What are you driving?
Big enough to blot out the sun, the BMW X7 is a behemoth luxury SUV that you really feel would be more comfortable loafing around Palm Springs, or possibly downtown Dubai, than in the tight confines of this island. It is gargantuan in the extreme, a super-luxury car with lift shoes and the price-tag to match.
It's also festooned with tech - from laser and LED headlights, to active cooling shutters to improve aerodynamic performance (surely the motoring equivalent of trying to make an elephant sportier by putting Nikes on its feet), to the 'Driving Assistant Professional' pack that keeps you between the lanes on the motorway and helps to trickle you along in heavy traffic. You can have it with massively powerful '50' options in either petrol or diesel, a 40i petrol model, or this - likely the most popular - the 30d diesel. With 265hp and 620Nm of torque, you really need nothing more.
Name its best bits
Without question, the BMW X7's interior is its greatest asset. With a 3.2-metre wheelbase, there's lounging space for those in the first two rows, and while those in row three will find things considerably tighter, they do at least get their own climate control system, so they'll be cool while they're cramped.
The front seats are beyond sumptuous, with a comfort level more akin to that of a favourite sofa, and if the main instruments, touchscreen and the overall shapes and layout of the dash are certainly familiar from lesser BMW models, then at least the quality levels have pegged the 'good' needle to its uppermost stop. You can have the cabin in a six-seat layout, if you like, with two club-class-style seats in the middle row. Even the cupholders are heated and cooled, while we'll leave you to make up your own mind (bling, or bleurgh) on the faceted crystal gear selector.
The engine must also come in for praise, for even in these dwindling days of diesel, this straight-six is a mighty piece of engineering. You do feel as if nothing could make this Empire State SUV move at all, but the big six does it with a quiet, soothing sense of effortlessness. Refinement is excellent (only a deep, distant growl tells you that there is any strain being exerted at all) and fuel economy is actually surprisingly good - around 8.0 litres per 100km in daily use, which is thirsty by most standards, but surely impressive for something that weighs as much as a small moon?
The ride comfort, on the standard air suspension, is lovely, and the handling is actually not bad. Yes, you need to make some allowance for the sheer height, length and moveable mass of the X7, but within those bounds it's pretty good (although about as far removed from the original tenets of BMW dynamics as it is surely possible to get). No matter how much the exterior styling and the price awakens your inner Trotsky, you will, given time, be mollified (as opposed to Molotoved) by the comfort, refinement and cosseting on display here.
Anything that bugs you?
Bad enough that BMW decided to make an SUV that can blot out the sun, but worse then that it decided to give it styling apparently inspired by the pigs from Angry Birds. BMW boasts that the X7 bears the largest kidney grille ever to appear on one of is cars, but frankly that seems to us hardly a boast. You might as well boast of Largest Facial Deformity. Having given the X7 such an unlovable conk, the designers apparently just gave up, and decided that the rear end would be done simply by placing a Volvo XC90 in a photocopier and hitting the '20 per cent enlarge' button. The inside and the engineering might be great, but the X7's exterior is the nadir of BMW's styling work. Even an E65 7 Series looks better than this...
And why have you given it this rating?
That the BMW X7 is wonderful to drive, and to drive in, and is a fantastic piece of engineering is undoubted. That it is also a staggeringly inappropriate form of transport for a planet facing a climate crisis is equally undoubted. If BMW could make an electric version, perhaps the raging scream of our conscience could be reduced, but until that day, this is really an unnecessary car. Buy a BMW X5 instead. Better still, buy a 5 Touring and spend the change on a series of nice holidays.
What do the rest of the team think?
While I don't love the look of the X7, in a dark colour, it's less offensive than some make it out to be. The fantastic interior more than makes up for that, as does the feeling of utter luxury inside, no matter which seat you're sitting in. That's backed up by good, easy-to-use technology and, rather unnecessarily, a chassis that can even be enjoyable to hustle. Not that luxury SUV buyers are likely to care too much about that...
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor
I'd agree that the styling of the X7's exterior isn't likely to be to everyone's taste, but my opinion of it softened with time. The comfort and space inside are really why you're going to buy an X7, and on both accounts it performs very well. But the biggest surprise is how well something this size behaves on the road. It soaks up so much yet can be flung around with gusto - one of the most surprising large SUVs out there.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor