BMW X7 Prototype First Drive Review | What took so long?
BMW X7 Prototype First Drive Review | What took so long?

BMW X7 Prototype First Drive Review | What took so long?

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The long-awaited, much-discussed BMW X7 finally enters the home stretch. Barely four months away from the start of production, BMW brought six early X7 prototypes to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant that will build the new crossover, and invited a small group to sample the driving dynamics. Munich’s other full-sized SUV hopes to prove itself the lively, luxurious, and laudable answer to the question, “What took so long?”

Company engineers said their two priorities were to avoid simply building a larger X5, and to ensure the husky X7 performed like a BMW. The short answer is that they succeeded on both counts. The slightly longer answer is that they might have scored better on the second count than on the first.

Perhaps it was the optic-distorting effects of camouflage, but the X7 did not look flagrantly larger than the X5. It wasn’t until the X5 camera car sidled up to one of the X7 testers on the highway that the slight difference in bulk became apparent, at least from the rear. BMW didn’t want to get into specific dimensions; all an engineer would tell us is that the X5 is less than five meters (4.91 to be exact, or roughly 16 feet) whereas the X7 stretches beyond five meters.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The long-awaited, much-discussed BMW X7 finally enters the home stretch. Barely four months away from the start of production, BMW brought six early X7 prototypes to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant that will build the new crossover, and invited a small group to sample the driving dynamics. Munich’s other full-sized SUV hopes to prove itself the lively, luxurious, and laudable answer to the question, “What took so long?”

Company engineers said their two priorities were to avoid simply building a larger X5, and to ensure the husky X7 performed like a BMW. The short answer is that they succeeded on both counts. The slightly longer answer is that they might have scored better on the second count than on the first.

Perhaps it was the optic-distorting effects of camouflage, but the X7 did not look flagrantly larger than the X5. It wasn’t until the X5 camera car sidled up to one of the X7 testers on the highway that the slight difference in bulk became apparent, at least from the rear. BMW didn’t want to get into specific dimensions; all an engineer would tell us is that the X5 is less than five meters (4.91 to be exact, or roughly 16 feet) whereas the X7 stretches beyond five meters.

Not only does the X7 sit on a longer wheelbase than the X5, the X7’s body’s been skewed rearward. Comparing the X7 to the current X5, the rear overhangs are proportionally similar, but there’s barely any sheetmetal ahead of the X7’s front wheels. Every X7 comes with a third row, so the sliding adjustment carves out as much practical room possible for those two extra chairs.

The cabin’s more spacious than the X5 in every dimension, especially fore-and-aft, but doesn’t deliver 7 Series roominess in the second row. I’m a long-legged 5′ 11″ and had plenty of knee room, but I apparently wore the wrong shoes to the ball: The toes of my cowboy boots wouldn’t fit under the front-row BMW Comfort Seats. That might have been due to the seats or the messy under-seat wiring in the prototypes. We didn’t hear a single complaint from colleagues, so it’s likely that passengers with less rowdy footwear won’t experience any issues.

The X7 doesn’t do manually-adjusted seats. Models with a second-row bench get power seatbacks and bolsters, split 60/40. Flipping a switch on the seatback shoulder folds the seatback forward and hinges the seat up off the floor for access to the third row, automatically sliding the front seat forward when more room is needed. The wide rear doors and chair ballet make third-row entry uncomplicated.

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