I call it the bike shed. It holds bikes. On a shelf my free Skoda-branded Tour de France cycling specs were covered with a fine brown dust, the same brown as the wooden storage unit in which they rested. Aha, Anobium punctatum at work. Woodworms had weakened the carcass of the unit, now sagging on its wall mounts.
Only one thing for it: the tip. I got the oversized control fob for the oversized car and pushed a button, which opened the upper tailgate. The lower section dropped gently down when I pushed a button on its top edge.
The interior was blocked by two rows of rear seats. I pressed a switch inside the boot. The middle row of seats adjusted themselves so that when they folded flat they wouldn’t snag on the back of the front seats – which had also moved forward to make room. This was followed by a slow-motion positioning and folding of the remaining rear pair of seats. I now had a large flat floor. It had taken about the time it took to write this description, but more smoothly and silently than my typing.
In the void I arranged a shower curtain, ideal for protecting the pristine luggage deck of the SUV, prepped so elegantly that the pile on the floor mats was contra-lined like a smartly mown lawn. The old wormy furniture was slid inside, the slippery curtain fabric resisting snagging. Close it up, tally ho for the dump in its £86,000 skip. After the unloading, a power switch moved the seats back into position.
My cousin, bemused by this tale, said that this car, BMW’s new X7, would be good for barrelling down the autoroutes and other long wistful roads of France. It being comfortable, with a peerless viewpoint, easy performance, eating up kilometres by the score. Indeed it would.
We get the choice of a pair of 3-litre, straight six turbo diesels and a 3-litre straight six petrol turbo, all with 8-speed automatic shifting and 4x4 xDrive traction. They have self-levelling air suspension with a lower setting for loading or for high speed stability, plus LED headlamps, adaptive cruise control, seven seats, and a lovely leather and wood interior.
Prices start at £72,195 for a sumptuous, large car which is surprisingly easy to drive in great comfort. The model tested here, is the 262bhp xDrive 30d M Sport, from £72,630. This demo car cost £86,000. Pricey additions included radar-based driver assistance and cameras for lane keeping, braking, cruise control etc at £3,150 and £2,750 for five-zone climate control, massaging and ventilated front seats , etc. Another £2,595 went on the off-road management pack, and so on.
On day one I mostly left it to its own devices. Day two was the tip trip. By day three it no longer felt over-sized because is was so easy to drive. Visibility from the higher ride is good anyway but there was a portfolio of electronic help including the front and rear cameras and side cameras for setting off and parking. They even depict the space needed to open the doors – avoiding door damage, passing cyclists or walkers. This was part of the £3,150 package.
BMW’s information and navigation systems are almost perfect, displayed on two 12.3-inch screens. The central screen carrying maps etc, can be controlled by the latest peerless i-Command input wheel, also by touching the screen and by voice control. This hands-free system is safer than screen-touching but sometimes misunderstood me. An instruction “Hey BMW I am cold” should have turned up the heating but instead I was asked to spell out the street name. The speed limit reader on more than one occasion suggested I could be driving at 60mph when the actual limit was lower. However, the unit gets full marks for counting down to new speed limits.
On day four I saw, within a few miles of each other, both a Bentley Bentayga (Volkswagen Group) and a Rolls-Royce Cullinan (BMW group). There are those who would move all three of these monster SUVs into Camp Ugly. I have some empathy. I have driven neither the Cullinan nor the Bentayga but imagine that once inside I’d enjoy the ride, just as I did with the X7.
It never felt unwieldy. It was always smooth and quiet. The gear changes are subliminal. Despite weighing nearly 2.5 tons, it never felt weighty. Access to the last row of seats is tolerably easy. They do cramp luggage space but when used as a five-seater there’s lots of floor area.