THE incredible Hulk has been one of the most enduring comic characters of the past 56 years as writers spin tales of the mild-mannered Doctor Bruce Banner morphing into a huge, nearly unstoppable rage machine when angered.
Turns out this metamorphosis isn’t just limited to the comic book page, television screen or movie theatre though, as BMW – possibly angered by the top-spec SUV offerings from Audi and Mercedes – has ‘hulked out’ its X5 to create the X7 bruiser.
Is it just a move to capitalise on the ever-expanding global SUV appetite? Or is the X7 more of a rolling technological showcase for what BMW can do?
Let’s start with design. No one element of the X7 perfectly captures the hulking SUVs size quite like its massive front grille.
Featuring the largest double-kidney grille fitted to any BMW model to date, and flanked by slim headlights and a sculpted lower bumper, the X7’s front fascia looks like a set of flared nostrils as a rhinoceros gets set to charge full steam ahead.
Adding to the X7’s imposing figure is the fact that it measures 5151mm long, 2000mm wide and 1805mm tall, which makes it bigger in all dimensions than the already gargantuan Jeep Grand Cherokee.
With a wheelbase measuring 3105mm as well, occupants should have plenty of room regardless of whether they are situated in the first, second or third row.
That’s right, BMW’s X7 will be a proper seven-seater instead of the cramped five-plus-two setup found on its X5 sibling.
But just because you are stuck in the second or third row doesn’t mean you lose any of the opulence expected in a BMW, as all pews featuring heating functionality to keep bums warm in winter.
Front seats can also be optioned with cooling and massaging functions, as can LED lights on the standard panoramic sunroof that can recreate the look of an illuminated night sky – classy.
Four-zone climate control is also standard, meaning kids will no longer bicker whether it’s too hot or cold, but for those who use the third-row frequently, a fifth zone can also be added.
With such a large dimensions, the X7 is able to swallow 326 litres in the boot with all seats in place – more volume than the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla small hatchback – which can expand to a cavernous 750L with the third row folded, or 2120L with the middle seats also stowed.
Engines have yet to be confirmed for the local X7 line-up that is hitting Australian BMW showrooms around the middle of next year, but overseas the hulking SUV is offered with two diesel and two petrol powertrains.
Locally, it is expected that BMW Australia will only offer oil-burners, so it will be a choice of either a 195kW/620Nm 3.0-litre turbocharged six or 294kW/760Nm quad-turbo unit – both shared with the X5.
With power sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic, the X7 should handle inner-city commuting fine, but it’s the added extras of an Off-Road pack, Integral Active Steering and Active roll stabilisation that should make it a star when the road gets rough.
As the closest rival to the BMW X7, the Mercedes-Benz GLS (formerly known as the GL-Class) has been around since 2007 and has remained relative unchallenged in the upper-large premium SUV segment until now.
Commanding a dominate 50 per cent share of the segment this year, Mercedes kicks the GLS off at $117,290 before on-roads for a 190kW/620Nm 3.0-litre diesel and tops out with the full-fat AMG GLS63 for $219,290.
Though BMW is yet to confirm whether it will introduce a full-blooded M X7 to take on the AMG, take note of the entry price point as the Bavarian brand will surely introduce its newest SUV at a similar level.
Others competing in the same segment include the iconic Range Rover, Toyota LandCruiser-based Lexus LX and Infiniti QX80, as well as higher-tier offerings such as the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga.
While Audi’s new Q8 is technically classed in the same segment, it’s five-seat-only configuration and coupe-like styling make it less of a contender against the BMW X7 and more of a rival for the X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
Time will tell which premium brand manages to secure the upper-large luxury SUV crown, but it seems that BMW is more than happy to grow up into newer segments.