BMW X7 M50i 2020 review
28 May 2020 - autocar
Not quite an M car, but still the most powerful BMW M Performance model - as well as the largest and heaviest
What is it?
If you're familiar with the X7, the arrival of the xDrive M50i should come as no surprise.
It's the new range-topping petrol version of BMW's flagship SUV, slotting in above the distinctly milder xDrive40i that's already on sale here. And seeing as BMW has decided not to create a full-blown M version, unlike with the X5 and X6, it will be the hottest version of the firm's biggest SUV.
Its status as an M Performance car is shown by a series of subtle styling changes. These include a deeper front bumper with greater structuring and larger air ducts, wider door sills and a new-look rear bumper that houses a reworked diffuser element and larger, trapezoidal, chromed tailpipes. There's also a range of new 21in and optional 22in alloy designs.
It's quite a step over those sills but, once you've climbed inside, you find a luxurious and commodious cabin that can accommodate seven adults across three rows of seats. There's certainly no shortage of space.
Unique touches include a leather steering wheel, a gear selector and instrument graphics that are all M-branded. It's all very upmarket, in keeping with BMW's more recent attempts to position itself as a luxury brand rather than merely one that focuses on premium qualities.
The M50i is powered by a version of BMW's 4.4-litre turbo petrol V8 that produces 523bhp and 553lb ft of torque – a considerable 188bhp and 221lb ft more than the 3.0-litre turbo straight six used by the xDrive40i.
As with other X7s, power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, although in the M50i this has been given unique software mapping for sportier shifts in D, S and M modes. Launch control has been added, too. What's more, the xDrive system receives an electronically controlled M Differential that provides torque vectoring capability for the rear axle.
What's it like?
Despite it weighing 2480kg, the M50i's acceleration in lower gears is determined; indeed, 0-62mph takes just 4.7sec. Its in-gear qualities are notable, too, with strong flexibility and a solid amount of shove well into the business end of the tachometer.
Delivery is typically smooth and eager, while the exhaust note emits a well-suited baritone blare under load. It's the M50i's ability to waft along at low revs in higher gears with outstanding mechanical refinement that really impresses, though: it feels truly effortless over smooth roads. Excessive tyre roar from the optional Pirelli P Zero tyres takes the polish off that otherwise excellent cruising capability on coarse surfaces, though.
The ride is well controlled. The M suspension, which uses air springs both front and rear, is noticeably firmer than the standard X7 set-up. But with a good deal of wheel travel and excellent absorption qualities under compression, it swallows bigger bumps with no undue shock through the body in Comfort mode.
At speeds above 86mph, the body is automatically lowered by 20mm to improve aerodynamic efficiency. A button on the centre console can raise it by 40mm for off-roading, too.
It's 5151mm long, 1805mm tall and 2000mm wide, but the M50i feels like a smaller car on the open road. Its standard speed-sensitive steering is complemented by all-wheel steering as part of the Executive Drive Pro options package, making it superbly agile for something so big. You can place it confidently and generate quite a turn of speed in corners, thanks in part to excellent grip.
Despite firmer damping than other X7s, the M50i's body still rolls a fair bit. Push too hard and you get some degree of roll steer, although this builds progressively enough to allow you to anticipate when to back off.
Should I buy one?
Downsides of the X7? Well, there are just 326 litres of boot space when the third row of seats are in use and, even with the benefits brought by the Integral Active Steering system, it's not exactly suited to urban driving – in the UK, at least. For that reason, it will probably be much more popular in the US, China and the Middle East.
BMW X7 M50i specification
Where Munich, Germany Price £92,975 On sale now Engine V8, 4395cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 523bhp at 5500-6000rpm Torque 553lb ft at 1800-4600rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2480kg Top speed 155mph (limited) 0-62mph 4.7sec Fuel economy 25.4-25.9mpg CO2 248-252g/km Rivals Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Land Rover Range Rover