With only a few exceptions, I have made it a point to take all the previous long-term test cars I’ve chaperoned on road trips. There is no better way to kindle the flames of love or stoke the fires of hate toward a vehicle than by hitting the open road. Luckily, most of my family lives in the Pacific Northwest, so it has been the destination for many of these long-distance excursions.
During our nine-day, 2,600-mile trip, we drove countless hours on the freeway, on damp and twisty mountain and coastal roads, and in the scorching heat in the lowlands. We ate meals, took naps, and chauffeured family to fancy restaurants in our yearlong BMW X7 test vehicle. Here is what I learned.
The X7’s Coffee Merino leather seats look good and are also unbelievably comfortable. The overall interior is very well executed. Although aesthetics and road-trip functionality aren’t the same thing, riding in a beautiful, comfortable, luxurious cabin makes the endless hours on the highway a little more enjoyable. Also, my sister owns a restaurant on the Oregon coast, Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside (shameless plug!), and it was fun shuttling her and my nephews to dinner in luxury.
Luckily, that luxurious interior is large. This was our first trip to visit family since the beginning of the current situation (I don’t really need to spell it out, right?), so we packed the X7 to the gills with a year’s worth of birthday and holiday gifts. I have three nephews under the age of 11, so my wife and I had to cement our status as the cool aunt and uncle by buying their love with a small arsenal of Nerf guns and a fleet of RC cars.
Although the trip’s main objective was to visit family, my wife and I planned an additional few days in Bend, Oregon. With the rear cargo area chock-full of toys, we attached our trusty Thule bike rack to the X7’s tow hitch and loaded up our bikes. Although the bike rack renders the backup camera and sensors useless, the X7’s split rear hatch was compact enough to allow access to the rear cargo area with the bikes mounted, which was a nice surprise.
The X7’s air suspension is great when you’re cruising straight on the highways. The 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six’s 335 hp is more than adequate for such driving, and we were traveling close to 400 miles between fill-ups. We also ventured down some rutted fire roads in search of hiking and mountain biking trails, and the air suspension does an excellent job of soaking up the bumps there, too.
The $3,400 Bowers & Wilkins stereo sounds excellent, though the wireless Apple CarPlay briefly disconnected a few times. I’m not sure if it is an issue with the vehicle’s infotainment system or if my haggard iPhone is to blame, but I’ll keep an eye on it and report back.
The X7 has poor body control on twisty roads. What do I mean when I say that? When you go around a turn in a vehicle, the weight shifts toward the outside of the turn, and the body of the vehicle will lean a little in that direction. The softer the suspension, the more it will lean. As you finish the turn, the weight moves back toward the centerline of the vehicle and neutralizes, with the help of the suspension. In the X7, that movement doesn’t neutralize quickly enough. Like a pendulum, it sways side to side, front to back until you make it to your next turn, and the vicious cycle restarts.
And you can’t justify the roly-poliness away simply by championing the X7’s soft ride. Direct competitors like the Land Rover Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GLS both offer exceptionally compliant rides without exhibiting this unfavorable trait.
Another thing that left me wanting was the X7’s air vent layout. During our trip we saw temperatures as high as 114 degrees, and although the A/C blew as cold as you would expect in most modern cars, the front passenger compartment only has four “dash-level” vents, two for each side. Unfortunately, the only one of those that directs the air toward the driver’s upper body is the leftmost vent. That’s not an issue when you’re driving solo and can bogart the other vents for yourself (or when it’s not 114 degrees), but when both the driver and passenger are trying to keep cool, it means the driver is left with less of a breeze.
The heated and ventilated seats are also lackluster. I like heated seats that make you sweat and ventilation that makes you feel like you’re sitting on an air hockey table. I appreciate that the heated portion also includes the armrests, but you have to turn the temperature gauge up to 11 to feel it.
My final complaint is about the cut-glass shifter. It’s very classy and looks upscale. It also acts like a prism during parts of the day and sends a spectrum of colored light piercing into your eyes. I resorted to putting a hat over it when the sun was in the optimal position, lest I be blinded. This is obviously one of those form over function features, but maybe the cut of the glass could have been adjusted to counteract this. Or maybe BMW should offer a velvet booty to slip over the shifter when you drive at certain times of the day, like when the sun’s out.
The aesthetically designed interior is super comfortable, and it has plenty of space for your luggage and affection-garnering guilt presents. Some of the controls and dash layout could have been better thought through, but overall, the X7 is a great long-distance vehicle. That is, as long as that distance is in a straight line.
Read More About Our Long-Term 2020 BMW X7 xDrive40i:
- Update 1: We Go Searching for the BMW Within Our Long-Term X7
- Update 2: The 2020 BMW X7 and the Long Game
- Update 3: The Baton Has Been Passed
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