What's the best big SUV on the market today? We put the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 head-to-head
- Ahead of the new Land Rover Discovery next year, which big SUV is best?
- We test potent range toppers crammed with spec and kit
- It's a close contest, but we have a winner. Find out which one of the two it is
With SUVs dominating the market, the battle at the top is fierce.
But with a new Land Rover Discovery looming next year, which of these two - the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 - takes top spot for now?
To keep the pressure on, we’ve chosen models with high specification to find out what Land Rover has to beat to gain SUV supremacy.
Waiting on the Discovery: The Audi Q7 (left) and Volvo XC90 (right) will face more compeition from the revised Land Rover next year
Is this over before it starts? The Q7, in the nicest possible way, just outdrags the XC90, the Audi storming off while at the same time doing so with remarkably little noise or mayhem.
But that’s not a surprise given it has an engine bigger by a litre. The Volvo does a good job of transporting its occupants along with enough power never to feel breathless. It’s a touch noisier when pushed but it’s hardly a racket.
Each engine is mated to an eight-speed auto box, with both shifting smoothly in tune with their respective engines.
If you want to go manual you have to use the gear lever to flick to and fro in the Volvo whereas the Audi gives you paddles. Most owners probably won’t touch them after the first couple of times of playing with the novelty.
As part of our spec-up, both vehicles came with adaptive air suspension, normally an optional extra. The Volvo’s is set up relatively firmly, so that high body is kept firmly tied down, with accurate steering adding to the feeling of control.
The Audi definitely leans more in the corners, with a softer suspension set-up that never really firms up convincingly, even in Dynamic mode. However, the upside is a great cruising performance, and an ability to better absorb bumps and potholes. It’s also the quieter and more refined of the two, although that’s not to say the Volvo is anything other than civilised.
The Audi Q7 (pictured) leans more in the corners thanks to a softer suspension setup
Who knew a big seven-seat 4X4 could be fun? The Volvo is certainly that - it's much more enjoyable in the bends than the equally as large Audi
And both of these offer extremely civilised interiors.
There really is a lot of room, and both really can seat seven people. Space is very similar although the XC90 shades it, particularly as you get towards the rear.
Both feel spacious and luxurious, and we did like the Volvo dashboard with its digital screen ahead of the driver (an option with Audi) and the 9-inch infotainment touchscreen in the middle.
We also liked the high-grade Nappa leather in the Volvo, which seemed to shade the leather and Alcantara which comes as standard in the Q7. The Volvo just feels and looks that big different, and in a good way.
The Audi's engine is a litre bigger than that in the Volvo - and you can tell, as it leaves it for dead in a straight line
Firm suspension and responsive steering help the XC90 feel more fleet footed than the size and weight suggests
No manufacturer makes interiors as good as Audi (left), but Volvo has given it a good go with the classy CX90 (right)
The Audi will prove the more expensive of the pair over three years, whether you’re buying privately, leasing or just begging. It also uses more fuel, with that bigger engine, so you pay more at the pumps and more in tax.
Trying to find a winner out of these two wasn’t easy. The Volvo XC90 is a great SUV. It might sound an odd thing to say, but the Volvo is a more enjoyable car to drive than the Audi. We live in such times.
But the Audi Q7 just shades it. Nobody builds a cabin to the standard Audi does, and that potent engine is a delight. In the S line trim we have here, it’s fully loaded with kit too.
Until the Land Rover Discovery arrives next year, Audi dealerships are the place to go for the best large 4X4.
AUDI Q7 VS VOLVO XC90
Specification tested: 3.0 TDI 272 quattro S line
Engine size: 3.0-litre diesel
List price: £54,540
Target Price: £49,765
Torque: 443lb ft
0-60mph: 6.2 sec
Top speed: 145mph
Fuel economy: 32.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 153g/km
Specification tested: D5 AWD Inscription
Engine size: 2.0-litre diesel
List price: £52,050
Target Price: £49,645
Torque: 347lb ft
Top speed: 137mph
Fuel economy: 36.5mpg
CO2 emissions :149g/km
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