Powering through Poland: Taking the first-ever BMW X7 for a spin
It’s life in the luxe lane as motoring reporter Jamie Nonis takes BMW’s largest SUV ever on a road trip through the European countryside.
The number seven has captured humanity’s collective imagination since ancient times. Be it a question of math, magic or mysticism, there’s just something about the prime digit that appeals to our visceral senses.
The primal feeling of sitting behind the wheel of BMW’s first-ever X7, therefore, strikes me as altogether reasonable as we prepare to disembark for the BMW CSEU Grand Media Tour through Central Europe.
Because the X7 is a beast; a beautiful beast of leviathan proportions. Standing just over 1.8m tall, BMW’s largest SUV ever made (well, SAV, actually, as the brand prefers to term its sport activity vehicles) stretches nearly 5.2m long and 2m wide.
As we drive off the cobblestone street fronting the ultra luxurious Raffles Europejski Warsaw, I mentally prep myself for what’s quite literally going to be the biggest ride of my life.
Our two-man Singapore contingent is part of a larger group of 140 journalists from all over the world who will drive the all-new X7 and the 7 series across seven legs (there’s that number again) spanning a total of 4,894km, beginning in Poland and ending, 23 days later, in Greece.
We have the honour of kicking off the entire tour in Warsaw and this first leg will take us through the Polish city of Wroclaw, as we make our way towards the Czech Republic with its capital Prague as our final destination, covering some 846 km in all.
It’s sufficient ground to put this seven-seater all-wheel drive through its paces, and with our next destination and checkpoints loaded into the navigational system on the 12.3-inch screen, we begin by acquainting ourselves with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant.
“Hey BMW”, we say, as goes the command to activate the system. We pause for a response but the BMW Live Cockpit Professional stays silent. It appears our test unit may not be fitted with the digital assistant, which ought to respond to prompts and engage in casual conversation, much like Apple’s Siri.
You can even give your X7 digital assistant a name like “Bob”. Saying “Hey Bob, I’m cold”, for instance, will prompt the system to adjust the temperature inside the car accordingly. Or, say “Hey Bob, take me home”, and you’ll be driven to your doorstep, navigationally-speaking.
Bob can even explain different functions (“How does the High Beam Assistant work?”), provide current status information (“Is the oil level okay?”) and answer questions (“How far can I drive before I need to refuel?”). It also stores the driver’s favourite settings, and can activate a combination of them to enhance wellbeing. For example, “Hey Bob, I feel tired” triggers a vitality programme that adjusts the lighting mood, music and temperature, among other things, to make the driver feel more awake.
There’s also the Caring Car function, which pairs the vitality programme with a relaxation programme to orchestrate a combination of various functions – the air conditioning, seat massage (driver and front passenger seats only), fragrance (up to eight different scents) or music – to refresh or relax the driver while behind the wheel.
A little disappointed at not having some artificial intelligence for company on this journey, I focus on enjoying the 365km drive ahead before our next stop on the preset itinerary, switch on the massage function and relax into comfort as the SAV hits the tarmac.
POWERING ON TO WROCLAW
We zip onto the motorway en route to Wroclaw and this gentle giant quickly proves to be surprisingly nimble, despite its heft.
We are, after all, in the absolute pinnacle of BMW's luxury SAVs: The M50d. This inline-six turbocharged diesel propels BMW’s heaviest SAV to date – almost 2.4 tonnes – with 400hp of power and 760Nm of torque, which can get the vehicle from 0 to 100kmh in 5.4 seconds, and push a top speed of 250kmh.
The M50d diesel variant, however, will not be available in Singapore.
What’s available instead is the xDrive40i six-cylinder in-line petrol unit featuring TwinPower Turbo technology with 340hp of power and 450Nm of torque transmitted via an eight-speed Steptronic Sport automatic transmission. Just a fraction slower in reaching 100kmh (6.1 seconds) and a top speed of 245 kmh, but it’s all the power you need in our city streets, really.
Our M50d was a left-hand drive and this took some getting used to, particularly on the foreign roads. The Lane Keeping Assistant, one of the many driving assist functions, kicked in frequently to counter my natural tendency to veer towards the right of the lane, since we drive on the opposite side on Singapore roads.
Each time I veered too close to the right lane marking, the steering wheel would vibrate rather forcefully, alerting me to the proximity to the edge (and potential danger) with the active steering system swiftly bringing the vehicle back in line.
Thankfully, I didn’t have the opportunity to trigger the various other safety assist functions like the wrong-way warning and evasion aid, which prevents collisions with vehicles or pedestrians that suddenly appear in the vehicle’s path. When the latter is detected, the intelligent system will actually help the driver manoeuvre the vehicle into a clear adjacent lane through steering inputs.
With the X7, expect all manner of luxury at your fingertips: “Thermo” cupholders that keep your beverages cool or warm as desired; a wireless charging tray for compatible mobile phones; and heated seats sheathed in Merino leather (four colours) on all three rows, plus an array of luxury options and accents.
And they’ve even thrown away the key – you can now lock and unlock the car with your smartphone thanks to the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, and start the engine once the phone is placed in the wireless charging tray.
FANTASTIC LIGHT TRIP
Good company makes for a great road trip and the conversation gets animated, triggering the gesture control function that turns the music volume up and down unintentionally on multiple occasions. But we just wave off the little quirk with a laugh.
What’s also perfect for a road trip such as this: The panoramic glass roof that stretches to the third row, flooding the entire cabin with natural light simply with the push of a button, and further emphasising the sense of spaciousness.
We only drove during the day but when darkness falls, the Sky Lounge function (in the special 6-seat Launch Edition) transforms the interior into a starry sky via an atmospheric light show with LED lights illuminating more than 15,000 graphic patterns, in the hues you choose.
The X7 does indeed take light play to another level. The ambient lighting system lets you create just the right mood and ambience you desire, with six colour options and a variety of settings illuminating the instrument panel, centre console and door trim. There’s even a ‘welcome light carpet’ setting that lights up the entry area when you unlock or open the door, giving you that VIP feel.
And on the front of the car, the blue X-shaped elements on the adaptive LED headlights make a striking visual statement, alongside BMW’s largest kidney grille ever; a design cue no doubt inspired by BMW-owned Rolls-Royce’s first SUV, the Cullinan, launched last year.
THE SUPER SUV: LUXURY EDITION
We’ve coasted into the era of the super-luxury SUV in recent years, with almost all the high-performance and supercar manufacturers sticking their badges on sport utility vehicles of their own.
Hoping to emulate Porsche’s near two-decade success in this domain with the Cayenne, Bentley now has its Bentayga, Maserati has the Levante, and Lamborghini has its Urus.
The SUV axis continues to prove itself the automotive industry’s most profitable segment and the trend looks set to stay, with Aston Martin’s first SUV – the DBX – scheduled to hit the road by year’s end while Ferrari’s Purosange is slated for a 2022 release, no doubt outraging Prancing Horse purists but jumping on the bandwagon clearly makes sense for the Italian manufacturer, as far as business arguments go.
With these ultra luxury marques encroaching this space, BMW has had to up the ante and the X7 slides nicely into that sweet spot between performance, luxury, and accessibility.
As we barrel down the freeway effortlessly overtaking monster trucks and colossal cargo vehicles, the X7 seems remarkably insulated against the outside noise. And silence, to some, is not just golden; it’s seventh heaven.
Engine: 2,998 cc, six-cylinder in-line petrol engine
Power: 340hp at 5,500-6,500 rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 1,500-5,200 rpm
0 to 100 km/h: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 245 km/h.