
Pricing for the X7 is not yet fixed, but we expect things to start from around £85,000. The car will be revealed in full later this year, but global start early in 2019.
- Model: BMW X7
- Price: From £85,000
- Engine: 4.4-litre V8 turbo petrol
- Power: 456bhp
- Transmission: Eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
- On sale: Early 2019