Chatham, Mass. – “The ultimate driving machine” may be BMW’s marketing slogan and design/engineering mantra, but when the company wants to push this philosophy even further, it turns a model over to BMW M GmbH, its high-performance subsidiary.
This model year the Bavarian company unleashed the two latest vehicles to receive M massaging – the BMW X5 M50i and the BMW X7 M50i – both with the same 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 producing 523 horsepower and 553 pounds-feet of torque.
The X5 M slots into the mid-size SUV category, while the X7 M50i fills the large SUV segment and for the past week my driveway.
This is a large vehicle – 203.3 inches long, 78.7-inches wide and 71.1 inches tall and 5,661 pounds – comparable to the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Aviator and Mercedes-Benz GLS. But thanks to the combination of the BMW approach to building vehicles and the added benefit of the M touch, this SUV when pushed responds and drives like a true sporting, high-performance machine despite its mass.
The engine allows it to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, but this is no old-fashioned muscle car, but a balanced craft which can handle and stop with alacrity while cossetting its occupants in leather-clad comfort.
The suspension system has been optimized for handling without sacrificing comfort. In addition, it allows for adjusting ride height based on circumstances (like the ability to raise the X7 M50i when going off pavement, something very doable with the all-wheel drive system and computer-controlled locking rear differential).
BMW M Sport Brakes
Helping to keep this wonderful beast under control is the standard M Sport Brakes.
What sets the M Sport brake system apart is the innovative lightweight construction, consisting of cast iron friction rings combined with an aluminum brake disc chamber. This technology ensures braking excellence as well as a reduced weight.
The system employs a four-piston fixed configuration for the front wheel calipers and single-piston floating configuration for the rear wheel calipers – all painted a distinctive blue. The massive rotors are vented front and rear.
The M Sport brake system is designed to ensure optimal thermal resistance. In the cockpit, the high-performance braking system is clearly noticeable by the distinct pressure points on the pedal and the short pedal travel.
The M Sport brakes work in complete harmony with a host of stabilizer systems and solutions such as the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS).
Advance driver assist (ADAS) and safety systems abound including blind-spot monitoring; front-collision warning and crash mitigation; lane-departure warning; rear and surround-view camera and park-distance control.
The preceding list was incomplete – this vehicle has so many features it would be impossible to list them all and I was not able to try them all, either. If you can think of a system or feature found in a modern vehicle, it’s probably either standard or part of a major option package.
Interior luxury and comfort features
A key feature is custom control – the BMW X7 M50i driver can customize almost every feature, from what the buttons on the key fob control to the information displayed on either 12.3-inch color screens (the one in front of the driver with instrumentation and other driving information and the one in the center of the dashboard with infotainment, climate control, seat positioning/heating/cooling, driver-assist settings, etc.). The driver can even control the second-row captain’s chairs from his position.
Everything is power operated including all three rows of seats (and the third row is comfortable once you get there, which takes a bit of doing); window shades for the rear doors, and the rear hatch.
The infotainment system, controlled by buttons, the latest iteration of iDrive (a dial activating items displayed on the center screen), touch screen, voice commands and even hand gestures, includes AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio and streaming audio from a connected smartphone. And this is one of the few vehicles available with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity – no USB cable needed to use either system (which means the phone remains in your pocket).
This dynamic ability and luxurious appointments, not to mention superb pedigree, does come with a price.
First, the combination of size, weight and performance means the BMW X7 M50i is not frugal when it comes to fuel use. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the SUV at 15 miles per gallon in the city, 21 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg overall; we averaged some 19 mpg during out time, which included a fair amount of heavy acceleration (the V8 just cannot be denied).
The X7 M50i represents the top of BMW’s SUV lineup, a range which covers some seven models with several variants for each. Pricing begins at $99,600. Our mineral white metallic review vehicle added options like the cold weather package, dynamic handling package, driver assistance package and executive package to bring the total to $113,845 (including the $995 destination charge).
All these systems, controls and features together may seem daunting, but to an owner who puts in the time to learn the ins and outs of the vehicle, the BMW X7 M50i rewards with a wonderful experience. It is a luxury vehicle of the first order, with limousine-like amenities for second-row passengers who want or need the services of a dedicated driver.
And for those owners who appreciate the instant response of M Sport -tuned V8 engine, suspension system and sophisticated engineering, the BMW X7 M50i delivers a wonderful driving experience.
The premium German auto makers call vehicles like this all-activity vehicles (AAV) which seems to be more descriptive of their capabilities than the mundane sport-utility moniker. The BMW X7 M50i is an ultimate expression of this concept and if you have the wherewithal to move in this price range and want this kind of balance and versatility, it is a fine choice.