New Land Rover Discovery vs Audi Q7 vs BMW X7
The Audi Q7 and BMW X7 are among the elite of sumptuous seven-seat SUVs. Can the revamped Land Rover Discovery usurp their authority?...
NEW Land Rover Discovery D300 R-Dynamic HSE
List price £67,330
Target Price £64,198
A recent facelift brings new six-cylinder engines and an upgraded interior to the Discovery. And even in range-topping trim, it’s easily the cheapest of our trio
Audi Q7 50 TDI quattro Vorsprung
List price £86,110
Target Price £81,067
The Q7 is one of our favourite luxury SUVs, being a great all-rounder and good value in the cheaper trims. Here, though, it lines up in pricey range-topping trim, packed with standard equipment. Is it as compelling?
BMW X7 xDrive40d M Sport
List price £80,210
Target Price £75,142
Few other SUVs on sale in the UK are as large as the X7, which combines limo-like interior space and plushness with a muscular diesel engine
You've got to admire a bit of upward mobility. Take the Land Rover Discovery: what started out as the Defender’s more civilised but still rough-around-the-edges sibling has been getting posher and posher with every iteration.
Over the years, the Discovery has been smoothed out, with styling and underpinnings that have edged ever closer to Range Rover territory. Indeed, all versions get air suspension, an automatic gearbox and, after a recent refresh, creamy six-cylinder petrol and diesel engine options.
At the same time, it still has seating for seven and plenty of practical touches, although its price puts it firmly in the luxury SUV class.
With that in mind, we’re pitching the facelifted Discovery, in top-spec R-Dynamic HSE trim, against two What Car? award-winning seven-seat rivals in similarly plush trims and also with six-cylinder diesel engines.
First up is the Audi Q7. It has long been a What Car? favourite, thanks to its blend of stellar comfort and surprisingly agile handling, while its interior is exceedingly well put together. Indeed, it’s our reigning best luxury SUV for comfort.
They’ll both have to duke it out with our final contender: the BMW X7. As well as being larger than some principalities, it’s properly plush inside and was named best luxury SUV for large families at our 2021 awards.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The Q7’s 3.0-litre diesel V6 produces a substantial 282bhp, yet the similar-sized straight sixes in the Discovery and X7 have even more: 296bhp and 335bhp respectively. Given its power advantage, it’s no surprise that the X7 is quickest from 0-60mph, getting there in a rapid 5.7sec. The Q7 isn’t far behind (6.2sec), while the Discovery’s 6.6sec time is nothing to be ashamed of.
The order is the same when it comes to rolling acceleration, with the X7 nipping past slower-moving traffic or getting up to motorway speed on a short slip road in the shortest time, although the gap between the Q7 and Discovery is significantly narrower in these situations. In normal use, though, all of these hulking SUVs feel plenty fast enough.
Accessing that performance is pretty effortless in the X7 and Discovery, with their automatic gearboxes kicking down quickly and their engines lugging away almost immediately. The Q7’s gearbox is slower to react, and there’s a pause before the engine delivers its slug of power.
In addition, while its V6 is by no means coarse, it isn’t as refined as the Discovery’s smooth, quiet engine or as muscular-sounding as the X7’s – the latter helped by the sports exhaust fitted to our test car (part of the £2395 M Sport Pro Pack).
The Q7 generates a tad more road noise than the X7, while the Discovery is a little rowdier than both, but all three are peaceful cruisers.
Ride comfort is a top priority in any luxury SUV, and that’s something the Q7 has always done supremely well. Despite coming with massive, 22in wheels and air suspension tuned with a sporty slant in Vorsprung trim, the Q7 is still the comfiest of the three, with the best combination of body control and bump absorption. It isn’t quite as outstandingly smooth as Sport and S line versions, though.
The X7 is softer, but the more pronounced side-to-side movements and slight wallow this generates might have you switching to the stiffer Sport driving mode to tighten things up a bit. Even so, the 22in wheels that are part of the M Sport Pro Pack generate a little bit of jittering over imperfect surfaces; we’d stick to the standard 21s.
As for the Discovery, it's by no means uncomfortable, dealing with undulating roads with a pleasant waft, but it’s the most abrupt over sharp bumps and potholes, sending little shudders through the car.
While you’d happily undertake a long trip in any of our contenders, the Q7 is the pick of the bunch if the road is particularly sinewy. Once you get used to the unnecessarily heavy steering, it dives into bends with alacrity and keeps its body admirably upright. Grip is plentiful and spread evenly front to rear, so you can hustle it along with ease.
The X7 isn’t too far off the Q7 in terms of grip, but it feels bulkier and leans more in corners, while you might find the steering a little too light. Both are more accomplished than the Discovery, which rolls around the most and has the least grip.
Such vast SUVs could be a pain in town, but the Q7 gets four-wheel steering as standard to usefully tighten the turning circle. It’s a worthwhile £1195 option on the X7 that was fitted to our test car, while the Discovery isn’t available with such a system and tends to feel the most cumbersome because of it.
As for braking, the X7 can stop in an exceptionally short distance for such a big, tall car, albeit with a bit of nose dive. The Q7 isn’t too far behind, while the Discovery takes the longest to stop.
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