Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 17, 2023
Luxury three-row SUVs have flooded the market, popular for their people-hauling abilities, the dreaminess of their off-road capabilities, and the appeal of their elevated seating positions and excellent outward visibility. The BMW X7 is no exception, ranking as one of the most popular in the segment for good reason. It rides well, handles better than most, and is an ergonomically sound and visually attractive choice.
New for 2023 are the exterior visuals. The headlights adorn a dual-stacked design like in the 7 Series but appear much more balanced and easy on the eyes here, likely due to the X7’s larger silhouette and more muscular stance. It’s nicely complimented by the new Sparkling Copper Metallic paint which comes off as more of a glistening chameleon-like hue rather than an orangey copper tint, showing off the bold shoulders and adding to its already commanding road presence.
The interior also receives a minor nip and tuck with new light accents and details on the center stack. The fan vents have been redesigned and the climate controls no longer have their own mini-screen or buttons, as the massive 14.9-inch touchscreen controls everything now. Truth be told, we miss the dedicated buttons as they made inputs much quicker and more convenient - we prefer ergonomics over avant-garde designs. But the cabin does look more simplistic and streamlined without them. We also grieve the array of programmable shortcut buttons, but they live on in Rolls-Royces.
The driver’s instrument cluster houses a welcome upgrade - gone are the nonlinear and messy visuals of the previous iteration, and in its place is a much cleaner arrangement of digital dials and gauges. The leather wrapped around the steering wheel is grainier on this 40i model, and the texture is rougher than the Merino leather found on the dashboard, seats, and door panels. Further, the steering column is elevated and more angled than usual, resulting in a not-so-typical BMW seating position, but the seats are nicely supported and cushioned in the lower back area, and we appreciate how both the upper and lower seatback portions can be adjusted independently.
The X7 seats seven passengers as standard but you can opt for second-row captain’s chairs, which reduces that down to six. But no matter the trim, accessing the third row is cumbersome, as the electronically-controlled second row takes a lifetime to shift. Yes, it operates with just a touch of a button (no lever here), but it moves at such a slow and agonizing pace that it will test even the patience of a monk.
But it’s the drive that sets the X7 apart from the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Range Rover, and Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Whereas the latter three are clearly tuned for comfort and road compliance, the X7 adds some spice to the SUV recipe. Even in the base xDrive40i trim, its 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six is a peach of an engine, delivering 375 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque - that’s 40 hp and 52 lb-ft more than the 2022 model.
That output is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, but the real upgrade is with the addition of the 48V mild-hybrid system that you also find in the M340i xDrive. It supplements the engine and gearbox by providing extra torque and polishing out low-speed transitions between shifts and engine starts. It may not sound like much but it adds an extra dimension of refinement to the way the powertrain operates, and it’s so seamless that you hardly ever notice the tag-team of gas and electric in play. That said, the hybrid system is there to enhance the engine, and not be the star of the show, yet it will still accelerate from 0-100 km/h in an impressive 5.8 seconds.
The V8-equipped M60i provides 530 hp, a tidal wave of mid-range torque, and is still the weapon of choice for those who constantly haul and tow, but this inline-six feels more than capable for daily duties. It revs with the silkiness of soft linen, accelerates with gusto no matter which RPM you find yourself in, and never feels out of place or unpolished when exploring its muscular powerband. We also yielded an impressive 12.0 L/100km over a mix of both city and highway driving.
It also drives like a BMW should: agile front nose, willing rear end, and stability at high speeds. A two-axle air suspension is now standard fare on all X7 models, and it subsequently floats over bumps but never feels disconnected or distant from the road ebbing and flowing underneath. Still, the X7 is not nearly as absorbent of vertical oscillations as a GLS 450, but it’s equally as stable and grounded, and exudes more grace and solidity as the speeds rise and the corners sharpen. Of note, our X7 wore 21-inch wheels wrapped in winter rubber, but 22s and 23s are optional.
No matter the tech, this is not an SUV masquerading as a sports car, but the rear-wheel steering system truly adds to its sense of agility. It’s possibly one of the best all-wheel steer systems we’ve tested - linear and supplementing more dexterity to its already swift and pointy front end, and reduces three-point turns in a tight parking lot into a one-turn move. BMW has made it organic and progressive enough that it doesn’t feel artificial or fake, and for large SUVs like this, the $4,750 upgrade for it seems well worth it.
With nimble and secure handling matched with strong acceleration and a plush ride, the X7 is one of the most engaging and rewarding three-row SUVs on the market, even in the base 40i trim. It has clearly been tuned for those who prize handling yet require an everyday, functional SUV that comfortably seats seven. It’s a well-sorted compromise, expertly tuned by BMW to provide the best of both worlds.
Model: 2023 BMW X7 xDrive40i
Base Price: $
Price as Tested: $
Curb weight (kg):
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km:
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km):