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February 2, 2021

Master and Commander: Driving the 2021 BMW X5 and X7

A few hours aren’t enough to take in the majesty of BMW’s flagship SUVs, or in their parlance, Sport Activity Vehicles—the X5 and the X7. Alas, a few hours are all I had for a quick jaunt from RSA Motors in Quezon City to Tagaytay for a socially-distant lunch. With Bayerische Motoren Werke taking up every X number from 1 to 7, these two may barely raise a remark, but in truth, they are quintessential luxury; luxury that happen to be a good drive too.

In terms of looks, this pair, especially the X7 represent “peak grille” from BMW. Admittedly, it may seem off-putting at first, but the double-kidney, or double-lung as others put it, is their design calling card. Forget subtlety, it’s supposed to call attention from a mile away akin to a Louis Vuitton Monogram handbag slung on the shoulders, or a Hublot Big Bang worn on the wrist.

Of the two, the X5 is more paired-back. As the xLine trim, it features satin aluminum trim elements on the grille, underguard, roof rails, and side window surrounds. At each corner are 20-inch light alloy wheels. Meanwhile, the X7, is much more brash. With its Pure Excellence trim, it goes all out with its combination of chrome, high-gloss black, and satin aluminum accents. The lights even use BMW’s Laserlight tech, and the wheels are an inch bigger at 21 inches.

Whether it’s the X5 or X7, there’s a lot of things to process inside. The fundamentals—driving position, seats, visibility, and controls are strong in both. Space, be it for the front or rear occupants is generous. However, it takes a full-blown tutorial to truly understand which control does what, especially on the luxurious X7.

Having said that, if luxury is all about personalization, then they both do well. With the exception of the dials—which are locked in an odd polygonal shape, almost everything else can be changed to the driver’s desire. Navigating through the iDrive may seem like opening Pandora’s Box at first, but the user-interface is impeccably done. Mastery, including some gesture controls take almost no time at all. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard, though the absence of any sort of wireless charging is a big oversight.

The P 5.990-million X5 features Vernasca Leather, cooled/heated cupholders, ambient lighting, and a Harman Kardon sound system among a long list of standard features, while the P 8.990-million X7 has the best that BMW has to offer from Merino Leather to a glass-topped shift knob (CraftedClarity), panoramic glass roof, and a rear-seat entertainment system. A second-row bench seat is standard, but buyers can opt to swap that for second-row captain’s seats.

Both the X5 and X7 illustrate perfectly why ultra-plush SUVs have become the modern-day luxury sedan. Not only do they offer a higher vantage point and increased ground clearance, but thanks to BMW’s chassis tuning (and some electronic wizardry—adaptive suspension in the X7), they do so without any detriment to ride or handling. For those who prefer to do their own driving, they steer with measured authority—rolling little and remaining consistent whatever the road surface the tires come in contact with.

Packing a modestly sized engine—a 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-6, it may seem that the engine has its work cut out. But with 265 horsepower, and more importantly, 620 Nm of torque available, it makes short work of their mass. Plus, it revs happily and emits an un-diesel like roar. On top of that, the smoothness and shift quality of the 8-speed automatic is one of the best in the business. The effective is surely transformative. No other SUV can give you this much confidence be it hustling through bends, or overtaking on a two-lane road.

Whether it’s the X5 or X7, they signal one thing: that you’ve arrived. Luxury SUVs are all about status and theatrics, desirability and opulence. Both of these SUVs have those in abundance. And while a short drive is barely enough to scratch the surface of what these two truly have to offer, it’s still enough to pass verdict that BMW remains the master in everything that counts in the premium space—comfort, refinement, technology, and of course, presence.

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