You don’t know a car until you’ve roadtripped it. That’s always been our mantra and one that we practice as much as possible with anything we drive and write about. And for us the ultimate road trip usually involved multiple days, incredible scenery, challenging roads and something active along the way. So a plan was hatched to head from Chicago to Yellowstone, up to Montana and back. Myself, my two sons and plenty of hiking and camping gear. We just needed to find the ultimate roadtrip machine.

Given the length of the trip and the state of the charing infrastructure in the US, we couldn’t go electric. And knowing we’d be off road from time to time and a hatch would come in handy, one of BMW’s SAVs (crossovers) made the most sense. 

The X3 is the most economical and rewarding in terms of the drive but with two of us at 6’2″ it wouldn’t have been the most comfortable choice. The X5 could have easily been the sweet spot but we had our eyes on what we would call the ultimate roadtrip machine. 

Enter the BMW X7 M60i

The first ever X7 with a real M engine, The BMW X7 M60i has 523 hp (at 5,500–6,000 rpm and 553 lb⋅ft (at 1,800–4,600 rpm). That motivates the 5,895 lbs M60i to 60 mph in only 4.7 seconds. Given the size and weight of the X7 that feels appropriately rapid.

In a move that likely will allow for further power bumps, this engine has been detuned from the 617 hp is makes in the current M5 Competition and has identical power to the non-M engineered V8 that was in the pre-LCI X7 50i. So what’s the difference? Noticeably quicker responsiveness, quicker revs and a broader power and torque band. Oh and it also starts up in the traditional M manner – aggressively loud.

Also new in the M60i is a revised suspension, M exhaust, M compound brakes and a host of M styling accents. The result is an interesting dichotomy between a large luxury crossover and a muscle car. Luckily the latter only exposes itself when called up making the M60i docile and ultimately very livable. 

The 2024 BMW X7 LCI – What’s New?

The 2023 BMW X7 is a thorough refresh of an already successful product. Just three years into its lifecycle, the X7 has far exceeded BMW’s expectations of sales and as at times even flirted with eclipsing the entire MINI brand’s sales in the US. But BMW is constantly moving and evolving as a brand. One of those more recent evolutions was leaning into luxury and separating the highest end segments from its smaller, more affordable products. And part of that is creating a distinct face of luxury and sophistication. Queue the 2023 BMW X7.

The front fascia is a big change. But in person the scale of the car combined with the dimensionality of the front altered our immediate impressions. In short the new look works on the X7 primarily because it’s such a large vehicle and one that is inherently extroverted. The new layout actually has a shrinking effect to the front of the car in terms of height and appears to give it a more angular, emotional look. While it won’t be to everyone’s taste, this new direction for the X7 is truly best judged in person.

The 2024 BMW X7 M60i Interior

Inside the most obvious add is the IX’s large curved dual display design. But look past that and you’ll see BMW went further than most LCIs. There’s the radically rethought air vent system and redesigned upper vents and speaker grilles as well. It’s a mix of minimalism with (to our eyes) questionable patterns and illuminated shapes that point to BMW going a bit too far. 

The revised X7 includes many of the BMW XI’s missteps in removing physical buttons and moving functionality into the dislay. The result is a car that is harder to use with features that are borderline dangerous to engage with while driving.

The single worst part of the new X7 is the overly complex new BMW OS with key functionality now residing in sub menus. Heated and cooled seats and the heated steering wheel now residing in a confusing and garish interface which itself is inside of the “climate” menu in the new BMW OS. A function like seat massagers use to be a single click of a physical button. Now it requires a click of a haptic button on the door (did it click?) and a top of a menu and then a swipe of a digital toggle. The time and cognitive load requires isn’t massive but multiply that with a handful of features used daily and you have a car that is simply harder to use than it was previously.

Even worse they (for some reason) often retain your last setting making it even more important turn them on and off quickly.

It may sound pedantic but any attention paid to overly complex interfaces and not on the road is nothing less than distracting and ultimately dangerous.

Luckily the criticism ends there as the interior is generally exceptional every where you turn. Save for the slow motors that power and raise the 3rd row, the X7 interior delivered exceptional comfort and utility on our trip. 

The Ultimate Roadtrip Machine

The trip itself was as epic as you can imagine. Our first day was a long one, heading out of Chicago, through Wisconsin, Minnesota finally stopping in the middle of South Dakota. 9.5 hours of driving with massaging and cooling function turned up to the max on both front seats does help. As does the Assisted Driving function. Sadly due to supply chain issues, this early production LCI X7 didn’t have the new Highway Assist feature and only offered full hands-free up 40 mph. While that feature was unusable on highways, the Active Driving Assistant Pro pretty much did the same thing albeit with hands required to be on the wheel continuously.

It may not sound like full self driving, but having a car that takes the majority of the cognitive load of small corrections and gentle cornering really does help when you’re driving for 8-9 hours a day.

The seats up front featured both heating, cooling and massaging functions – the latter two were on almost 100% of the team. While the latest generation of massaging seats found in the new 7 Series have increased the output intensity, anything helps when you’re going tank to tank and setting stationary for hours at a time.

