Industrialisation has propelled Texas from an agriculture-base into a major economic powerhouse among other American states.
If Texas was counted as a country, it would be the world’s 10th largest economy.
And despite being the second largest American state after snow-covered Alaska, Texas is still a very big place, more than twice the size of Malaysia.
It was fitting for big Texas with its vast stretches of highways to be the venue for our media test drive with BMW’s largest vehicle - the X7 (G07) sports activity vehicle (SAV) with three-row seating capability.
Our nearly 580km drive from Houston to San Antonio with a lunch stop in Austin took more than eight hours to complete.
Many have considered the current generation X5 (G05) to be a large vehicle, but the X7 gets even more generous proportions.
The X7’s length of 5,151mm is 229mm over the X5’s 4,922mm, along its longer wheelbase of 3,105mm (+130mm) and increased height of 1,805mm (+60mm).
Curiously, the X7’s width of 2,000mm is 4mm narrower compared with X5’s 2,004mm although this minor reduction was never felt nor noticed as shoulder space was still more than adequate.
Designed to be a full-size seven-seater with sporty performance, plush interior and smart driving system, the X7 can also be specified to be a six-seater.
The second row bench-type seat for three persons can be replaced by two individual seats if more personal space and comfort are required.
There are some similarity in styling with the X5 but the X7 comes with an upright front, taller bonnet, slim headlights and an oversized chrome kidney grille that gives a strong sense of presence and authority.
The sporty theme is continued with rising side character lines and satin roof rails to impart an athletic profile.
At the rear, a long horizontal chrome bar bridges the slim rear LED tailights together in the style of the current 7 Series.
While LED-type headlights come with an illumination range of some 300m, there is the optional Laserlight type that doubles the range to 600m.
Our car was the xDrive40i variant which had a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection to deliver 340hp and 450Nm of torque.
Transmission is an eight-speed Steptronic with xDrive all-wheel drive system and BMW claims the XDrive40i can do the 0-100kph sprint in 6.1 seconds with a top speed of 245kph.
Inside, the wide X7 feels roomy with large windows and three sunroofs - one for each seating row - contributing to an airy feel. The D-Pillar comes with a glass area that is garnished by the familiar Hofmeister kink.
The BMW Live Cockpit Professional dashboard, which is angled towards the driver, comes with two 12.3-inch digital screens - one as the instrument cluster and the other as a free-standing infotainment centre display.
Both screens are the high-resolution type which enables sharp images and animations to be displayed.
Also packaged in the SAV is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant which can be activated by using the prompt sentence “Hey BMW.”
The prompt sentence can be changed to something to suit the driver’s preference and the system is useful for accessing some of the SAV’s infotainment features while letting the driver keep his hands on the steering wheel.
Our test unit also came with the optional soft Merino leather upholstery which increased seating comfort as well as the luxury factor.
In addition, the gear-shifter handle was of the “Crafted Clarity” glass-type which exudes a crystal-like sparkle when struck by sunlight, thus giving the interior a level of opulence.
To make long distance drives more enjoyable, the two cup holders in the centre console are equipped with heating and chilling features.
Head and legroom for all three seating rows are more than enough.
The second row seats can be electrically slid forward if there is the need to give third row passengers more leg room.
Entering and exiting the second and third row seats are easy as the back doors are large.
You don’t have to slam the doors as they are equipped with a soft-close function for more elegance like in the 7 Series.
There is 326 litres of boot space with the third row seats upright. Fold down the second and third row seats and available space goes up to 2,120 litres.
Driven sedately, the xDrive40i is quiet, serene and refined with its self-leveling air suspension providing a comfortable ride.
Its air suspension will lower the vehicle by 20mm if driven above 138kph or with drive mode set to Sport.
The vehicle ride can also be raised by up to 40mm if required to traverse over rough terrain, or lowered by 40mm to enable easier loading at the boot.
Ride quality was still good for our liking despite the xDrive40i being fitted with larger low-profile 22-inch wheels from the standard 20-inch.
Despite having a bulk of some 2.3 tonnes, the xDrive40i does not wallow nor roll like most sports utility vehicles around fast corners but maintains a BMW sedan-like handling and dynamics instead, thanks to its active roll stabilisation system.
Its all-wheel drive system has also been configured to give more power to the rear wheels so the xDrive40i performs like a rear-wheel drive vehicle.
The electric steering is precise and fast lane changing can be executed with confidence.
Another key feature such as the Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go make driving in traffic jams easy as the X7 will apply the brakes automatically if the car in front stops and moves forward once the front vehicle drives off.
Its steering and lane keeping assist system is also more accurate and advanced than similar systems used by other car brands that we had tried.
The xDrive40i’s semi-autonomous driving mode can continue to steer on tighter bends where other brands would have given up already and alerted for driver intervention.
In conclusion, the X7 brings the 7 Series’ prestige, grandeur and limousine-feel to the SAV segment. BMW Group Malaysia has launched the xDrive40i in July, priced at RM888,800 on-the-road without insurance.
The SAV also comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty, free scheduled service and tyre warranty programme.
BMW X7 xDrive40i
Engine: 2,998cc, six-cylinder, four vales per cylinder, BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, twinscroll turbocharger, high precision direct injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve control, Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing
Maximum power: 340hp from 5,500 to 6,500rpm
Maximum torque: 450Nm from 1,500 to 5,200rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic transmission with xDrive all-wheel drive system
Suspension (front): Double-wishbone axle in aluminium construction, air suspension with automatic self-levelling
Suspension (rear): Rear five-link axle in lightweight steel construction, air suspension with automatic
Features: Airbags, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Anti-lock braking system, Dynamic Traction Control, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Dry Braking function, Fading Compensation, Start-Off Assistant, DSC networked with xDrive all-wheel drive system, Automatic Differential Brake, Hill Descent Control, electric power steerng, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, BMW Live Cockpit Professional with two 2.3inch displays, iDrive voice control and gesture control, LED headlights, 20-inch tyres, four-zone automatic climate control, Head-Up Display, ambient lighting and three-section panoramic glass roof, and Bowers & Wilkins Diamond 3D surround sound
system with 3D audio, 20 speakers and 1,500w output
Acceleration (0-100kph): 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 245kph