Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 218 SE
List price £49,560
Target Price £46,274
We know and love the range-topping Audi Q7, but is this entry-level version as good?
Lexus RX 450h Luxury
List price £51,655
Target Price £48,359
Hybrid-powered Lexus is a remarkably cheap company car thanks to low CO2 emissions
Big 4x4s, Chelsea tractors, gas-guzzlers... Whatever you call them, large SUVs are all hideously polluting and a general menace to society, right? Well, that’s not really true these days. Here we have two huge off-roaders that can average almost 40mpg – and that’s not under some far-fetched laboratory conditions, but in our real-world True MPG tests. One of them is even claimed to emit just 127g/km of CO2, which is less than a 1.4-litre Honda Civic.
So, it would appear that you really can have your cake and eat it, assuming you can afford the asking price of around £50k that both of these posh-badged SUVs command. But which is the better buy: the entry-level Audi Q7 diesel or the hybrid Lexus RX?
What are they like to drive?
The Lexus RX 450h combines a V6 petrol engine with electric motors to give a combined output of 308bhp. That makes the 215bhp on offer in the V6 diesel Audi seem rather tame, but the Q7 is actually the faster car – and by a fair margin. A small amount of pressure on its right pedal will waft you up to speed swiftly with barely any increase in engine revs. Alternatively, if you really put your foot down, it’ll get you to 60mph almost a second quicker than the RX.
By contrast, anything other than gentle acceleration in the Lexus causes the revs of its petrol engine to soar suddenly and stay high until you’re up to speed. The drone is never unbearable, but it means the RX is considerably less refined than the whisper-quiet Q7. The Audi also isolates you much better from road and wind noise at motorway speeds.
Anyone who’s driven a Porsche Cayenne, or even the latest Range Rover Sport, down a winding country lane won’t find anything to get excited about here. You can feel every ounce of the two-tonne kerb weights of both the Q7 and the RX. Neither of them appreciate being asked to change direction quickly, although the Audi sways about less and has more direct, confidence-inspiring steering.
Our test Q7 rode on optional (£2000) air suspension, which delivers a properly cushioned feel on the motorway; the car lopes along in a relaxed fashion, making 100-mile journeys positively fly by. There is an occasional thud from the suspension when you catch a pothole around town, but the Q7 is otherwise more settled and composed than the Lexus at low speeds, too.
Wider experience of the Q7 line-up suggests the air suspension is worth paying for, although the standard suspension still provides a perfectly comfortable ride.
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