BMW X7 M60i review road test drive exterior front
The thing is, you’ve probably already decided what you think about the BMW X7 M60i xDrive. You’ll have taken one look at the pictures and you’ll either have thought “Yep, that’s a bit of me” – or you’ll have decided it is (not to put too fine a point on it) not for you.
It is the very epitome of a Marmite car, in other words – one with which there is very little middle ground between loving and loathing.
It is also enormous. This is because it’s based on the X7, BMW’s big, swanky seven-seat SUV and a rival to the Mercedes-Benz GLS and, to a lesser extent, the Range Rover. It’s just had a facelift, to give it a face with split headlights more like that of the upcoming 7 Series. And if you’re up on your BMW nomenclature, you’ll be aware that the M60i bit of the badge means it’s the fast one.
This means that the M60i must square a particularly round circle, because not only must it carry the heft and weight that a car the size and complexity of an X7 necessitates, but it must do so with the sort of blistering pace and dynamic panache with which BMW’s M badge has become synonymous. To be able to pull it off, it’ll need a miracle, a certain amount of witchcraft, or a combination of both.
- Lavish interior
- Genuine space for seven people
- Less expensive than rivals
- Never feels as fast as it is
- Jiggly ride quality
Powering the M60i is BMW’s new S68 V8 engine; a 4.4-litre V8 with two turbos located between the two banks of cylinders in what’s known as a ‘hot vee’ formation, and which can trace its origins back to the engine that powered the original X5 M – arguably this car’s long-distance progenitor.
In its latest incarnation, though, this engine features all sorts of whizzy technology. For example, there’s power boost from a 12bhp, gearbox-mounted electric motor that’s part of a 48-volt mild hybrid system; variable camshaft control is now electric, rather than hydraulic, and there’s a new oil pump and external oil cooler.
The result is a total power output of 523bhp; 0-62mph takes just 4.7 seconds. So it should come as no great surprise that, despite the mild hybrid greenwashing, it is prodigiously – some might say antisocially – thirsty. The official figures suggest the best you can hope for is 23mpg, though in the real world, expect that to drop to somewhere between 15 and 20.
Having said that, viewing it in line with its rivals, the X7 is no less frugal. It’s also not quite as extravagantly expensive to buy as the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 (£140,595) and Bentley Bentayga (£162,555), though at £109,935, you could hardly call it proletarian. And while it is belligerently shouty to look at, again, it has to be said that it is no more so than its rivals, among which only the Range Rover Sport could be described as an exemplar of taste and discretion.
Happily, from within, you can’t see the outside. Indeed, the interior is probably the best thing about the M60i; every surface is coated in thick, creamy-smooth leather, the fit and finish is as good as it gets, and there are lovely little slivers of real metal and piano black wood that make it feel truly high-end.
BMW X7 M60i review road test drive interior dashboard
It’s incredibly roomy, too. You can have it with either seven seats – two rows of two with a bench between them – or six individual captains’ chairs; either way, no occupant goes without space. Even in the rearmost row, a pair of adults can sit side by side for a short-to-medium length trip without feeling too nonplussed.
Trouble is, all of this is true of the standard X7 which, behind its uneasy facelift styling, is one of the finest cars of its type. But then, the standard X7 won’t be as exciting to drive as this M60i. Will it?
Well, let’s start with the engine, which is undoubtedly a delightful thing, all burbly grumbles as you’re easing it round town and gargling wails when you floor it. But it doesn’t actually feel that fast. This is for two reasons; firstly, the X7’s sheer vastness means you’re so far from the action that acceleration takes place slightly dispassionately. A bit like when Jean-Luc Picard orders warp speed on the USS Enterprise, then calmly watches the viewscreen from his leather-bound armchair as he and more than a thousand other people casually break the speed of light.
2022 BMW X7 M60i
And in fact, not only does it not feel fast, but it isn’t. At least, not as fast as you might hope. No, 4.7 seconds isn’t exactly sluggish, but these days the best hot hatches can do that; a BMW M340i, which costs half the price, is faster still. Of course, the problem is that the X7 weighs 2.7 tonnes – more if you spec it up with all the options, of course – so even with the M60i’s colossal power figure, it doesn’t shift it along quite as briskly as you might expect.
And when you do really floor it, the whole car sits back on its haunches, the steering goes light, and you find yourself gripping the steering wheel and breathing just a little more quickly as you struggle to keep it from straying over the white lines. In an old Bentley Turbo R, we’d call this character. In a brand-new BMW, it feels classless.
BMW X7 M60i review road test drive exterior rear
Of course, this trait combined with the X7’s size means opportunities to explore the limits of its dynamic ability are relatively difficult to find. On country lanes you find yourself constantly, apologetically diving for the bushes to try and avoid scraping down the side of oncoming cars. And when you do get a stretch of open, well sighted road, you’re always quite tentative about really opening the taps given that slightly wayward response under heavy acceleration.
