THERE's no arguing that big SUVs have attracted something of a bad press over recent years.
Many folk are just not fans of the bold looks, high stance and greed for fuel.
But that's done little to dent their popularity. As the luxury limo has slid into decline the behemoth offroader - which is actually seldom seen off road - has seen a sales surge.
None has more impact than the recently introduced BMW X7, big brother to the already sizable X5 which has been around for years.
Weighing in at more two and a quarter tonnes and measuring more than five metres in length, the seven-seater, five-door sports a grille the size of Buck Palace gates and needs a grab handle to climb into.
Yet despite its height and girth, the X7 remains surprisingly manoeuvrable and wieldy and, in fact, is seriously satisfying to drive once you readjust to its size. Many will be surprised that it's pretty frugal with an official average of 36mpg.
From the choice of engines available - 3.0i and 4.0i petrol, three litre diesels and thundering M50i with no less 523bhp - we picked the diesel 40d as one of the most popular option in the range.
At first, it feels you are climbing into a very luxurious tree house - such is the height of the X7. Superbly furnished and beautifully appointed with Bowers and Wilkins audio, rear TV screens and goose down head cushions, it measures up well to the likes of Range Rover and even Bentley.
Sitting high above the road and enveloped in large, comfortable leather seats you get a commanding view of all around. The big diesel is pleasantly muted and under hard acceleration emits a V8-like roar which dies down to barely a whisper at cruising speeds. Very relaxed and calm with little road noise or wind intrusion.
Unlike most large SUVs, the steering has genuine feel and weights up nicely as cornering speeds increase. Obviously, the pure physics of the BMW's mass count against in when hustling through bends but cornering is surefooted and safe with limited body roll.
As expected passenger and luggage space is vast. Five adults sit in real comfort and opulence with space in the final row of seats for a couple of kids or slim, flexible adults.
When all seats are occupied you'll get around 320litres of luggage in the available boot. Fold down the rear row at a touch of a button and this expands to a generous 750litres and ultimately, with two rows folded there's room for 2120litres.
The fascia follows the usual BMW pattern with solid switchgear and high quality fitments including twin large 12.3inch display screen. Just about every accessory you could think of is present including a huge panoramic glass sunroof, the front section of which opens.
With 335bhp available from the three litre turbo engine, the 40d picks up its heels nicely, covering the dash to 62mph in 6.1seconds and ample mid range urge for rapid overtaking. The eight speed auto gearbox is slick and intuitive and well matched to the power unit. Steering paddles are there if you fancy taking more control of things.