Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: December 24, 2019
Nobody needs a performance SUV, especially one as large and as heavy as the X7. With three rows of seats, an unimaginable flurry of cabin amenities, and enough straight line performance to embarrass dedicated sports cars, the X7 M50i is the latest M product from BMW. Hosting a nuclear 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 under the hood, the X7 M50i delivers a staggering 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, 67 hp and 74 lb-ft more than the xDrive50i model that preceded it. Routing that power to all four wheels is an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, and assists in launching the M50i from 0-100 km/h in a speedy 4.6 seconds, not too far off from the X6 M50i (4.2 seconds) and Range Rover SVAutobiography (4.5 seconds). The X7 M50i is also faster than the Mercedes-Benz GLS 580 (5.3 seconds), but the upcoming GLS 63 AMG should offer a more proper comparison. The M treatment further consists of model-specific front bumpers, Cerium Grey accents on exterior elements, an M Sport differential, M Sport exhaust system, two-axle adaptive air suspension, standard 22-inch wheels wrapped in performance non run-flat tires, and because every three-row SUV needs it, launch control. Why take your kids to the theme park when you’ve got your own personal roller coaster?
These are performance numbers that bewilder yet challenges automotive necessity. Does anyone need that performance? Of course not. Save the twenty grand and opt for the more fuel-efficient xDrive40i instead with its silky smooth straight-six engine. It may produce less power but it’s just as impressive and effective as a people hauler. You get the same cabin amenities as well. Why get the M50i then? For the same reason people fly first class. The X7 M50i changes just how luxurious and comfortable automotive travel can really be. Coach is fine, but riding with a boost-chugging V8 reactor while being swathed with massaging seats, soft quilted leather, fragrance being pumped through the cabin vents, temperature-controlled cup holders, and airplane-style headrests, make the journey that much more pleasurable. For some, the entrance fee is worth it.
But don’t think for a second that just because the X7 is the largest BMW ever built, that it doesn’t retain some of that athletic flair signature of the blue roundel’s products. Boasting agile maneuverability relative to its size, the X7 rides excellently with an eager front nose and a willing rear end. It’s like driving a truck on easy mode. Step on the throttle and without a whiff of delay, the X7 picks up and goes like stepping on a pitbull’s tail. No matter the selected driving mode, the M50i remains a calm demeanor and loses little confidence in recreational blasts. It’s affable, approachable, and its outstanding straight-line performance meets reassuring sure-footedness. The brakes are superb, and its exceptional stability means you can lean on the car and trust its instincts. The steering is expectedly muted but incredibly reactive to even the slightest of inputs. That’s a good and bad thing. While transmitting every minute movement into a change in direction, the steering can come off as too sensitive at higher speeds, where even the most minor of twitches will get the front nose pointing the other way.
The booming V8 soundtrack is another reason why some opt for the M50i. Less whiny than the 40i with its higher-pitched straight-six engine, the V8 emits a unique baritone-like noise with a soulful character. In fact, it sounds identical to the X6 M50i (and pretty much every M50i model in the BMW portfolio I might add) and even with the X7’s superior interior insulation and greater distance from the exhaust, the noise penetrates every eardrum within a one-kilometre radius with its raspy gear shifts and sonic throttle reactions. but with better interior isolation, yet even with the distance from the exhaust the noise penetrates every eardrum within a one-km radius with its raspy gear shifts and sonic booming throttle reactions. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video above to hear it for yourself.
How does it compare the Mercedes GLS 580? The X7 M50i is more athletic and lithe, though the GLS with its army of hydraulic body control is equally as impressive in masking the substantial curb weights of these German monsters. The X7 has the louder exhaust and the stiffer suspension setup resulting in less body lean and more confidence around corners when at speed, though a mid-way AMG trim (if ever announced) should make for a more proper competitor. The GLS is clearly geared towards comfort, and floats better on the road with slightly better manners and attitude towards leisure. Still, we’re splitting hairs here. The differences are minimal, and the pros stack up towards the sky. Drive them, see which one your emotions lean towards. You won’t lose with either.
Can we also take a second to admire just how stunning BMW’s paint palette is? Take a look at this Ametrine Metallic, a purple shade with glittering sparkles that looks less Barney, and more chic couture. And if any car were to pull off purple, it’d be a BMW. Think of the M5 in Daytona Violet. Stunning, absolutely stunning. Yes, the massive front kidney grills are a controversial touch but BMW admits that many buyers love the larger size, myself included. Not only does it add extra road presence, but it boldly sets it apart from the smaller X3 and X5 SUVs.
The interior is well-appointed with first-class materials and glass elements on the gear shifter and rotary dial surround. It’s everything you would expect in a 7 Series, put into SUV form. Keeping with a functional theme, everything is at the driver’s fingertips. Want to control the passenger seat? You got it. What about the rear seats? That too. Choice of fragrance? Check. Side window blinds? There’s a button for that too. The X7 ensures you never have to leave your throne when unloading this luxuriously effective people hauler. While the design is not as simplistic as the touchscreen-dependent Audi Q7 or as ritzy as the Mercedes GLS, functionality remains the top goal. As such, two 12.3-inch digital screens sit on the dashboard, replete with hard buttons to control every function. BMW’s lauded eight programmable shortcut buttons are back, and they join the optional Sky Lounge panoramic sunroof that illuminates at night to simulate a starlit sky - think of it like a discount Rolls-Royce Starlight Headliner.
We doubt there would be a business case for a more hardcore X7 M, for the same reason BMW refuses to produce an M7 Sedan, which is odd considering Mercedes thinks otherwise. Nevertheless, the M50i is the ultimate X7, for now. Think of it like the Emirates A380 equivalent of automobiles. It’s an exceedingly effective method of first-class four-wheel travelling for you and six other lucky companions, and the way it adeptly manages both comfort and performance pay dividends to an ever-changing and ever-adapting driving experience that never gets old.
Model: 2020 BMW X7 M50i
Paint Type: Ametrine Metallic
Base Price: $113,550
Price as Tested: $134,200
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,165 / 2,000 / 1,805
Curb weight (kg): 2,568
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8
Horsepower: 523 hp @ 5,500 - 6,000 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 16.1