BMW's new X7 luxury SUV is unveiled at black-tie function at Cape Town's Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Picture: CHARLEEN CLARKE
BMW's new X7 luxury SUV is unveiled at black-tie function at Cape Town's Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Picture: CHARLEEN CLARKE

The public has cast its eyes on the new BMW X7 for the very first time … right here in SA, just ahead of the much-anticipated new sports utility vehicle’s reveal at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The vehicle was shown to 400 people at a black-tie function at Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa on November 20. The vehicle will go on sale in SA in March 2019.

The unprecedented reveal was a coup for BMW SA, as Tim Abbott, the company’s CEO, points out. “Never before have we displayed a vehicle prior to its world premiere. This is completely unheard of.”

Abbott says the unique event took place because BMW Germany realises the importance of the X7 to the SA market. “China and the Middle East will be huge markets for this new vehicle but SA is also right up there in terms of importance,” he notes.

The vehicle on display at the Zeitz Museum was an X7 xDrive30d, one of two models coming to SA. Its six-cylinder in-line diesel single-turbocharger powerplant delivers 195kW power and 620Nm torque.

The plush interior will be configured either in six- or seven-seater configurations. Picture: CHARLEEN CLARKE
The plush interior will be configured either in six- or seven-seater configurations. Picture: CHARLEEN CLARKE

The other derivative headed here, the BMW X7 M50d, also has a six-cylinder in-line diesel powerplant under its hood, but with a quartet of turbochargers, and it delivers 294kW and 760Nm. Both models boast an eight-speed Steptronic transmission and the BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system. Two-axle air suspension and adaptive suspension with electronically controlled dampers will also be standard.

BMW is quoting fuel consumption of 7.0 l/100 km for the X7 xDrive30d and 7.3 l/100 km for the X7 M50d.

The xDrive30d on display featured three rows of very comfortable-looking seats (we were not allowed to climb into the vehicle, photograph the interior or drive it) in two-plus-two-plus-two configuration. A two-plus-three-plus-two configuration will also be available. The interior looks plush and luxurious.

The vehicle shares some exterior attributes with the Rolls-Royce Cullinan — its bold, imposing styling and an enormous, in-your-face grille, for instance. This is a vehicle that you will not miss on the road. Like the Cullinan, it will be available in relatively small numbers when it launches here in March 2019.

The flagship BMW X7 M50d has a six-cylinder in-line diesel powerplant under its hood, delivering 294kW and 760Nm. Picture: SUPPLIED
The flagship BMW X7 M50d has a six-cylinder in-line diesel powerplant under its hood, delivering 294kW and 760Nm. Picture: SUPPLIED

“This is a very niche vehicle, so volumes will be considerably lower than the rest of the X range. That’s the way we want to keep it. We are currently reviewing response rates,” says Abbott.

“We are very heartened to see lots of inquiries from genuine customers who are ready to place deposits. There is huge interest in this vehicle. This is the first time in a very long time that we’re seeing this level of euphoria at the launch of a vehicle. I’m convinced that, when we actually launch in March next year, we will already be sold out.”

BMW aims to take customers out of Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover and top-end Toyota SUV models. “There will also be some migration from the X5,” says Abbott. 

The big SUV is expected to be purchased by families with two to three children. “X7 buyers are expected to have an active lifestyle. They will be people who like to go to the bush; people who are constantly on the move with luggage.”

The ever-expanding BMW X model range is a testament to the growing global popularity of SUVs which, incidentally, BMW always refers to as “sports activity vehicles” or SAVs.

“No one predicted this. In fact, when we first launched the X5 in 1999 we were actually in two minds about it. We wanted to sell 50,000 units in its lifetime. Many people thought that this would be completely impossible. Some said we would not even sell 30,000. We went on to sell 100,000,” Abbott says.

Back then, there were no plans to launch another X derivative. “We thought that the X5 was as far as we would go. Yet here we are with the X7,” he says.

Bearing this in mind, could we see an X8 or X9 or X10?

“Every car manufacturer is building larger and larger X-type vehicles. Just look at our competitors. Range Rover already produces a larger vehicle. Nothing is confirmed at the moment but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a larger X on our horizon.”

Watch this space.