2019 BMW X7 First Drive Review

It’s surprising that a vehicle the size of the 2019 BMW X7 has taken so long to come to market, given how early BMW boarded the luxury SUV train. The original X5 debuted in 1999, just a few years after Mercedes-Benz brought its mass-market ML-Class SUV to suburban driveways. Twenty years later, the X5 is in its fourth iteration, and the entire BMW lineup is awash with SUVs, from the compact X1 to the controversial X6. As such, the new 2019 X7 is the German automaker’s first direct competitor to models like the full-size Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class.

We had a chance to drive a prototype X7 nearly a year ago, but it would be months before Germany would give us any of the biggest Bimmer’s final specs. For the full launch, our drive started early in the morning on the Las Vegas Strip and ended several hundred miles southwest at the Pacific Ocean, with a not-so-brief detour through Death Valley.

The X7 is currently the largest model the company makes, a three-row SUV that slots above the X5. Think of it as the SUV equivalent to the flagship BMW 7 Series sedan (though for a bit less money), a new flagship in the days of SUVs and cheap fuel. Size-wise, it’s larger than nearly any other SUV on the market, falling short only of body-on-frame SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator. At launch, America gets two gasoline engines — an inline-six xDrive40i and a V8-powered xDrive50i — though a plug-in hybrid will debut sometime within the next year or two.

The X7 channels every bit of the 7 Series’ long history of comfort and refinement, making even an unwelcoming place like Death Valley seem almost hospitable. The air suspension provides a plush ride over the broken desert asphalt, adjusting and self-leveling as needed. As with other BMWs, the X7 wears run-flat tires. The engineers worked some magic compared to past BMWs, particularly with the bushings, specifically tuning the suspension to improve ride quality with our xDrive50i’s 22-inch wheels and Pirelli P-Zero run-flat tires. In the softer Comfort mode, the front end of the X7 could feel a little light over big dips, but Sport mode mitigated that issue without feeling overly stiff. This might just be the best-riding BMW we’ve ever driven fitted with run-flat rubber or 22-inch wheels.

It’s quiet, too, enough so that a driver can have a conversation with a third-row passenger without resorting to shouting and hand signals. The only noise you ever really hear inside is the low growl from the 462 horsepower 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8. Our xDrive50i tester included the M Sport exhaust, and BMW reps say the noise isn’t piped in. It’s nice, but it lacks some of the aural meat of a Mercedes-Benz or Land Rover V8. The xDrive40i’s 340 horsepower turbo inline-six offers a sweeter, smoother exhaust note, but we dig the V8’s extra grunt. You can’t go wrong with either engine, though we’re looking forward to the upcoming plug-in hybrid variant.