Harald Krueger.   Picture: BLOOMBERG/CHRIS RATCLIFFE
Harald Krueger. Picture: BLOOMBERG/CHRIS RATCLIFFE

Munich — BMW is unleashing its biggest sport utility vehicle (SUV) to date — a brawny, three-row, luxury cruiser targeted at churning out fat margins to help fund the company’s shift to electric vehicles.

Featuring a massive vertical grille in the brand’s trademark kidney shape and glaring, narrow headlights, the new X7 will go on sale in 2018 to challenge the likes of the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX and Mercedes-Benz GLS. A prototype of the vehicle will be on display next week at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The X7 was revived after plans for a big SUV were culled almost a decade ago. At the time, the global financial crisis prompted BMW to rein in spending as high oil prices pushed consumers to smaller cars. But now, the German car maker is counting on upscale models to shore up its bottom line as it invests in next-generation vehicles, such as the self-driving battery-powered iNext, which will take years to pay off.

While BMW this week announced plans to roll out 12 battery-powered vehicles by 2025, the bulky SUV will not be entirely at odds with the green-car shift. The company will show the X7, which will be built at BMW’s plant in South Carolina in the US, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that can drive emission-free for short distances.

"Electric mobility has absolute priority for us, and we’ll increase the number of electrified models across all brands," CEO Harald Krueger said at an early unveiling of the car in Munich. Flanking that effort are plans to "increase sales and revenue from the high-end segment significantly," including models like the glitzy 8-Series.

Bloomberg

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