Choosing between these two is a bit like choosing some wrapping paper. In either case, the present inside is a BMW 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, and if you want it covered in Union Jack wrapping there’s the Range Rover P530. Or maybe you fancy something a bit more Teutonic? In which case, you can have the BMW X7 – the new M60i, which, as part of the X7’s facelift, replaces the M50i. Otherwise, the similarities have never been more apparent.
On top of their BMW V8s, they have exactly the same outputs: 530hp and 553lb ft of torque. Both weigh more than 2.5 tonnes. Both will do 0-62mph in under five seconds. Both are about two-metres wide, not far off the same again high and they’re over five-meters long. Don’t forget, also, that you can even have the Range Rover with seven seats these days, just like the X7. That means you’re no longer excluded from this elite gentleman’s club if you have a small army of kids to ferry around. To get that facility, though, you have to choose the long-wheelbase Range Rover, and that’s...well, longer still. Then there are their dynamic abilities to consider. Both are claimed to be the most agile and driver-orientated models in their history. At the same time, they also ensconce you in the lap of luxury. So, they should be very tricky to separate. Are they? Well, no.
I’ve driven the latest Range Rover quite a bit, both in the UK and abroad, so I am getting to know it quite well. It’s typically brilliant off-road, and a very, very good car on it – definitely better to drive in many ways than any previous Range Rover – but the first thing to say is that doesn't make it a driver’s car. I drove the P530 not that long ago, and yes, you can carry reasonable cross-country pace, but that’s about it. It may be full of technology that helps mask its mass and proportions – such as rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars – but driven quickly through bends it’ll sway around like someone who’s fifteen pints down at the end of a Friday night. It’s still very much at the soft, luxurious and cosseting end of the spectrum.
That’s fine if it’s brilliant at being cosseting, and up to a point it is. The ride is properly wafty. It can be a quite wonderful car to wash away your worries and soothe you over most ups and downs in the road. They should have a fleet of Range Rovers in heaven, because there are times when I am sure it's softer to sit on than a fluffy cloud. The problem is that here on earth some bumps are the devil’s work. Over broken, razor-edged stuff, the Rangie trips up. And when it does it thuds because it’s a little underdamped. Not terribly, but badly enough to dull some of the shine on its heavenly halo.
This sets the tone for the Range Rover: it’s so close to perfection but keeps just missing the mark. Take the interior ambience. It's very nicely finished and it's quiet, because road noise at cruising speeds is negligible. We’ve mentioned in previous reports that this latest bodyshell is better at isolating you from the road, and that if any road noise does seep through the cracks it’s dealt with by a secondary defence mechanism: the noise cancelling software. This uses microphones that pick-up noise in the wheel arches and turns it into equal but opposite anti-noise, which is piped through its many interior speakers. It’s brilliant, apart from it doesn’t do anything about wind noise. So instead of marvelling at how quite the road noise is, you’re drawn to the mild gusting around the door mirrors.
No complaints about the engine noise, though – the V8 is all woofles. It's powerful as well. As it romps off down the road you can't help thinking of the old ‘hitches up its skirt and goes’ analogy. But there’s an issue here as well, which is driveability. Yes, it’s fast flat out, but when you’re trying to pull away gently – and in keeping with the Range Rover’s relaxed style – it requires some dexterity. That’s because of a lack of low-end torque; if you squeeze the throttle not much happens, so you squeeze it some more and then turbos whizz away and it flares. The list of slight imperfections goes on: it’s a big car, but when I sit behind my driving position there’s no rear legroom to spare, and it’s also very expensive. The P530 is £138,000 before options.
This brings me onto the X7 M60i. It’s ‘just’ £107,000, which makes it a relative bargain. And don’t forget that includes an extra pair of seats in the rear – proper, adult-sized seats as well – for which you'll have to spend even more to get in the Range Rover because they only come with the LWB version. Yet despite having those extra seats and a bigger boot – all in a car of equal length to this SWB Range Rover – I can sit behind myself with space to spare in rear of the X7. So it's cheaper and bigger, then, but is it less well appointed? Not really. Both cars have lots of toys, like massaging seats in the front and electrically operated seats in the back. There’s not a lot to split them in terms of build or material quality, either; although with lots of carbon fibre trim rather than wood, the X7 is hinting that it’s sportier.
So is it? And does that mean it has a sledgehammer ride? It’s firmer, yes. You notice straight away that it hasn’t got the Range Rover’s float over gentle undulations, but it’s not too firm. It’s just a lot better tied down. It doesn’t heave or thud anywhere near as often nor as hard over potholes. Overall, it’s a much better compromise. It’s also incredibly quiet. The massive, run-flat tyres may create a touch more roar, but I’d need some highly sensitive test equipment to say for sure. The key difference is wind noise: the only thing you hear is a consistent background flutter that’s largely unobtrusive.
