New 7-seater x7 crossover will fill the void for BMW in growing segment

New 7-seater x7 crossover will fill the void for BMW in growing segment

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The launch of BMW’s largest crossover to date next year will plug an SUV-sized hole in its product portfolio.

The new X7, arriving at U.S. dealerships in March, will let BMW play in the large premium crossover market, a shortcoming in the brand’s crossover lineup. The X7 comes standard with three-row seating for seven passengers, with optional second-row captain’s chairs offering a roomier seating arrangement for six.

The X7 should add incremental sales for BMW, as luxury crossovers continue to drive off showroom floors. BMW’s X5 currently offers third-row seating but is not a full-size SUV, said Akshay Anand, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

“Large SUVs tend to fill more ‘needs’ than ‘wants’ for consumers shopping that segment, so BMW will attempt to gain a foothold,” Anand said.

The large premium crossover segment has grown in each of the past three years, including a 13 percent increase in 2017, according to the Automotive News Data Center. This year, through September, the segment is up nearly 5 percent from the same period a year ago.

The BMW X7, which starts at $74,895, will compete with the Mercedes-Benz GLS class, Audi Q7 and Range Rover.

‘Every niche model helps’

The Mercedes-Benz GLS and Audi Q7 have dominated the market for large luxury crossovers for years, said Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions. Lexus’ RX 350L joined the club in 2017.

“Not only will the X7 provide much needed volume in the three-row crossover market, but also generate the additional profit that a high-end model brings,” Fiorani said. “Every niche model helps.”

The bulk of X7 sales will be conquest, but the new addition could cannibalize some sales, he said.

“BMW will see a slight fall in U.S. demand for the X5, primarily on fully loaded non-M versions, as some buyers move up to the larger X7,” Fiorani predicted.

The launch of the X7 underscores the broader shift from cars to light trucks. BMW’s U.S. car sales have dipped 11 percent in 2018 while light-truck deliveries have advanced 20 percent.

“BMW’s crossovers will outsell their passenger cars this year for the first time,” Fiorani said. “The 3 series has been BMW’s top-selling model since the 1970s, but the X3 has a good chance of beating it this year.”

At 203.3 inches in length, 78.7 inches wide and 71.1 inches tall, the X7 dominates BMW’s crossover lineup. The X7’s grille — the largest ever designed for a BMW model — is bookended by slim twin headlights that emphasize the width of the car.

Under the hood, the X7 features updated engines. The X7 xDrive40i is powered by a 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine that generates 335 hp and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. The 4.4-liter V-8-powered xDrive50i generates 456 hp and can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.

Both engines are linked to an eight-speed Steptronic transmission, with a wider ratio spread and new control electronics to help increase powertrain efficiency, BMW said.

The X7 also comes with an array of sensors and technologies for more driving assistance. Standard on the xDrive50i and optional on the xDrive40i is the Driving Assistant Professional package, which includes a semi-automated system that allows for hands-free and pedal-free driving on limited-access highways and at speeds slower than 37 mph.

Camera checks driver’s eyes

The system, which debuts this year in the redesigned X5 crossover, uses an in-cabin optical camera to monitor whether drivers are paying attention to the road. Mounted in the instrument cluster, the camera checks to see that the driver’s eyes are open and facing the road. It doesn’t record in-cabin activity, BMW said.

The xDrive40i comes standard with a suite of safety features including blind spot detection, lane departure warning, rear collision warning, and a system that alerts the driver if cyclists are detected. The xDrive50i adds standard Parking Assistant Plus which provides panorama view and 3D view. The xDrive50i also includes a head-up display.

The X7 features BMW’s new Intelligent Personal Assistant, an AI-powered system to help drivers communicate with their cars as they do with their smartphones.

The super-sized X7 comes with a sticker price to match. The xDrive40i variant starts at $74,895, including shipping. The beefier xDrive50i version begins at $93,595.

The 2019 X7 will be the fifth model to be produced at BMW’s Spartanburg, S.C., plant.

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