Yet, the ability it has to go round corners is nothing short of mind-boggling. You can genuinely throw it around like a car half its size, revelling in the thrum of that lovely engine as you nail it out of bends. As a feat of technology, it’s remarkable – a car you drive around with your mouth ajar, slightly amazed that it can do what it does.
The trouble is, rarely does the gape actually turn into a grin. You’re always aware of the sheer amount of mass that’s shifting around, of brakes being nipped and power being dialled out and shuffled around in order to make the car do what you’re asking of it.
If you concentrate, you can actually feel the X7 trying to plough its nose forward momentarily, before the clever electronics do their thing and the whole thing grudgingly hauls itself round to the direction and line you’ve specified from the wheel.
So, while BMW might have worked some magic here, actually making this near-three-tonne SUV drive like a sports saloon is just a miracle too far. In any case, the M60i is so vast that you simply don’t have the space to try driving it quickly.
What’s more, there’s a trade-off for the M60i’s ability, which is that it forgoes the unctuous way the standard car goes over bumps.
BMW X7 M60i review road test drive interior boot
The trouble is that the air suspension isn’t quick-witted enough to deal with the jiggles transmitted by the huge wheels – 21 inches as standard, 22 inches on our test car, though you can upgrade to whopping 23-inch items if you so choose. And, in trying to get it to do so BMW has set the ‘Comfort’ mode so soft the M60i floats off crests queasily and wallows into compressions. Yet you still get that constant patter from the road surface, so on anything short of a mirror-smooth motorway it manages to be wallowy, wafty and jittery all at the same time.
The Telegraph verdict
The standard X7 is a car you hate to love. Behind its controversial styling it is laden with talent, with genuine space for seven in a lavish interior, a wonderfully soft ride quality and a diesel engine that manages to balance power and economy very well.
By contrast, the M60i is undeniably faster, and it does go round corners better, but actually using all that extra performance is rarely feasible – in the UK, at least – given the X7’s sheer size and our cramped, crowded roads.
And this is to say nothing of its relative vulgarity; of its thirst for fuel, its prodigious weight and girth, and its ecological tokenism. It is a car you constantly drive with an apologetic grimace.
Of course, it is not alone in this. It’s hard to blame BMW for building a car like this when all of its rivals are too, and when people are happy to buy them. And if you are indeed in the market for a seven-seat, high-performance, hyper-luxury SUV, the X7 does at least make some financial sense.
But you’d do better still by ignoring the M60i and its ilk altogether, and going for the standard X7 instead – by comparison with which, cars like this one suffer from more than a whiff of folly.
On test: BMW X7 M60i
Body style: Five-door SUV
On sale: now
How much? £109,935 on the road (range from £86,475)
How fast? 155mph, 0-62mph in 4.7sec
How economical? 23.3mpg (WLTP Combined)
Engine & gearbox: 4,395cc twin-turbo eight-cylinder petrol engine, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive
Electric powertrain: 48v starter/generator with dedicated battery
Electric range: 0 miles
Maximum power/torque: 523bhp/553lb ft
CO2 emissions: 274g/km (WLTP Combined)
VED: £2,365 first year, £510 next five years, then £155
Warranty: 3 years / unlimited miles
Spare wheel as standard: No (not available)
Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
604bhp, 22.1mpg, £140,595 on the road
Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 exterior
It’s possibly the only car out there that manages to be more vulgar than the M60i, and the GLS 63 will cost you an awful lot more to buy, to boot. You do get considerably more power for your money, though, and despite this, the GLS is barely any thirstier than the X7. Of course, drivers of cars like these simply won’t care about stuff like this – and that’s exactly what they tell the world.
542bhp, 21.7mpg, £162.555 on the road
Its performance credentials mean the Bentayga is a match for the X7 M60i, but in price it is certainly not. Having said that, the difference is a level of fit and finish even more extravagant than the X7’s, with rich, high-quality materials throughout, even where the X7 plumps for plastics. Indeed, this least extravagant version is probably the best Bentayga of all – and if you can stretch to it, it’s both more comfortable and more plush than the X7.
Range Rover Sport First Edition
523bhp, 25.2mpg, £116,190 on the road
Range Rover Sport First Edition
The latest Range Rover Sport is a delight if our early drive is anything to go by, and while this first edition isn’t as potent as the old SVR, it’s more than quick enough to be a match for the X7. It’s also just a sliver more fuel efficient, though it’s also more expensive to buy, but arguably the payoff is styling that’ll fit in better in the golf club car park.
Keyword: BMW X7 M60i review: an asinine folly for people with more money than sense