Reviews

BMW X7 M60i review – does the world need an M-fettled seven-seater?

BMW has given its largest model the M treatment – should it have bothered?

Evo rating
Price
from £112,915
  • Delightful engine, sumptuous and hugely spacious cabin
  • A wholly unsuitable basis for an M product

Is BMW having us on here? Does anyone really need a seven-seat, 5.2-metre long SUV with more power than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS and an M badge on the boot? The X7 M60i would appear to be fundamentally flawed if we're being kind, or absurd if we're not. And yet in many ways it's quite a nice way to travel, and one of the more impressive vehicles within its niche.

The X7 M60i is BMW’s biggest, baddest SUV. With a sprinkling of M tuning over its engine and chassis, it’s positioned as a more extroverted alternative to the Range Rover P530, with which the M60i shares its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8. Generating 523bhp and 553lb ft of torque here, it hauls the X7 – all 2675kg of it – to 62mph in 4.7sec and onto a 155mph (limited) top speed. Those numbers would trouble most modern hot hatches, not least BMW’s own M135i which is a tenth slower to 62mph. 

BMW’s M division has what sounds like an impossible task to make this tall, three-row SUV offer even a glimmer of involvement, but they’ve given it a try. The M60i’s air suspension has M-specific tuning, for one, and M Sport brakes are equipped as standard. There’s also a locking M Sport differential to apportion drive between the rear wheels, standard-fit rear-axle steering and active anti-roll bars to counteract all that bulk. Oh, and you get M stripes on the seat belts, if you like that sort of thing. 

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Climb aboard and it almost feels like you could be in a 7-series, except one that’s been parked on top of another car. You’re perched so high up and the X7 feels enormous, but also beautifully finished. Ambient lighting seeps from doors and dashboard, the stainless steel speaker grilles for the (optional) Bowers & Wilkins sound system are cool to the touch and the (again, optional) crystal switchgear feels extremely high end. Some will prefer the understated class of a Range Rover’s interior, but there’s no denying that the M60i feels worthy of its £112,915 asking price. The tech is among the best in the business too, with BMW’s iDrive 8.5 system offering a personal voice assistant, 5G connectivity and augmented reality navigation. 

It’s immediately clear that despite the sporting pretensions, BMW hasn’t completely lost sight of how a large luxury SUV should behave. The X7 M60i is calming and relaxed – it doesn’t beat you up over rough roads, the engine doesn’t shout and the controls are light and effortless. The dampers don’t hold an iron grip on the body, even in Sport mode, and the X7 floats along very nicely. Some brittleness filters through over the worst surfaces but this feels like a product of the enormous 22-inch wheels, rather than overwrought suspension tuning. 

The trade off is that sometimes, the X7 can feel a little too lazy. With the steering and suspension backed off to Comfort mode it can gently sway and wander at speed – not so much that you need to concentrate hard, but enough for you to notice. Switching to Sport brings a more positive on-centre steering feel and tighter damping to dial most of this out, but even configured as such, the M60i doesn’t feel like a hardened M-fettled SUV. 

Flick down a few ratios in the eight-speed torque converter auto and the X7 delivers some of the drama you’d expect of an M product. The V8 is a delight, with enormous reach and a wonderful baritone voice as you climb up towards the redline, upshifts popping home with a subtle boom from the exhaust. But you don’t need to fully extend it to gather pace, such is the motor’s flexibility; the 48V mild-hybrid starter-generator unit covers for any gaps in its initial response and the M60i simply flies. 

Can the chassis keep up with that sledgehammer delivery? Not quite. The X7 M60i, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not a rewarding SUV to drive. It always feels enormous, remote and slightly wayward, lacking the accuracy and control that makes large BMW saloons that bit more involving than they should be. But you expected that. What you may not have expected is the cornering speed the X7 can carry, and the neutrality in the chassis when the rear diff hooks up under hard throttle. Driving this hard isn’t any fun, to be clear, but there are hints of adjustability at the very extremes.

Despite the clever chassis electronics, the M60i can’t fully control the forces being put through the tyres as the body lurches and heaves, eventually being reigned in by the ESP. Stopping the X7 also requires an awful lot of energy, and the brakes don’t feel entirely up to the job either. It’s certainly more competent than you’d expect of an SUV of this size and weight, but there are no rewards for testing the M60i’s ability; it’s better to sit back in the massaging seats, glide along and enjoy the engine and that lavish interior. That begs the question, is there any point in the M60i? Was it worth kitting out an X7 with M-tuned suspension and a locking differential? Probably not. 

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