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BMW’s big 2020 X7 is a luxo 7-seat crossover, now with M Performance heat. But it’s far from faultless.

2020 BMW X7

What changes will make the 2020 BMW X7 different?

Addition of the 523-horsepower X7 M50i model injects this premium full-size crossover with even higher performance in its second year on the market. With seating for up to seven, the X7 debuted for model-year 2019 as BMW’s largest-ever vehicle and its first challenge to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Range Rover, and Cadillac Escalade.

Tuned by the German automaker’s M Performance arm, the X7 M50i represents a comprehensive upgrade in speed and handling, though with a six-figure base price, it won’t be a volume seller. Nor will other possible additions: a plug-in hybrid and an ultra-luxury four-seater with a 12-cylinder engine. These X7 variants won’t appear before model-year 2021, however, leaving the bulk of 2020 X7 sales to the six-cylinder xDrive40i and V-8 xDrive50i models. They’ll return mostly unchanged.

Note that driving impressions and other subjective conclusions in this review are based on test drives of the 2019 X7. In areas where the ’20 might be different, we will reserve judgment.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy a 2019?

Wait if you’re interested in the 2020 X7 M50i. It’ll have the muscle, the aggressive styling touches, and the prestige to rival Mercedes’ anticipated introduction of a 500-plus-horsepower AMG edition of the GLS.

With the speculative electrified and boutique X7s still a couple years off, buying even a 2019 X7 xDrive40i or xDrive50i will get you a rock-solid crossover packed with technology and luxury features. Don’t expect nimble handling, though, and don’t look for true adult-friendly accommodations in the third-row seat. You’ll also need to make peace with the X7’s most polarizing styling touch, an almost comically enlarged version of BMW’s trademark twin-kidney grille.

Launched for model-year 2019, X7 assumes the brand’s flagship crossover mantle from the midsize X5. Both are built at BMW’s South Carolina plant and share powertrains and lots of underskin engineering. Indeed, the X7 is essentially an X5 stretched 5.1 inches in wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) and 9 inches overall. That helps accommodate a third-row seat, standard in the X7 but an option in the smaller X5, where it’s seriously confining for all but kids and pets.

The X7 got off to a good sales start and probably drained some customers from the X5. Still, the X5 outsells it 3-1, and while X7 demand trailed that of more established segment rivals through the first quarter 2019, it gives BMW a promising entry in a rapidly expanding class.

Will the styling be different?

The 2020 xDrive40i and xDrive50i will be unchanged and, except for badging, will again be visual duplicates, even sharing standard 21-inch alloy wheels. Aside from a chrome accent behind the front wheel openings, exterior brightwork is used sparingly and to good effect. The ’20 M50i will eschew a bit of that bling, with black window surrounds, for example, and it’ll accent its grille, fender scallops, and its M Star-spoke 22-inch wheels in grey. Larger front vents, subtle aero body addenda, blue-painted brake calipers, and M logos complete the kit.

Much of that look – including black wood interior trim, M Sport steering wheel, and alcantara headliner — will again be available for the other 2020 X7s via the M Sport Package. Expect it to cost $2,900 on the xDrive40i and $3,550 on the xDrive50i, to which it’ll also add an M Sport exhaust system.

Except for that exaggerated grille — a version of which also sullies the schnoz of BMW’s 7 Series flagship sedan — the 2020 X7’s look will remain relatively unadventurous. That doesn’t, however, mean this crossover will lack presence.

It’s a quality due in large measure to a squared-up profile that pays dividends in excellent headroom, even for the third row. The two rearmost riders also get generous shoulder room and a split bench that doesn’t skimp on padding.

The three-person second-row bench that enables seven-passenger seating can be replaced by two captain’s chairs as a $600 option. The buckets have the same power adjustments as the front seats and in either form, the second row powers forward to ease third-row entry and exit. The passageway remains very tight, though, and the included running boards are more shin-knocking nuisance than aid. Worse of all, the footwell is insufficient for anything larger than size 6 shoes. Look to the GLS or the Navigator, or wait for the redesigned 2021 Escalade, if you want a truly usable third row.