As is the engine. It’s a little louder, perhaps, because it's tuned to deliver a marginally harder-edged note, but it’s never uncouth. And while it shares the same basic design and capacity, there’s something else that differentiates this engine from the P530’s N63 engine: it’s not an N63. The X7 M60i uses the new S68. This a proper M engine, as denoted by the ‘S’ prefix, and will soon be appearing in the new XM and, most likely, the next M5. It delivers the same outputs as the P530, but it has mild-hybrid assistance that adds 12hp and 150 lb ft. That – and a more appropriately tuned throttle – cures the low-end driveability issues. It’s just a slightly better engine all round.
Then there’s the handling. The X7 steers better. There’s less intrusion from the rear-wheel steering, which makes it more natural, and the steering is also weightier and more direct as you add lock. Ultimately, the X7 doesn’t understeer as much, either. That’s partly because the M Sport active differential is helping to quell it; partly because it has grippier, dedicated road tyres; and partly because it leans so much less. I’m not saying it’s sporty, but by crikey you can drive it hard and it copes. Going back to the ‘hitching up the skirt’ reference that I used for the Range Rover, the X7 takes that to new heights: it hitches up its skirt so far it’s in danger of bearing its undercarriage.
Obviously, then, the car I would choose would be the X7. Except no, I wouldn’t. And the reason is that the X7 has its own set of issues, and almost all of them relate to its over-complicated and very intrusive software. Take the new iDrive, for instance. In the old X7 it was incredibly easy to use. Nearly everyone said so, but instead of listening and leaving well alone, BMW has fiddled. Yes, it has a bigger, high-definition, curved display, but the menus have become more complex, some of which is because they’ve ditched most of the physical buttons. There isn’t a button to adjust the temperature anymore, nor one that turns on the heated seat or sets the distance for the adaptive cruise control. All these functions and more are controlled by little icons that involve a deep dive into increasingly byzantine menus.
And speaking of the adaptive cruise control, while I was in the fast lane of the M25, the cruise control decided I wasn’t holding the steering wheel and, therefore, I must be dead. I wasn’t dead, I promise. I was so alive I’d been jinking the wheel emphatically, trying to convince the X7 I was still drawing breath. But it refused to believe me. So it stopped the car in the outside lane of the motorway, turned off the engine, turned on the hazards and unlocked the doors. It very nearly dialled the emergency services – or an undertaker – to deal with my demise. Luckily, this happened in stop-start traffic and not at full speed. Otherwise, I probably would been dead.
That’s not the end of it. Parking cameras are a very simple concept, right? As you reverse, for example, you see an object behind getting nearer until it’s so close you stop. Not in the X7. Someone at BMW decided this needed updating. As you begin moving into a parking space, you see an overhead view of the car. That’s fine, but when you’re a foot or so away from the car behind, the camera appears to rotate – not simply switch quickly to a shot of the rear; swish graphics make it seems like the camera is on a boom, travelling from above to behind the car. This might look fancy but it makes you lose focus just when you don't want to. Honestly, it’s a wonder I didn’t hit something. There are even signs of penny pinching. For example, BMW didn’t put a sensor for the keyless entry in the rear door handles. Come on, that’s the kind of thing you expect on a £20,000 Ford Fiesta, not on a £100,000 SUV. The point here is this: it all makes the latest X7 incredibly and unnecessarily frustrating to live with.
Then there are its looks. Inside, the chintzy design is more X1 than something high-end and expensive, but that’s still better than the exterior. What has happened to the idea of design at BMW? The old X7 was rapped for being ugly, which usually would lead to a manufacturer trying to make it prettier with the facelift. But not BMW. It’s doubled down, making the facelifted car even worse by sticking bits of awful black plastic, which appear to have been modelled on Kyrten’s face, below that gigantic, gawky grille. I rarely pick on a car’s looks because there’s no right or wrong answer to style. Except here. BMW has lost the plot.
Contrast that with the Range Rover. In the right colour it looks fantastic. I don’t feel embarrassed getting out of it, which is the bare minimum to expect for your £100,000-plus investment. And yes, it has some shortcomings, but the truth is they’re not as infuriating as the X7’s. Call me fickle, but I’d rather live with a modicum of wind noise and the odd thump from the suspension than a car that shuts down in the fast lane of a motorway. It’s a real shame. In so many ways the X7 is a beautifully engineered thing, it really is. And were you to combine the best bits of both these cars, you’d have something that’s damn-near perfect. But you can’t do that, so I’d take the Range Rover. Not the V8, though. I’d buy the D350. That wonderful, six-cylinder diesel, with its surfeit of torque, suits the car even better. And it does something else: it negates the price issue. It makes the Range Rover even cheaper than this X7, so that’s the decision ratified for me.
Specification | 2022 BMW X7 M60i
Engine: 4,395cc, V8, twin-turbocharged, MHEV
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 530 @ 5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553 @ 1,800-4,600rpm
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 2,675kg (DIN)
MPG: 21.1 (WLTP)
Price: £106,860 (£115,615 as tested)
Specification | 2022 Range Rover P530 Autobiography
Engine: 4,395cc, V8, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 530 @ 5,500-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 553 @ 1,800-4,600rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 2,510kg (DIN)
MPG: 24.2 (WLTP)
CO2: 265g/km (WLTP)
Price: £137,820 (£147,560 as tested)
1 / 20