Remember when your parents would ask you what meal you wanted for your birthday dinner? Lamb roast was my go-to dish, with crispy roasted potatoes, and lashings of homemade mint sauce. For my most recent birthday, my husband asked what car I wanted to borrow for our weekend away with friends.
This time, my menu featured three premium SUVs, none of which I had yet experienced: Audi Q7, BMW X7 M50d and the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. With six of us heading away for the weekend my decision was as easy as my cake icing choice (caramel): it had to be the BMW X7, the newest and most luxurious of the three.
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On approach as a 5ft nothing female my “birthday present” is all kinds of overwhelming. The largest of BMW’s X models, the X7 is visually imposing thanks in part to BMW’s largest ever signature grille housed in its prominent front fascia. The upsized and upmarket X7 doesn’t stop there; its windows are large, it stands tall with high ground clearance, and it has the largest panoramic roof that I have ever seen. My first thought is ‘can I get into this thing’ and secondly ‘can such a little person drive it?’
Lucky for me both are possible and the birthday weekend trip away gets underway, but not before I load the boot with too many bags for one person. All necessary, of course! The X7’s standard automatic tailgate operation makes this relatively easy even with arms full of luggage. With key in my pocket, a kick of my foot under the bumper opens the tailgate and I toss my two bags and a cold pack filled with champagne into the 750-litre boot. I’ve left the 3rd row of seats folded away because I won’t need them until much later in the day.
Climbing into the driver’s seat does feel a bit like hoisting myself up into a truck, but once inside it feels like I am on top of the world. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable in more ways than I care to count, and the cockpit itself wants for nothing; it even has a crystal gear shifter with multiple X7s etched into the facets.
BMW Live Cockpit is standard, which means you get two 12.3 inch displays with increased functionality, including what I quickly christen the Harry Potter Control. This is a gesture sensor that lowers and increases the volume by capturing hand movements. This thoroughly entertains my birthday weekend guests, especially because I feel the need to say “wingardium leviosa” while doing it.
Speaking of music, the road trip sing-along is greatly enhanced by the 20-speaker Bowers and Wilkins 3D surround sound system with a 1,500 watt output easily drowning out the voice of one of my wannabe singer off-tone friends. Also requiring regular use of the gesture control (any excuse) to turn the sound up!
The new X7 has BMW’s 3rd generation head-up display, which is larger and clearer than the previous generation. Other driver functions worth noting include BMW’s iDrive system which makes life easy on the road for navigating, choosing music and making phone calls. This all can also be done using BMW’s voice recognition system.
Once we get moving, I quickly forget that I am in an almost 2.5 tonne beast high off the road. Instead it feels like I am floating through the curves of the Great Ocean Road thanks to the X7’s standard air suspension, not to mention the ease with which the X50d’s 8-speed transmission and 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbodiesel engine moves this luxury SUV. BMW claims the X7 can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 250km/h. The many caravans and tourist vans on the Great Ocean Road means I have no chance to try out either claim, especially because that would be illegal!
I am struck by the ease with which the BMW X7 takes corners and stays so firmly planted for such a large vehicle. The steering, too, is light and easy, which also disguises the X7’s size and weight. The X7’s M50d engine eats up hills with seemingly little to no effort.
Meanwhile my passengers are enjoying messing with the five-zone climate control system, and charging their phones from the USB ports in both the 2nd and 3rd rows. Interestingly, the 3rd row, which sometimes falls short in other 7-seaters, is not short on luxury or comfort in the X7. For starters, it has its own air-conditioning controls, and occupants also benefit from the extremely long sunroof. As for space, the real test was when I put two of my vertically blessed friends in the back. It did take us a while to sort out the electric seat buttons that can be accessed either from the boot or the side of the 2nd row seats, but once my friends jumped in they settled easily without complaint. Who wouldn’t be with the soft Vernasca leather trim that comes standard on all models.
As the long weekend progressed, we threw all kind of tests at my “birthday present”, including driving in the dark and the pouring rain, and taking full advantage of the BMW X7’s suite of driver assistance and safety technology. Okay, you’d expect a lot from a car priced from $168,900, but it’s also fair to say the X7’s active safety suite doesn’t disappoint in terms of the number of systems or their operational capabilities. In particular, I found the Speed Limit Info and Active Cruise Control very handy in maintaining my no fines in five years record on the Geelong road.
By the end of the weekend, none of us wanted to say goodbye to the BMW X7. We were awed by this big SUV, not just its size, but how the interior delivers comfort and luxury unrivalled in a seven-seater.
No one should have to hand back a birthday present. After all, Mum never got the lamb roast back, that’s for sure.