Audi SQ7 4.0 TDI quattro
List price £72,895
Target Price £71,467
Audi’s range-topping Q7 seemingly has it all: space, pace and quality
BMW X6 xDrive40d M Sport
List price £61,720
Target Price £58,245
Its styling divides opinion, but the X6 has its strengths and looks cheap in this company
Range Rover Velar D300 HSE
List price £68,110
Target Price £68,110
Velar has the looks and the badge, but it will need more than that to succeed here
Ironic, isn’t it? Range Rover’s new Velar takes its name from the Latin ‘velare’, or ‘to hide’, given to the secret Range Rover prototypes in the 1960s. Yet, judging by its rakish looks, this is hardly a car for the shy and retiring.
The Velar has arrived to fi ll the sizeable void in price and size between the smaller, styleled Evoque and the larger, more functional Range Rover Sport. On the face of it, the Velar’s sleek lines make it seem a closer relation to the former, but in fact its size places it nearer the latter. Bear in mind, though, that nearly £40,000 separates the cheapest and most expensive Velars and it’s the more expensive end of the range that most buyers will gravitate towards. Indeed, we’re focusing here on the V6 diesel version in lofty HSE trim, which pushes the asking price close to £70,000.
BMW knows a thing or two about building eye-catching SUVs, too; its X6 has been dividing opinion for nearly a decade. But love or loathe the looks, there’s no doubt the X6 is a capable car that actually looks well priced next to the Velar. We’re testing the X6 in punchy six-cylinder 40d form and range-topping M Sport trim.
Our third competitor is more conventional in shape but hardly undesirable. Audi’s SQ7 is the pinnacle of the Q7 luxury SUV range and comes fitted with a sledgehammer of a 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine and some clever tech to make it go harder and corner faster. It’s slightly larger than the Velar and has two more seats, so it represents a serious amount of car for not a lot more cash.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Try as we might, we couldn’t launch the Velar from standstill to 60mph as quickly as the official performance figures suggest is possible – a common trait among Land Rover models. Still, it offers enough low-down pull and outright pace to dispense with slow-moving traffic on motorways and fast A-roads when you need to.
The X6 isn’t much more powerful than the Velar, but acceleration is noticeably more urgent and 0-60mph was 1.5sec quicker. Both cars have eightspeed automatic gearboxes, but the X6’s is the better-tuned, hesitating less when you pull away from junctions and flicking between gears more responsively when you engage manual mode by pulling the paddles behind the steering wheel.
However, neither can match the outrageous performance of the SQ7. Despite being the heaviest of our trio, its monstrous twinturbocharged V8 propelled it to 60mph in just 4.5sec – a time many sports cars would struggle to match. The SQ7’s engine and gearbox work brilliantly together, too, its gearbox kicking down swiftly when asked and swapping gears smoothly when you’re just mooching about.
The SQ7, which has standard four-wheel drive, also dominates in corners, where it genuinely handles like a car half its size and weight. The steering isn’t the most feelsome, but it’s always precise and the SQ7 feels remarkably eager to turn in to corners. The clever active anti-roll bars (£5700 as part of Audi’s Dynamic Pack) help prop up the SQ7’s vast body on twisty roads to stop it from leaning over onto the door handles like you might expect. Thankfully, none of this comes at the expense of low-speed manoeuvrability.
The X6 feels rather ordinary in such esteemed company, but it handles quite well by wider luxury SUV standards. Its steering is more communicative than the SQ7’s but not as accurate, and there’s more body lean to contend with in corners. The X6’s slower steering means more arm work is required to thread your way around urban backstreets, too.
The Velar is certainly the least comfortable with sudden changes of direction; its body sways the most and its steering doesn’t tell you a huge amount about what the front tyres are doing. Hold your nerve, though, and it will grip the road for longer than you’d think. The fact that it’s the smallest of our trio makes the Velar the most wieldy around town, too.
There’s more good news when it comes to the Velar’s ride quality. The car wafts along on its standard air suspension, soaking up most bumps remarkably well – especially at high speeds. The SQ7 rides in an even more sophisticated fashion, though, managing low-speed imperfections more adroitly and staying just as settled as the Velar on the motorway. In this company, the X6’s ride quality fails to impress; it’s the least composed over ruts and potholes and jostles you around the most at speed, although it’s still far from uncomfortable.
Some tyre and suspension noise spoil the Velar’s otherwise peaceful interior at low speeds. The X6 and SQ7 are closely matched in town, both proving slightly quieter than the Velar, although the SQ7 is the most hushed at a steady 70mph cruise and has the smoothest engine. Meanwhile, the X6 has the gruffest engine and is the noisiest on the motorway, mainly because it generates the most wind noise.
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