WITH the launch of its biggest ever SUV, the X7, BMW is gearing up to snatch buyers at the very top of the food chain from such luminaries in the field (geddit?) as Range Rover and Mercedes.

This big, bold newcomer looks to be pretty impressive both on and off the road, plus inside the cabin, as it aspires to wean Range Rover fanatics away from their addiction. BMW's luxury 7-series saloon is the basis for the new X7 and like the X3, X4 and X6 model, will be built in BMW’s South Carolina plant, in the US, from this December.

On sale from April, 2019, three engine variants will be available from the outset – a six-cylinder petrol engine and two six-cylinder diesels. It will also feature an extra row of seating, with the third row – which in many of this type are definitely kiddies only – will be for full-sized adults, promises BMW.

Prices will start at £72,155 for the X7, the statistics for which show it to be a real presence on the road and off it. It's imposing stature is more than 5.1m long, 2m wide and 1.8m tall, with a wheelbase of 3.1m.

The people-carrying credentials are noted by the fact that the rear doors are longer than the front doors for easy access. In both the standard and optional configuration, the second-row seats can slide longitudinally through 14.5mm (in seven-seater form), with the adjustment fore/aft position – like all other seat positions and backrest angles – all electric. The backrests in the second and third rows also fold down electrically.

The seats in the second row can be tilted forward to make getting in and out as easy as possible for third-row passengers, and can be returned to their upright position at the touch of a button.

Inside, there's no doubting the opulence, quite a lot of which comes from the 7-series, with a newly-designed display grouping (part of the standard-fitted BMW Live Cockpit Professional) which includes a fully-digital instrument cluster with two screens of 12.3-inches housing all the main controls.

BMW's easy to use iDrive controller is in the mix, while the settings for the air suspension and optional off-road modes are all located with it in the centre console.

Air suspension is standard and allows the car to be lowered at the touch of a button in the boot via the display key or rocker switch within the centre console for easier loading of the two-section split tailgate, both elements of which have electric opening and closing.

There are three choices in the engine department – either the new six-cylinder petrol xDrive40i, or a choice of two six-in-line cylinder diesels, the xDrive30d (expected to be the top UK seller) or M50d M Performance versions. All are turbocharged and mated to an eight-speed automatic Steptronic transmission, with BMW's xDrive, four-wheel drive system common throughout.

The xDrive30d's 3.0-litre engine is rated at 265bhp, with a load heaving 620Nm of torque available to allow it to do the 0-62 sprint in seven seconds, while, on paper, it can return 43.5mpg. The M50d has 400bhp and 760Nm of torque and is more than 1.5 seconds quicker in the timed sprint, with BMW saying it will still get a tad over 40mpg.

They all come with an electrically-operated panoramic glass roof as standard, with front, central and rear glass elements which all have sliding headliners. For something different, you can opt for the Sky Lounge glass roof which has LED lighting generating a display reminiscent of a starlit sky.

Four-zone automatic climate control is standard, but customers can opt for a five-zone automatic climate control system with separate control panel and additional air vents for the third row of seats.

A 10-speaker hi-fi is standard, though there's some pretty high end variants available at extra cost.

Also costing more is an off-road package, which features its own graphics in the instrument cluster and control display. This has an extra button on the centre console for selecting four driving modes – xSnow, xSand, xGravel and xRocks, and drivers can also optimise the best settings for the vehicle’s ride height, the xDrive system, accelerator response, transmission control and the DSC system’s corrective inputs, to the conditions.

As you would expect, there a bus load of technology assisting the driver to keep in lane, obstacle spotting etc, but for something this length, the parking reversing assistant systems are pretty great to have. These include input from a rear-view camera, while a 3D view function can create a 360° image of the vehicle and the surrounding area on the display.

The BMW X7 will go on sale from April, 2019, with OTR prices starting from £72,155.