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In our all-American road trip, we crossed through four southern states, drove two different BMW X7 variants and covered 750km - all in one day.

17 Apr 2019

When BMW officially presented the BMW X7, it did so with a drive across the U.S.A. Starting from BMW's Spartanburg factory in South Carolina, and ending in Palm Springs, California, the presentation gave journalists from all over the world an opportunity to cover a total of over 8,500km.

The BMW X7 Coast to Coast trip started from the Spartanburg factory in South Carolina, and took over a month to complete
Of course, doing the whole stretch would be wonderful, but that would've taken over a month to complete.

Instead, the BMW X7 Coast to Coast trip was split up into 11 sections, and we were tasked to cover one of them, which also turns out to be the longest stretch - over 700km of driving that stretched a total of over nine hours.

Our plan was to cover over four states. In Florida, where we started, through Alabama, and then on to Mississippi before reaching our end point in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On to the drive!

So there we were, my co-driver and I, right smack in the capital of Florida, Tallahassee, for the start of the drive. There, we were given the keys to the BMW X7 xDrive40i, the entry model for buyers looking for the biggest car in the X range.

We were faced with long, winding roads when heading out of Tallahassee to Pensacola Beach
Usually, the more common routes done for road trips in the U.S.A would involve more notable routes such as Route 66, also known as the 'Main Street of America', or the scenic Pacific Coast Highway that follows the coast of California.

Our route wasn't something out of movies, for sure. It was a very long route, and certainly not the touristy sort that would have made the entire trip a tad disappointing. After all, road trips are meant to cover grounds that give you the chance to see the less popular parts of the world, and this trip was definitely something of that sort.

Out of Tallahassee's city traffic, we quickly got used to the X7's size on the road. Piloting the big Bavarian around town proved to be fuss-free and rather natural.

A word like 'natural' is inevitably used here because we are - after all - in the land of big V8 trucks and SUVs. We got onto State Road 20, which would lead us to our first stop at The Grand Marlin Restaurant, located at Pensacola Beach. This was a good 300km drive, mind you.

After driving through the rain, we were rewarded with glistening white sand that lined the coast of Pensacola Beach, Florida
State Road 20 is a two-lane highway that sweeps around rural areas outside of Tallahassee, running alongside the Apalachicola National Forest.

While this may sound ghastly boring to you and me, it's quite the contrary. The route allowed me to test the prowess of the X7 on the straights and its handling capabilities on the twisties. Understandably, this was more fun when we man-handle the SUV like maniacs.

Unfortunately, about 20 minutes into the drive, we were met with heavy rain. There's somehow a very intriguing element to weather. Rain comes when you least want it to and goes away when you really hope for it.

In this case, driving along dry tarmac was preferable, more so when it's a 2.4-tonne car we're hauling around.

Still, with empty sweeping roads ahead of us, we pushed on for a good two hours. By then, the rain had stopped and we were greeted with what Florida is known for - beautiful beaches.

On that note, the town of Navarre, is a good introduction. It's a little-known area, and many might expect something of the sort to be found in a more popular beach destination like Miami instead.

We hammered down US Interstate 10 - now with the X7 xDrive50i - the perfect car for the job with its V8 engine
The glistening white sand and blue waters were nothing short of impressive. In fact, we stopped for a short break, just to take in the gentle sea breeze before heading into Pensacola, ending off the first leg of the drive.

Sweet Home Alabama!

Alas, we had no pit stops from Pensacola to Baton Rouge, which was a good 400km drive apart. Understandably, we had to swop cars in order to experience the different variants of the X7.

We happily hopped into the juicier X7 xDrive50i, which had a thumping 4.4-litre V8 powering all four wheels, for the purpose of this leg. Needless to say, it was the perfect car for the job.

What would also have been perfect for the job is having Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama accompany us when we entered the Cotton State. But things have a way of working itself out. While we had the radio on, we were mostly enjoying the V8 soundtrack from the M Sport exhaust system. The music was there, yes, but the soundtrack worthy of a rock concert rendition was the one coming from the car's twin tailpipes.

We were met with gracious and disciplined drivers on our drive who never hogged the overtaking lane
Most of the routes we were on consisted of the US Interstate 10. A major highway, its entirety stretches more than 3,000km, from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. Thankfully, it passes through our final destination, Baton Rouge.

Despite being a major highway with heavy traffic, drivers of cars and 18-wheeler trucks alike here have the kind of admirable road discipline and driving etiquette that’s missing in Singapore. You don't hear the sound of honkings and you seldom get road hoggers on the overtaking lane.

This allowed the X7 to stretch its V8 legs. In fact, we innocently stretched it far enough to finally realise that we were going above the speed limit.

So when we saw a highway trooper car parked on the centre median of the highway, we did the most natural thing - braked harder than usual. You have to give it to the calipers. They are capable of shedding off speed effectively and speedily. You get a hint of diving from the car but understandably, there’s just no defying the laws of physics with the X7.

After about 10 hours of driving, we were treated to signs to our final destination, Baton Rouge
As it turns out, our conservative road behaviour might not have been necessary because highway troopers are very reasonable in their speed checks. If traffic is smooth flowing and you're not holding back traffic, driving dangerously or breaking the sound barrier, they're completely fine if you do a couple of miles above the speed limit.

Take me to the Bayou

Soon enough, after crossing Mississippi while on the interstate, we turned off the highway to head into Baton Rouge.

The capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, is rich in culture and diversity. In fact, we were arriving a day before the Mardi Gras weekend, a large colourful parade that attracts many to converge here to celebrate.

We headed to downtown Baton Rouge, where it is mostly filled with tight side streets. Well, with over 20 BMW X7s arriving, it certainly proved to be a challenge. Thankfully for us, BMW organised an efficient valet team to take the cars once we arrived at the hotel.

Baton Rouge's small side streets might've been a challenge for the X7s, but having them all turn up at one place was an impressive sight
In over 10 hours, we effectively covered about 750km in a day in the BMW X7. You may think that's a tiring way to travel, but the BMW X7 is the best tool for it.

We came out of the X7 feeling more refreshed than any other long drives we’ve done so far.

Heck, even a 300km drive to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore in less-endowed cars would leave us in a slight daze from fatigue.

And we didn't have to stop to stretch along the way, either. Aside from the lunch stop, we only did two bio stops on the way to Baton Rouge - proving that the BMW X7 is more than adequate for long road trips with its high levels of comfort and ability to swallow long stretches of tarmac without a hitch.

For this Big Bavarian, that's a big win.
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