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The Top Gear car review:BMW X7
What is it like on the road?
The X7 perfectly illustrates why plush SUVs have become the new luxury saloons. It swallows distance. Quietness, a plush ride, huge living space and a haughty vantage point define the experience.
We tested a 40i with a straight-six, the standard adaptive air suspension and steering at the front only. Then we tried the full-house pack of 4WS, active roll stabilisation and electronic rear LSD. That was on a 50i V8 (not available for a while in the UK, though you do get them on the M50d). That second set-up was just as plush in the comfy mode, but made itself tauter and more alert than the 40i when they were both in their sport modes. Even so, we didn’t grieve for the missing extra complication in the 40i.
It steers with measured authority, rolling surprisingly little and holding onto an impressive dignity as it sweeps through bends. In the softest mode the X7 can float a little, but stick the chassis into auto or sport modes and your kids won’t get sick. The ride really is very good, matching a lot of saloons, and far better than either the ‘sports’ SUVs or the American ones based on trucks. It’s supple, quiet and doesn’t bob you from side to side, and it’s consistent across urban crap, lumpy rural roads or coarse motorways.
If the 2.3-tonne mass is disguised in bends, it comes out in acceleration. The wonderful 40i engine makes 340bhp and eager mid-rev torque and it revs like a sweetheart, but it’s got its work cut out here. Snapping open the throttle calls up a sort of powerboat surge rather than an instant tweak of hard g-force. Still, the smoothness and shift pattern of the eight-speed autobox is unmatched anywhere in the business.
You hardly need us to tell you the X7 is annoyingly bulky in city centres or car parks. But it does its best to help you with an umpire’s-chair seating position, slabby sides and cameras pointing in every direction. The optional four-wheel steering shrinks the turning circle.
BMW’s ‘reversing assistant’ keeps a rolling memory of your exact steering movements for 50 metres. Drive forward into a difficult space, and it’ll steer you slowly back (even the next day) along exactly the same track.