The Bayerische Motoren Werke is a leader in the industry-wide move to electrification, and the imposing X7 iPerformance concept shows that the Bavarian company is set to expand its alternative propulsion program. Literally. Presented at the Frankfurt Auto Show as a plug-in hybrid, the X7 is a portent of a new generation of BMW SUVs positioned above the X5, the biggest Bimmers ever.

Although BMW issued an 8-page release prior to the X7’s Frankfurt debut, technical specs were scanty. Here’s what was revealed: A plug-in on a grand scale, the iPerformance concept allies a BMW TwinPower Turbo gasoline engine with electric propulsion, offering owners an “exceptionally efficient and dynamic plug-in hybrid powertrain that excels in all driving situations—including running with zero local emissions.”

Interpretation: like other plug-ins, the X7 will be capable of operating as a pure electric. And “zero local emissions” indicates that those electric-only operations will be of very limited duration. Beyond that, BMW was mum regarding powertrain details for the hybrid concept and the more conventional X7.

Imposing presence

This is also true of dimensional specifics. Other than to label the X7’s dimensions and bulk as “imposing,” BMW’s references to the new ute’s specs are confined to its “extraordinary sense of presence” and “utra modern aesthetic.” As a general overview, this will add up to an update on the Sports Activity Vehicle tradition established by the BMW X5 in 1999, albeit on a substantially larger scale. Aside from a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, with standard four-wheel drive, chassis details are yet to be announced.

In something of a departure from SAV styling tradition, the wheel wells are radiused, a first for a member of BMW’s X clan, and in the X7 concept they shelter 23-inch alloys. Production versions are likely to be smaller. BMW’s traditional twin-kidney grille lends unmistakable identity to the bluff-bowed front end, and the exterior is finished off in a very showbiz hue developed for the Frankfurt unveiling: Manhattan metallic, a dark olive bronze rarely (if ever) seen in Manhattan.

Expanded Interior

Interior highlights include a 12.3-inch instrument cluster—digital, of course—and a big center-dash display. There’s a wealth of cutting edge infotainment and connectivity, and the interior has an open airy feel, thanks to the vast panoramic sunroof.

The openness is no illusion. The X5 began offering a three-row seating option in the second generation, introduced in 2007, but that third row is cramped, whereas the X7 boasts limousine-size space in all three rows. The seating arrangement—two places each in front, center, and rear—enhances that feel, with extensive adjustability at all positions.

Whether the six-passenger seating or some of the X7’s other more exotic electronic elements make it into production remains to be seen, as do powertrain, chassis, and dimensional specifics. But it’s clear that the X7 iPerformance concept is a preview of a new family of big utes to come from BMW in 2018.

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