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The Lavish BMW X7 M50i Is a Reminder to Enjoy the Journey

Goal-setting is the favorite exercise of academia, business, and just about every other aspect of society. If not for goals, we reason, we’d have no metric for success — if we don’t first envision the house we’ll buy, the car we’ll drive, the job we’ll have, or the biceps we’ll flex, how are we supposed to appreciate them if and when they materialize?

There isn’t really an alternative to goal-setting, either – except, perhaps, laziness. But even lazy people have goals: they desire a perfect nap or a satisfying meal, then (through as little effort as possible) endeavor to realize their wishes. Simple, powerful, effective; what’s not to love?

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The problem with goal-setting isn’t the practice, but the mindset. There’s always an origin, a destination, and some “muck” in the middle. Extensive or brief, we overlook the in-between in favor of achieved ambitions. And when we reach one goal, we invariably rush to restart the process. If only we’d view the process differently, to build anticipation for the course and all the lessons it will undoubtedly yield, rather than just the conclusion.

Implausibly, it’s a luxury SUV that sells this “Life’s a journey, not a destination” ethos best.

My wife and I have been planning a trip to Santa Barbara for weeks. Though I visited the coastal community often while we were dating, there remain several hangouts she longs to share from her 10 years of residency. As she describes the bites and views that lay in store, I grow impatient.

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The drive from Orange County isn’t long – just 3 hours – but it does pass through one of the nastiest traffic hubs in the world: Los Angeles. As such, the little time I spend thinking of the journey doesn’t conjure happy thoughts. But short of booking a private helicopter, there’s no other way to our oasis.

Graciously, our chariot for the weekend is BMW’s newest and most extravagant SUV, the X7 M50i. With a 523-horsepower V8 to cut down open road and an exquisitely appointed cabin to quell the chaos, this is the best of a bad situation. And though we’re short on bodies to fill all three rows of seats, we do our best to enjoy the surplus space.

Miles Branman/The Manual

The first 30 miles breeze by as the wireless Apple CarPlay system streams tunes through a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system. Doing our best to ignore that it’s already 70 degrees at 9 a.m., we indulge in heated seats and armrests (shortly after deploying the sunshades and cycling the A/C). When one of us feels prompted to chat, we direct a “V” of two outstretched fingers at the 12.3-inch infotainment screen. The Gesture Control system notes our mid-air command and mutes the audio. Lazy? Well sure, but the gestures don’t make themselves.

As if intent on spoiling our fun, rows of brake lights appear ahead. Traffic slows to a crawl and I prepare for an hour or more of tedium. Then again, BMW’s active driving aids could do all the hard work so I can be laz— er, relaxed. One press of the steering wheel button activates adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assist and a second press engages Driving Assist Plus. Up to 40 mph, the X7 will now drive itself without any interaction via the steering wheel or pedals. While not completely autonomous (if you don’t keep your eyes forward, the system won’t work), the aid is the equivalent of taking off your shoes after a long day on your feet.

Once LA is far enough in the rearview, the roads clear once more. As we dip into Ventura, we glimpse the Pacific, blue and broad in contrast to the honey-colored hills. Abandoning our manufactured winter climate, we open the panoramic sunroof to fill the cabin with light, ventilate our formerly heated seats, and soak in SoCal’s majesty.

Santa Barbara welcomes us with vibrant coffee shops, farmers markets, and delis. We instantly adapt to the town’s slower pace, but remain deliberate in our quest for goodies: Handlebar Coffee for cappuccinos and croissants, Metropulos Fine Foods for sandwiches, Empty Bowl Noodle Bar for curry and pad thai, and Rory’s Creamery for a finisher. Between meals, we stroll through the Isla Vista beach community and downtown SB shops. When our route intersects with a former apartment or employer, my wife churns up a few funny stories to accompany each.

The destination and all it has to offer is certainly as good as I’d anticipated, but when it’s time to point the X7 home, I’m not despondent. I know LA traffic awaits, but I also know there’s a quiet cabin to invite conversation, ambient lighting to set the tone, and a heated cupholder to keep my coffee piping. Not every journey will be this good, but for now, what’s the rush?

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