BMW’s newly announced flagship, at least of its SUVs, the X7, is like all top BMWs for decades, packed with the latest, most comprehensive technology which traditionally has migrated downwards to cheaper models as development costs are amortised and supplier production volume increases.

Among the new or updated, standard or optional kit is the extra cost Driving Assistant Professional package which includes cruise control with braking function, while the collision and pedestrian warning with city braking that can alert the driver when a cyclist is detected, is standard. The optional active cruise control with stop & go function can bring the car to a halt then set it back on its way automatically. In stop-start traffic, the maximum stopping time before automatic pull away is 30 seconds.

This system also provides steering and lane control assistant and lane keeping assistant with active side collision protection. The steering and lane control assistant can also guide the vehicle through narrow channels, such as roadworks. Hands-on-wheel detection recognises contact even when only a few fingers briefly touch the wheel.

Another component of the system is the evasion aid, which can help avoid collisions with vehicles or pedestrians suddenly appearing in the driver’s path by helping the driver direct the vehicle into a clear adjacent lane with steering input

The package also includes lane change assistant, which is activated by using the indicator stalk. Another component of the system is the evasion aid, which can help avoid collisions with vehicles or pedestrians suddenly appearing in the driver’s path by helping the driver direct the vehicle into a clear adjacent lane with steering inputs.

Another feature is crossing traffic warning, which reduces the risk of a collision when manoeuvring forwards, or in reverse, towards crossing traffic where visibility is restricted. Rear collision warning, priority warning, wrong-way warning and lane change warning also form part of the professional package. BMW’s latest version of lane departure warning now includes active steering inputs to bring the vehicle back into the intended lane.

Parking Assistant Plus will be standard on all X7 variants here in the UK when sales start in April 2019. This includes a rear-view camera, while top view, panorama view and 3D view functions all work together to create a 360° image of the vehicle and the surrounding area on the control display. The remote 3D view function additionally gives drivers the ability to call up a three-dimensional live image of their vehicle and its immediate vicinity on a smartphone.

Another system available within this package is reversing assistant, which offers automated reversing in confined spaces such as in multi-storey car parks or entrances to courtyards. It can reverse the vehicle for distances of up to 50m by steering it along the same line it took when moving forward: all the driver has to do is operate the accelerator and brake pedals with speed limited to 5.5mph. The steering movements made during the vehicle’s last forward manoeuvre are stored and retained, even for longer periods. This means the assistant can be used to manoeuvre the SUV backwards out of a parking position that it drove into forwards the preceding day, for example.

Also standard: the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, a digital helper that responds to the voice prompt “Hey BMW” We trust it responds rather more accurately than a similar Mercedes feature so far somewhat maligned by a number of UK vehicle reviewers.

Bullish BMW claims its intelligent personal assistant marks the start of a new era in which drivers will increasingly be able to operate their car, access its functions and obtain information simply by speaking. Updates to this system will be continuous and can be made on a smartphone and in-car via the remote software upgrade functionality.

The assistant learns routines and the driver’s preferences such as seat heating settings or the places they navigate to frequently (eg just command “Take me home”). The automaker claims, unlike other systems, the driver can give this assistant a name, and it can even provide casual conversation.

Saying “Hey BMW, I’m cold” will prompt the assistant to adjust the temperature inside the car accordingly. The assistant is said to get better with every command given, every question asked and every setting made.

The assistant is also able to explain all sorts of different functions. In the next step up from the in-car, owners’ manuals now quite common (both BMW and Volvo have them), the assistant can be asked questions like: “How does the high beam assistant work?”

It can also provide status updates of the car with regards to fuel and oil levels and help to answer a range of other questions. It can also activate a range of functions to enhance well-being. For instance, “Hey BMW, I feel tired” triggers a programme that adjusts the lighting mood, music and temperature to make the driver feel more awake.

It can log frequent destinations, find available parking spaces, provide traffic information and, much like the Calendar function on Apple iDevices, remind the driver when to set off for an appointment. The assistant’s integration with Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business is claimed to transform the X7 into a voice-controlled mobile office which can enable the driver to join teleconferences when required with one press of the iDrive controller.

With the driver’s consent, passengers can connect their smartphones to the car using the connected command function and then use it to control functions such as navigation, climate control or on-board entertainment.

The intelligent personal assistant comes with a three-year subscription that starts with vehicle build and is supplemented by the live cockpit professional (fully digital, high resolution information display behind the steering wheel plus a central control display both with 12.3in screens; also includes adaptive navigation and 20Gb hard-drive-based multimedia system) and the latest version seven of BMW’s operating system.

This OS offers drivers more ways to customise the system to their own preferences: even the vehicle mock-up on the display matches the model colour and equipment line. In the main menu on the centre display, the driver can configure up to 10 home pages, each showing two to four widgets with live content. The graphics adapt depending on the operating method and the voice control system (based on natural language understanding) is claimed to be better. The standard gesture control now works with two extra gestures, for a total to seven. The driver can choose control from the iDrive controller, steering wheel controls, touch, voice or gesture control.

The BMW Digital Key employs Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow the SUV to be locked and unlocked from a compatible smartphone. Holding the smartphone up to the door handle opens the car and, once inside, the engine can be started as soon as the phone has been placed in the wireless charging or smartphone tray. Accessible via the BMW Connected app, the digital key is claimed to offer unrivalled flexibility as the driver can share it with up to five other people. The key is available for NFC-capable Samsung Galaxy smartphones running Android 8.1 and above or drivers customers can use the key card which comes with the vehicle.  

Connected Navigation offers a range of digital services to make route planning both in the car and away from it, much easier. With this new technology drivers can send destinations from the connected app straight to the car’s navigation system and the most important destinations will be stored, meaning important addresses can be accessed from any device at any time. A new feature is the parking space assistant, which proposes various parking options to the driver before the destination is reached. This service includes information on the nearest multi-storey car park as well as suggesting routes offering a good chance of finding a parking spot close to the destination. The existing on-street parking information has also been incorporated into the scope of functions that form connected navigation.

Apple CarPlay is also standard for a one year subscription. After this, owners can extend the service based on their needs for one, three or vehicle lifetime periods.

New or existing services can be added at any time. In future, customers will be able to download additional digital services from the ConnectedDrive store and install them using remote software upgrade. Services can be booked in this way for various periods of time to suit customer requirements.