Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 272 Quattro S Line
List price when new £53,835
Price today £37,900*
Available from 2015-present
Large SUVs don’t come more complete than the Audi Q7; it’s quick, spacious and well equipped
Volvo XC90 D5 AWD Inscription
List price when new £50,185
Price today £37,495*
Available from 2015-present
Practical, good to drive and luxurious too – especially in Inscription spec – the Volvo XC90 is hard to beat
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
It’s remarkable when you consider the speed of change regarding people's perception of what a family car should be. For many years, it was the humble estate car. Then it was the MPV. Now, though, the large seven-seat SUV has taken over and can be seen everywhere; from the school gates to the office car park, and even squeezing into tight spaces at the supermarket. But, customers want luxury, which is where SUVs such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 come in.
Both of these offer seven-passenger comfort and both are in top-spec form (we’ll ignore the SQ7 because that’s the sporty version of the Q7). The XC90 comes with a full complement of safety tech to keep everyone, inside and outside the car, safe. The Q7 doesn’t want for much in this area, either, and nor is it behind on equipment, so this is shaping up to be a very close test.
The major difference between the two is the choice of engines; the XC90 has a downsized 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with the aim of maximising fuel economy, while the Q7 uses a big, 3.0-litre six-cylinder with oodles of torque. So, are you better off going for a large SUV with a sizable engine, or should you choose the more efficient option? Let’s find out.
What are they like to drive?
The Q7 has the larger, more powerful engine so has the legs on the XC90. It’s faster off the mark and its extra shove allows it to build speed quicker and breeze past slower traffic. That said, the XC90 never feels underpowered and is quite happy cruising at motorway speeds, unfazed by inclines or overtaking other vehicles.
To go with its extra pace the Audi has the smoother and quieter engine. By comparison, there’s a little more background rumble from the Volvo’s diesel, which is most audible around town or when accelerating hard.
Both cars come with smooth shifting eight-speed automatic gearboxes, with manual overrides, although it’s only the Q7 that offers steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Our two test cars had optional adaptive air suspension systems, and there is a clear difference to the way each is set up. The Volvo is the firmer and better tied down, so its body leans less than the Audi’s in corners. Its steering is sharper, too, so it feels the lighter and more agile of the two.
By contrast, the Audi feels more ponderous, even with its suspension in the firmest Dynamic mode. Its body leans a few degrees more than the Volvo’s and the steering is slower to react.
As a result, the Audi is less enjoyable to drive fast, but it counters by being the better cruiser. Even on the optional 21in wheels its suspension manages to filter out the patchy road surfaces that have the XC90 fidgeting, and it’s the less likely of the two to thud over large potholes. There’s less suspension noise, as well.
The theme continues in terms of cabin refinement, with the Q7 producing less wind and road noise. Don’t get the impression that the Volvo is uncomfortable and noisy though. It’s far from it, but it isn’t quite as refined as the Audi.
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