Little need to shop around for higher-class décor, though. The cabin of the 2020 X7 will again be resplendent in soft-touch surfaces, artful forms, and quality materials. Wood trim and aluminum accents are standard. A $650 option furnishes cut-glass surfaces for the transmission shift knob, starter button, and audio controls. A three-panel panoramic moonroof is standard; third-row passengers get their own control for the rearmost sliding sunshade.

For leather upholstery as standard, however, you’ll need to spring for the xDrive50i or M50i. Leather is optional for the xDrive40i in place of an admittedly convincing impersonation BMW calls Sensatech. It starts at $1,450 and ranges to $5,150 for Ivory/blue Merino leather, a leather-covered dashboard, and an alcantara headliner. For the 2020 xDrive50i, upgraded Merino leather should again cost $1,000 and Ivory/blue treatment $3,700. The M50i will come with Vernasca perforated leather with contrast stitching.

The dashboard, digital instrumentation, and controls follow BMW’s newest themes. Here, the determinedly horizontal layout will again integrate a standard 12.3-inch central infotainment screen such that its tablet-like design doesn’t look too tacked-on. Navigation is standard, and BMW smartly provides physical buttons for primary audio, climate, and vehicle-system functions. If you wish to interact with these and other systems though the automaker’s iDrive interface, you can manipulate its large console knob and attendant buttons or use voice commands. BMW pioneered this sort of networking, and iDrive is now the industry’s most user-friendly.

Still, this is a decidedly high-tech environment, and there is a gentle but obligatory learning curve. Saying “Hey, BMW,” awakens the vehicle’s virtual assistant, ready to alter settings or provide instructions upon your next command. Uttering “BMW” in casual conversation, though, awakens it, too. Amusing, the first time. You’ll also need to get used to thumbing the Chicklet-sized button on the aft side of the shift knob to engage Park. Never amusing.

The console houses a wireless phone charger (access to which is blocked with the cupholders in use), but cabin storage otherwise consists of large door pockets and medium-sized console and glove boxes. At 12 cubic feet behind the third row, 49 with it folded, and 90 maximum, cargo volume is average for a crossover this size. A powered clamshell liftgate is standard, the fold-down tailgate section being a neat convenience.

Any mechanical changes?

Not for the carryover xDrive40i and xDrive50i.The former will return with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine of 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The xDrive50i will reprise a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 with 456 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The 2020 X7 M50i will use a hotter version of the V-8 with 523 horses and 553 pound-feet of torque.

All will employ an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel paddle shifters supplementing the console lever. Drivers can specify Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro, and Adaptive powertrain modes, with the M50i using specific performance calibrations throughout.

BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system will again be standard across the board. It biases power aft to enhance handling and can send 100 percent to the rear wheels when AWD isn’t required. A limited-slip rear differential is standard on the M50i and optional on the xDrive50i. The Off-Road Package ($1,650 for model-year 2019) available on all adds the limited slip, skid plates, and sand, rock, gravel, and snow powertrain and suspension modes.

An air suspension is standard and adjusts automatically to sharpen handling or soften the ride; a button in the cargo area lowers the vehicle to ease loading. Optional again will be the Dynamic Handling Package, starting around $4,000, depending on model. Among its features are tiny degrees of rear-wheel steering, as well as tech that uses the navigation data to predict the road ahead and optimize the suspension for upcoming curves.

The 2020 X7 M50i was not available for testing in time for this review. Expect acceleration with the xDrive40i to again feel surprisingly reserved unless you’re very deliberate with the throttle or willing to exploit Sport mode. Even then, it takes a moment or two for this inline-six to get the 5,400-pound crossover away from a stop with conviction. The xDrive50i’s twin-turbo V-8 is far more authoritative, delivering impressive thrust off the line and pushed-into-your-seat g-forces thereafter. Both engines are exceedingly smooth in a way that suggests expensive, world-class engineering.

