Auto123 reviews the 2020 BMW X7 M50i.
While I tend to stick steadfastly by the “physics can’t be defeated” argument, BMW has nevertheless performed some black magic when it comes to the 2020 X7 M50i SUV.
This is a three-row, 5,500-lb behemoth of a truck that, believe it or not, can sprint from 0-100 km/h in less than five seconds. If that’s not some kind of physics cheat, then I don’t know what is. For the sake of comparison: The Subaru STI does the same sprint in about 5.5 seconds, the Mercedes-AMG E53 sedan does it in 4.4 and the M550i sedan – with which the X7 M50i shares a powertrain – only knocks about a sixth of a second off that time.
Among SUVs, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Trackhawk is faster but it also has one less row of seats and nowhere near the passenger-coddling accoutrements the M50i has. That’s some bonkers performance, whether you’re talking about a sports car, sports sedan or SUV.
The M50i also constitutes the top tier of the X7 lineup. Indeed, if we leave the bonafide “M” vehicles like the soon-to-arrive X5M out of it, you could say it’s the top tier of the entire BMW SUV lineup. I recently dubbed one of its main rivals, the Mercedes-Benz GLS580, the S-Class of SUVs, and while BMW hasn’t pitched their alpha model that way, they’d likely have no problem calling the X7 – especially in M50i form – the 7 Series of SUVs.
The numbers are there: 523 hp, 553 lb-ft of torque, AWD, turbo, 8-speed automatic. Plus there’s room for a family of four 6-foot-plus folks (or of two big and five smaller folks), more in-car tech than a Best Buy and a host of cool detailing throughout.
The first detail that draws the eye is the headlights. Actually, before that comes probably that massive kidney grille. That’s what it is, but really the headlamp lenses with blue-hued bulbs that come as part of BMW’s laser-light technology are great, eye-catching features that add a real sense of class to the proceedings.
Good thing too, because to be honest the X7 is otherwise a somewhat awkward-looking thing overall. The roof is quite high, which is great for headroom but not so great for styling, and the long hood BMW likes to put on most of its vehicles doesn’t really seem a 100% fit either. The dark 21-inch wheels on our tester, though shod in high-profile winter rubber, do help lower the X7’s stance a little and the blue brake calipers look great peeking out from behind them. I’m less sure the maroon paintjob does it any favours; this is the all-out performance model, and a part of me feels like it should be coloured as such.
There’s very little to complain about when it comes to the interior. In this proper top-spec car, the materials are all out-of-sight when it comes to quality, the lighting is exceptional (and customizable) and the huge panoramic sunroof (there’s a secondary sunroof above the third row) makes it super airy inside overall.
The white extended-merino leather found on the seats, armrests and door cards is of top quality, but while it’s nice for adding brightness to the cockpit, I do worry about a plethora of scuffs and stains over time – though that’s an issue I have with white interiors in general.
Other fine details include something BMW calls “CraftedClarity” - fancy talk for crystal-like applications on the shift lever, volume controls, engine start/stop button and iDrive controller. It’s very luxurious and you just know that BMW has turned to knowledge gained from its Rolls-Royce ownership for some inspiration here.
Meanwhile, is it ever roomy in here. From the front seats to the third row, it’s a wonderful cockpit to inhabit. The second row particularly feel positively limousine-like. The seats are heated and cooled and power-recline.
The third row, meanwhile, is accessed by power-tilting and sliding the second row seats forward, which means you can leave a child’s seat installed in the second row, and still have access to the third.
Both the second and third rows, meanwhile, can be raised or lowered from buttons mounted to the rear cargo walls. Press these and all the seats will shuffle around to make sure they can fold flat without any problem. Oddly, there’s a bit of a delay from the time you press the button (there’s one marked with a suitcase that stows them all, and one marked with a seat icon for raising them) to the time the seats begin to deploy. It’s as if so many things have to happen for all the seats to fold flat, the system has to think for a while to decide what to do first. Maybe the system needs more RAM?
Definitely not in need of any more RAM is the infotainment system, which is the seventh generation of BMW’s iDrive. It makes use of a big 12.3-inch touchscreen (accompanied by a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster), with a tiled setup that lets you customize to include your most common apps on the home screen – up to three apps can be displayed at any given time. It’s super-smooth, fast, runs Apple CarPlay through Bluetooth and has wireless charging so there’s no need for cables
Plus it just looks so good; even the gauge cluster – also customizable – is an exercise in clarity matched by few in the biz, except maybe for that GLS which remains the industry standard when it comes to infotainment integration.
From here you also choose different lighting themes to suit your mood. Really, there’s nothing like driving home late from a weekend away, and having the full-length moonroof glow warm yellow-gold above you as the seats massage your back.
The tailgate is a two-part affair that lifts with a wag of your foot underneath, and I found it worked immediately about 80%, with the other 20% requiring a few more wags. That was mainly when the vehicle was dirty with road grime, so that may have something to do with it. I do love that two-part tailgate, though. The main door is smaller so it can be opened in tighter confines, while the bottom portion is good to either keep your wares in check or make the cargo bay easier to load.
A word of caution, however: If you’re going to install a forward-facing child’s seat in the second row, the lower portion of the tailgate can make the latch on the seatback a little tough to reach since it effectively extends the cargo floor. That, in turn, means you have a longer reach to the backs of the second row and the latches that reside there. Thankfully there’s a button on the edge of the lower tailgate that lowers the air suspension, which makes loading your wares even easier.
While that 0-100 km/h acceleration time I mentioned is certainly impressive, it’s not the be-all, end-all when it comes to the powertrain. The real story is the way the X7 M50i goes about its business. The engine is powerful without being overly peaky – just smooth and seemingly unstoppable. It sounds the business while it’s at it, too, with a properly throaty note through the quad exhaust outlets (they look like dual outlets, but there are four pipes back there) as you delve deeper into that ultrawide powerband. It may feel big and insulative, but you do have to hold on when you really get on it.
While it’s bigger than its X5 sibling, it drives almost exactly like the smaller SUV does. It’s long and it’s heavy but somehow as you push it through the bends and start putting the chassis to work, it responds with nary a creak or rattle. Its very BMW-esque steering means a very responsive turn-in that shouldn’t be possible with a hulk like this, and there’s only a modicum of body roll – if that.
The standard two-axle air suspension keeps everything in check, and while the dampers, springs and bushings are slightly more aggressively tuned than what’s found on the “lesser” xDrive40i and xDrive50i versions, it’s not like you’re going to be rattling your fillings as you ride over level crossings and such.
All the while, the standard M-Sport electronic-locking differential works in the background to make sure power is delivered to the wheels that need it the most, though it will keep it with an RWD bias most of the time. There’s no way such a large vehicle like this should drive this precisely, but it makes the likes of the GLS450 seem positively truck-like by comparison.
It should come as no surprise that at $134,700, my tester is one of the priciest SUVs this side of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan or Bentley Bentayga. It feels expensive when you step in, and when you fire it up, and when you start letting that glorious twin-turbo V8 stretch its legs. The model is priced right in that it feels like it should be priced as it is – remember: things are priced at what people are willing to pay for them. The big question, though, is can the performance SUV moniker work with a seven-seater? Well, the X7 M50i has the tech, and it’s probably the best attempt we’ve seen so far.
Monstrous V8 grunt
Top-notch interior detailing
Intuitive in-car tech
We like less
Does the world need an ultra high-performance seven-seat SUV?
Seats can be slow to react
Land Rover Range Rover HSE
Mercedes-Benz GLS 580
Porsche Cayenne Turbo/Turbo S E-Hybrid