When the heck is a large $94,000 SUV with 456 horsepower not enough? German luxury vehicle maker BMW would answer, when it’s an X7 50i model. Thus the X7 M50i.
Those in the know of BMW lingo realize adding an M to any BMW nameplate means two things, more performance, and naturally, more money.
New for 2020 the M50i ups the ante for both. It touts the same 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 as the 50i, but bumps up the horsepower to a wowing 523 with an equally wow-worthy 553 torque rating. Price jumps to $100,595 for this monster out of BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C., plant.
I’m sure most of us would be satisfied with the mid-powered X7 50i, or even it’s more mellow 40i sister, which packs 335 horsepower from a turbocharged 3.0-liter I6. But I wasn’t about to turn away the Metallic Mineral White M50i. One might say it was Christmas come early.
For non-BMWphiles the X7 is BMW’s largest SUV, although you might also consider it a mega crossover or minivan wanna-be too. It comes standard with all-wheel-drive, a third row seat, and is a long 203.3-inch vehicle weighing in at a bulky 5,661 lbs., so it looks like a large SUV.
But that nuclear reactor of a V8 coupled with smooth responsive handling and pillow-soft ride give it both an exciting sporty edge and an air suspension aided CEO-level ride. Oldsters might recall ancient Lincoln TV ads where a diamond cutter split a diamond in the back seat of a moving car to show how smooth Lincoln’s ride was. That could happen here too.
I pointed the X7 M50i toward a Wisconsin “rustic road” that I frequently use on test drives and instead of loosening my fillings I barely noticed the crumbling pavement and pot holes. Even firming the ride with the push-button Sport drive mode didn’t necessitate a call to the dentist. Ride remained well controlled, velvety soft.
Whether a 40i, 50i or M50i, the X7 delivers on the driving musts for a BMW. A silky 8-speed automatic slips through the gears with ease, only a little balk on the uptake when rounding a sharp corner and getting heavy on the throttle. Put it in Sport mode (4 drive modes total) and slap the accelerator for a highway jaunt and you’re to triple digits faster than you can say BMW X7 M50i.
There’s a throaty grumble to the engine to let you know why you parted with mucho cash, but nothing that will disturb sleeping passengers. The interior is quiet as a velvet-lined box catching a feather. Conversations are easy, even if someone is in that third row seat.
Speaking of which, that rear seat will power down in halves via buttons just inside the power split rear hatch. There also are power controls on the bulkheads just behind the second row seats to adjust the third row for passengers or cargo. Attention to such details was rife in the X7.
Second row seats will power forward too for easier ingress and egress from the rear. Second row here were captain’s chairs ($850 extra), so the tester would seat six. A bench seat is also available for the center row to accommodate seven, like a minivan.
As you’d expect, the interior was stylish and absolutely gorgeous. The test SUV’s dash was black leather ($850 extra) and the seats a saddle brown leather that felt plush, but well fitted. There are electronic controls, including the option of tightening the seat back’s side bolsters, plus the lower cushion can be extended to aid long-legged drivers.
Front seats (and cup holders!) are heated and cooled, although the seat cooling costs $500 extra, which seems contrary to the grandiosity of its $100 grand price tag. The steering wheel also was heated as were the second and third row seats, which include climate controls. 4-zone climate controls are standard on all X7s.
Need a bit more luxury? The second row captain’s seats included puffy headrest pillows. Ahhh!
The steering wheel is M-branded (but not flat-bottomed) and black leather, and the dash is tightly fitted with dark gray stitching. Trim is pewter and there’s a crystal gear shift knob, which is suddenly a thing in high-end vehicles. Dash and console trim features a black wood look with pewter edging in spots.
Big vehicle, big infotainment screen. This one is 12.3-inches of high-def that seems even wider. Adjustments were by smallish buttons and the iDrive knob on the console, which has finally become more usable, plus BMW got smart and put eight buttons on the dash for radio programming. Finally!
One small button that irritated though was the Park button on the crystalline shifter. It was tiny and felt awkward to depress each time I parked the vehicle.
Overhead there was a huge panoramic sunroof plus a small one over the third row seats. Both have power sun shades and the Executive Package ($1,300 extra) also includes a Panoramic Sky Lounge LED roof that projects a starry night sky at night, even when it’s cloudy out. I was unaware of this until after the test drive, so didn’t give it a look. My bad!
Standard on all X7s is the air suspension, run-flat tires, heated front seats, wireless phone charger, power seats for all three rows, Wi-Fi, the panoramic roof, Active Driver Assistance and Apple Car Play.
Moving up to the 50i from the 40i you also get remote start, soft door close, a 360-degree camera, side window sun shades, and a head-up display.
Plus there were several packages on the test model, including a cold weather package for $1,200, the jazzy but pricy $3,400 Bowers & Wilkins sound system, a drivers assistance pro package for $1,700 and dynamic handling package for $3,450.
If you have kids and also have this kind of money, consider the $2,200 entertainment package that puts 10.2-inch screens in the front seat backs plus includes wireless headphones and a DVD player.
While price is prohibitive for most of us, the X7 really is quite practical from a functional standpoint, yet there are a few drawbacks that I’d be remiss not to mention. First, the tailgate is split, so the top powers up and leaves you a small lift-over to put groceries, etc., in back. That’s not a huge problem, but if you want a wide-open tailgate to load a large item, you must press another button on the lower tailgate to power it down. Then, press it again to raise that before you use the upper tailgate button on the giant fob to lower the hatch. A one-piece hatch would simplify all that.
Gas mileage is poor too, as you’d expect in such a hefty SUV. I got 16.7 mpg in about 70% highway driving while the EPA says to expect 15 mpg city and 21 highway. Also note that the A- and B-pillars are big in the X7, so can crimp sight lines, which makes that 360-degree camera vital, especially when backing.
BMW lovers will adore the performance of the X7 M50i, but they’ll be paying a hefty sum. There are other worthy competitors to consider though, depending on your income and your need for nameplate envy.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS is larger and about the same price while the Lexus GX, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, and Lincoln Aviator all cost less. Note too that the Ford Expedition Max I drove a few weeks back is larger and costs less, more in line with the BMW X7 40i. But the Ford will also carry more cargo and tow 2,000 more pounds. Just sayin!
I’ve not driven a finer large SUV than the X7. It rides better than any other, handles better and has more power. Yet I’m sure I’d be happy without a few of the add-ons. Alas that would bring it back closer to my price range, if only!
FAST STATS: 2020 BMW X7 M50i
Hits: Huge three-row SUV with super quiet interior, excellent power, handling, and luxury ride. Stylish interior with heated/cooled seats and cup holders up front, heated second/third row seats and steering wheel, pillows on second row headrests, panoramic sunroof and small third-row sunroof, power side sun shades, 4 drive modes, extremely comfy adjustable seats with back bolsters, huge info screen.
Misses: Big A- and B-pillars, tiny Park button on shifter, poor gas mileage, odd split tailgate, and pricey!
Made in: Spartanburg, S.C.
Engine: 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8, 523 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 122.2 in.
Length: 203.3 in.
Cargo: 90.4 cu.ft. (two rows down)
Tow: 7,500 lbs.
MPG: 16.7 (tested)
Base Price: $100,595 (includes delivery)
Cold weather package, $1,200
Dynamic handling package, $3,450
Drivers assistance pro package, $1,700
Executive package, $1,300
Leather dash, $850
Second row captain’s chairs, $850
Front ventilated seats, $500
Bowers & Wilkins sound system, $3,400
Test vehicle: $113,895
Sources: BMW, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage