BMW recently announced that pre-production versions of their upcoming X7 are rolling off the assembly line in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This is an all-important test to make sure the line is working as it should, that the pre-production vehicles bolt together as planned, and all is well and good in BMW land.
The X7 is the Bavarian car company’s top-of-the-line, extra-huge, extra-boxy SUV/crossover/thingo. It’s about the size, weight, and shape of the Brandenburg Gate and BMW calls it a Sports Activity Vehicle or SAV, a terminology applied to other vehicles in their lineup. Essentially, it’s the BMW crossover version of the 7 Series sedan: The biggest thing you can buy with a roundel on the hood. Actual volumetric specs are not given, but the photos seem to indicate this thing is large enough to haul any one family and all their stuff. It’s brutalist architecture on wheels.
BMW says the production version of the SAV (gag) should be out by the end of 2018. Before we get there, however, the X7 will undergo multiple tests in “partially extreme conditions.” I thought extreme was a nominal state, it either is or isn’t. But I guess BMW, or the engineers responsible for the X7, are fine with “partial” extremes.
Since the X7 pre-production models are using the same assembly line as the X5 and X6, the production of these pre-series models serves to make sure everything works as it should, and to optimize future series production. BMW has a specially trained team of production engineers to make sure everything is completely integrated into the line. As you would expect, this is a long and exacting process that has to be just right in general, and things get particularly fastidious since we’re not just dealing with engineers here, we’re dealing with German engineers.
First the pre-production models are built at BMW’s Spartanburg plant. Then they are handed over to development department specialists, and the fun really starts. All the bits and pieces are certified for homologation and production. The approved bits, pieces, sub-assemblies, and then the entire pre-production X7 is subjected to a set of diverse testing routines, such as endurance drives through Death Valley and the snow covered slopes of Scandinavia. During all this, the pre-production model is fitted with a camouflage wrap, even while it is still at the plant. The striking, striped, dazzle camouflage is designed to conceal the new SAV’s final look as far as possible.
All car companies do this, but what I want to ask is why BMW is mentioning how important this is when there are pictures all over the place of the new X7. Maybe someone from the pre-production engineering team should ring up the marketing group and see what’s up. Anyway, once the pre-production crew makes sure all the t’s are crossed, i’s are dotted, tolerances are confirmed, and calipers are safely tucked away, BMW’s Spartanburg plant will be all set to start cranking X7s out like so many sausages.
The X7 is the fifth model produced at the BMW Spartanburg plant, where all X models are built. Spartanburg is BMW’s largest plant in the world and cranked out more than 411,000 vehicles in 2016. BMW says 70 percent of the vehicles produced in Spartanburg are exported to 140 countries across the globe, making BMW the largest vehicle exporter in the USA in terms of export value. I assume BMW means “largest vehicle exporter” in reference to automobiles, because Boeing exports a ton of vehicles, and since their entry level model starts at over 100 million dollars, I bet they beat BMW in terms of “export value.” That said, if there’s a real call for what BMW makes at Spartanburg, the annual production capacity is around 450,000 vehicles, more than enough to handle worldwide demand.
“We are proud to produce the BMW X7 here in Spartanburg, the home of our X models. This is a very special vehicle and our employees are looking forward to yet a further member of the X family,” said Knudt Flor, Head of the BMW Group Spartanburg plant. “Together with the BMW X7, a total of five BMW X models will be exported from Spartanburg to all four corners of the globe.”
Technical details for the new X7 will be announced later this year.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format.