No disguising the X7’s bulk in quick changes of direction or on twisty roads. Even in Sport mode, even with the Dynamic Handling Package, the xDrive40i and xDrive50i can’t shake steering that feels syrupy instead of sharp and body motions that are flaccid instead of well-toned. It’s instructive to note that the related X5 xDrive40i and xDrive50i, with their more compact wheelbase and half ton less to haul, feel markedly nimbler.

It’s also important to consider whether your driving style is compatible with the X7’s Active Lane Keeping Assistant, a component of the vehicle’s semi-autonomous driving capability. It’s designed to keep you in your lane by automatically steering and sustaining speed so long as you maintain periodic finger contact with the steering wheel.

In our tests, the system sometimes reacted too aggressively, with sudden steering correction at the first sign the X7 had violated a lane marking. It’s also designed to countersteer automatically if you’re about to change lanes into the path of another vehicle. Fortunately, you can turn it off or program more subtle alerts that don’t involve automatic steering correction.

For best ride quality, stick with the standard 21-inch wheels and tires. Even in Comfort mode, the 22s, a $1,300 option, allow bumps and tar strips to rabbit-punch the X7’s structure. It’s uncomfortable for occupants, and given this crossover’s lofty status, it’s unseemly.

Will there be new features?

The 2020 M50i will bring its own aforementioned appearance and performance features, but the returning X7 xDrive40i and xDrive50i will carryover virtually intact. Consistent with their premium positioning, standard and optional equipment will again be extensive and include frivolities such as the color-changing “Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof” ($750) and twirl-your-finger audio-volume gesture control ($190), to useful perks like a head-up instrument display ($1,100), to the advanced safety of the Active Driving Assistant Professional Package.

That package would again expand on a standard safety suite that includes autonomous emergency braking able to automatically stop the X7 to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, pedestrian, or cyclist; blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection; and lane-departure warning.

A $1,700 option for the xDrive40i and standard otherwise, the Active Driving Assistant Professional Package adds adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go driving; the aforementioned Active Lane Keeping feature; automatic lane changing when sensors detect it’s safe; and front cross-traffic detection. Since some of these driver assists — adaptive cruise control in particular — are standard on many competitors, BMW may elect to include some or all in the base price of the X7 xDrive40i for 2020.

Standard on the 2020 xDrive50i and a $700 option for the xDrive40i, Autonomous parking will again be standard or optional, depending on model and include full steering, braking, and throttle control into parallel or perpendicular spots.

Full details about 2020 M50i equipment were not available in time for this review. But in addition to features mentioned above, expect the other X7 models to include among their options the Luxury Seating Package ($1,600 on the xDrive40i, $1,200 on the xDrive50i) with front ventilated and massaging front seats. The Cold Weather Package ($1200) will again add heated seats for all three rows, plus five-zone climate control.

The Premium Package ($3,000, or $1,500 for the xDrive50i) will add remote engine start, heated and cooled front cupholders, soft-close automatic doors, the head-up display, a harman/kardon surround-sound system, gesture control, and rear electric side window shades.

Audiophile-grade Bowers & Wilkins Diamond surround sound will return as a $4200 extra ($3,400 on the xDrive50i), while rear-seat entertainment with a 10.2-inch touchscreen for the back of each front seat will again run $2,200.

The xDrive50i’s $2,100 Executive Package would again bundle the Panoramic Sky Lounge LED Roof, glass controls, and adaptive LED headlights with automatic highbeams.

Will 2020 prices be different?

Expect the returning X7s to suffer some price inflation, while addition of the M50i gives the lineup a model that starts above $100,000. That threshold was already just a few option packages away for the buyer of a 2019 X7 xDrive50i.

For reference 2019 X7 base prices — including BMW’s $995 destination fee – were $74,895 for the xDrive40i and $93,595 for the xDrive50i. The automaker’s announced base price for the 2020 X7 M50i is $100,595.

As daunting as they may appear, these prices are in line with those of rivals in the rarified premium full-size crossover class.

When does it come out?

Expect a 2020 X7 release date in fall 2019

Best competitors

Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Range Rover, Lexus LX, Lincoln Navigator, Maserati Levante, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Toyota Land Cruiser

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]