Tackling the Big Horn Mountains

Two things you notice right away when we got into the legendary Big Horns. First the immense torque of this M derived engine means there is simply no elevation or inline that the X7 M60i has trouble with. Second there’s only so long you can hide 5,895 lbs when you’re in demanding mountain roads. The sheer mass of the X7 meant that pushing the car in and out of corners had to be done with care and plenty of consideration of what’s coming next. While engineers have dialed in more feedback than you might expect through the wheel, you don’t have the kind of connectivity to the road and even chassis that inspires confidence that the best true M cars deliver.

As our second day came to a close we entered Cody Wyoming, an old Cowboy town founded by the showman Buffalo Bill. Leaning into the town’s history we stayed at the Irma Hotel, the original hotel founded by Buffalo Bill. The town was exactly what we were looking for and I ended the night getting finer points on the world of rodeo from a few local at the hotel’s famous bar.

Grizzlies, Geysers and Waterfalls

It’s hard to describe Yellowstone National park succinctly. I could tell you that we saw five bears in two days (four of them grizzlies) and were caught in a Buffalo stampede at 11 pm at night. But none of it does Yellowstone the justice it deserves.

Yellowstone Park lies in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and boasts seemingly endless awe-inspiring landscapes. Towering snow-capped peaks stand over huge valleys with vibrant meadows. It seems as if almost every example of interesting landforms on earth is impossibly fit inside its 3,471 square miles.

Majestic waterfalls cascade down rugged cliffs through an almost eternal rainbow. Geothermal wonders abound, with bubbling hot springs, simmering mud pots, and the iconic eruption of the Old Faithful geyser, reminding us of Earth’s eternal power. The ethereal beauty of Yellowstone National Park, with its untamed wilderness and remarkable geology, is a testament to the magnificence of nature and an invitation to immerse oneself in its wonder.

The downside of this is that other people are also aware of the natural splendor of this place. And as crazy as it sounds that means traffic. I made liberal use of the Active Driving Assistant in the more congested areas where slow and stop and go traffic was prevalent. However that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of otherworldly roads. Coming from the Yellowstone Canyon to the Lamar Valley is one of the better mountains drives experience anywhere. The only downside is that you’ll be more focused on the views as you come down through the mountains.

After two very full days in Yellowstone we headed north onto the new entrance at Gardiner Montana. A year ago the area saw catastrophic flooding and parts of the road into the park from Montana was washed away. The park took quick action and was able to modernize and pave an old trail that wound its way into Yellowstone. As luck would have it, that old trail is one of the best, most demanding roads I’ve ever experienced. Imagine the Trial of the Dragon with less forgiveness.

The X7 was a bit of a beast for something as tight and twisty but that didn’t stop me from pushing all 5800 lbs in and out of apexes. Heading out of the park and into Paradise Valley was a great time to reflect on the X7. Any road trip is a cheat code to getting to know a car. But one that encompasses half of the US and over 3,000 miles allows you to get test every element of a car. During our time with the X7 M60i there was simply nothing it couldn’t do. It shrugged off the 9 hours driving days, handled the mountains roads well enough to feel engaging yet relaxed and swallowed all the luggage we had with room to spare.

The 523 hp V8 delivered all the power we needed while returning 21.6 mpg over the course of the entire trip. And that’s with me not holding back for one mile over the mountains and even through the dirt roads of Montana. It did it all in total comfort delivering as close to a serene experience as the roads (or lack there of) would allow.

The Final Leg and Our Final Thoughts

We made the most of our last night in Montana by camping at Pine Creek Lodge seeing one of their many summer concerts. That next morning I woke up early and headed into the foothills of the Bridger mountains with just me, a tall coffee and the X7. The road quickly turned to dirt and at times was rutted and muddy from overnight storms. With traction and DSC off I was able to really get to the limits of the grip and chassis. At the heart of the X7 is indeed a rear wheel drive BMW. As hard as it is to believe, this behemoth of a crossover can still play and loves the mud.

Packing up and heading east onto I90 via Livingston we all had a tinge of sadness. It’s never easy to leave this incredible part of the world. But experiencing it with my sons and behind the wheel of this $117,045 BMW X7 M60i made this particular trip to Yellowstone one to remember.

But is this new X7 one to remember? On this never-ending part of the trip I kept asking myself that question. The last thing our world probably needs is another 6,000 lbs crossover like the X7. They’ve become ubiquitous in our urban and suburban landscape and pose more than a few longterm safety and environmental risks. And you can’t overlook that a 5 Series wagon (which we sadly don’t get in the US) would delivery substantially better on road performance with only slightly less light off-road capabilities.

What it comes down to for me is the almost absurd combination of attributes the X7 delivers. Sure the Porsche Cayenne delivers more performance and the Mercedes GLS is just as big but neither can touch the combination of luxury, utility and performance that you get from the X7 M60i.

We’ve said it before and it still rings true. The X7 is one of BMW’s better conceived and executed products of the last decade. For its intended market and purpose it excels against the competition a way not all BMW crossovers have in recent years. And out here, through the mountains and on the open road there’s simply nothing better.

2024 BMW X7 M60i Photo Gallery

2024 BMW X7 M60i Test Car Specifications