Audi SQ7 VS BMW X4
- Exhaust sound actuator
- Couldn’t match claimed economy
- Warranty off the pace
- Bold, in-your-face styling
- M40i is a little beast
- Good ride
- Limited room in the back seat
- Boot practicality reduced by sloping rear window
- Steering feels a bit numb
Australians can’t get enough of big, burly, luxurious SUVs. Since the Audi SQ7 arrived here in late 2016, a laundry list of high-end, high-performance family trucksters have been refreshed, renewed, or revealed, pushing competition at the top end of the market towards boiling point.
So, after just 18 months in market, how does this brutally quick, seven-seat mothership stand up to a swag of compelling key competitors chasing upper-luxury performance SUV supremacy?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
Love it or hate it you can’t say the X4 hasn’t been a hit for BMW, just like the bigger X6. Now the completely new version is here – the sequel to the original, the second-generation X4. But is it better?
This one is bigger – but does that solve the practicality issues of the previous one? The outside is completely restyled, but has the ageing interior of the past been turfed? And now that this is not just a rebodied X3 like the previous car was – does it feel like it has its own identity? And then there’s the wilder M40i - could this be the X4's ultimate form?
I found out this week at the new X4's Australian launch.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Audi SQ7 is fast, beautifully built, and dynamically outstanding. It’s also practical, flexible, and loaded with useful driver assistance, media and safety tech. Can an SUV costing north of $150k be considered good value for money? Yep.
Is the Audi SQ7 your performance SUV of choice? Let us know in the comments.
This is the X4 I wish BMW started with in 2014 – it feels a far more complete SUV and looks confident in its identity, with a thoroughly modern and cool interior. The M40i feels almost like a completely different car to the xDrive20i in the way it drives. Which reminds me, the X4 M will be here soon – now that is going to be a little monster.
As far as value goes the sweet spot in the range is the xDrive30i – a good price, a great engine, plenty or equipment.
Is this car this or that? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the SQ7 is large. At a little under 5.1m long, just shy of 2.0m wide and over 1.7m high, it’s a beefy bus.
But Audi has applied its cool, calm and collected design language to this expansive canvas, resulting in a neat, relatively conservative look that masks the car’s oversize proportions.
A huge version of Audi’s signature ‘single frame’ grille dominates the nose, with confident, straight character lines defining the bonnet shape and the top of the car’s flanks.
Another clue to the SQ7’s size is the fact the optional 21-inch rims fitted to our test example, sitting under gently flared arches, look (proportionally) smaller than the 16s fitted to a Mazda CX-3 Neo.
The rear broadens slightly, while the turret and glasshouse taper distinctly towards the back, and the simple rear end treatment echoes the other 'numbers' in Audi’s SUV line-up (Q3, Q5, and the soon-to-arrive Q8) - although the recently released compact Q2 breaks the mould with a chunkier, more geometric approach.
The interior is all class, with a beautifully finished, swooping dashtop rising over a compact instrument binnacle that houses Audi’s all-digital ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display. The only other interruption is the standard 8.3-inch high-res colour media screen rising proudly from the centre of the dash.
Air vents live inside a long section of horizontal lines across the face of the dash, and ‘our’ car had optional brushed metal and chrome-finish highlights underneath and across the broad centre console.
Standard ambient lighting adds subtle illumination to the centre console and door sill trims, with no less than 30 colours available.
Attention to detail in the look, feel and finish of the ‘Velcona’ leather-trimmed seats is hard to fault, and overall, it’s clear quality was a key driver here.
The X4 is all about the design, well maybe not all but a large part of the appeal of this SUV is its styling, which can polarise opinion more than a dinner party conversation that turns to politics. These opinions don't matter anyway, because it seems the reason some people don’t like it is exactly why some do.
Like the X6, the X4 is an in-your-face SUV with fastback styling. The X4 does look like a ‘Mini Me’ version of the X6, but it’s actually the X3’s twin under the skin, sharing the same platform and engines. But unlike the first generation this new X4 was built in conjunction with the X3 and not just a rebodied afterthought version of the X3.
While this second-generation X4 shape may appear to look a lot like the original X4 from 2014, there have been some big changes.
Let’s start with dimensions, because this SUV is now slightly bigger. At 4752mm end-to-end the length (4733mm for the M40i) has grown by 81mm and it’s 37mm wider at 1918mm (1938mm for the M40i), but 3mm shorter in height at 1621mm tall.
Its profile is less humpy and more sleek, too. Edges have been smoothed especially around the tailgate which now looks more minimalistic, while the big taillights have been replaced by thin blade-like units.
The headlights have been redesigned and the kidney grille is now enormous – and possibly too large, with structural supports behind it being clearly visible. Have a look at the video above – when the SUV is driving towards the camera they are hard not to see, and once you notice, it’s hard to unsee.
You can tell the sporty top-of-the-range M40i by its grey grille treatment and side vents, plus a trapezoidal dual exhaust. The front bumper is more aggressive than the lower grades, but there’s not much in the way of a tough body kit – even the roof spoiler is low key.
The changes to the X4’s cabin are just as significant. See, there’s only so much cosmetic surgery a car company can do to slow the aging of a cabin before a new generation is needed to start fresh.
The previous X4’s cockpit was starting to date with its small-ish touch screen, analogue instrument dials and older styling, but the new X4’s cabin is impressive with a large dash-top display, a fully digital instrument cluster and modern styling. BMW owners will still find it familiar, with the layout of controls almost identical to every car in the BMW line-up.
Have the interior dimensions grown as well? Is there more legroom? And how does that roofline affect anybody with a head in the back seats? Skip forward to practicality or keep reading to find out what you get for your money.
No surprises here. There’s plenty of room inside, with heaps of breathing space for the driver and passenger, not to mention two big cupholders in the centre console, with a slot for the weighty key in-between them.
There’s also a decent glove box, a lidded storage box between the front seats, a couple of oddments trays (one covered) in the console and generous door bins with bottle holders in the doors. Connectivity is taken care of with USB and aux-in ports, as well as a 12-volt power socket.
Second-row passengers are also sorted, with ample leg and headroom. In fact, Audi claims more than a metre of space between the rear seat base and the headliner.
The centre seat is split 35/30/35, with each segment able to slide fore and aft to increase passenger and load space flexibility. Again, there are door bins with space for bottles, with other storage running to a flip-down centre armrest with twin cupholders (although they’re appreciably smaller than those in the front), and map pockets on the front seatbacks.
Standard four-zone climate control not only means there are air vents for centre row passengers (in the back of the centre console and the rear of the B-pillars), but individual temperature controls for each side of the car. Nice. Plus, there are two 12-volt power outlets back there, as well.
A simple fold-and-roll mechanism for the two outer centre-row seats minimises the acrobatic prowess required to gain access to the 50/50-split third row. As with most seven seaters, the way-back seat is tight for grown-ups but perfectly acceptable occasional accommodation for kids up to about year-nine size, with cupholders and oddments trays thrown in.
When it comes to load space, the SQ7 scores a big tick for its auto tailgate and the sheer volume of its cargo space. Even with the third-row seats upright there’s 235 litres of space available. Enough to hold the CarsGuide pram, with some room for soft bags left over.
Press the buttons on the wall of the load area and the back seats fold (electronically) to expand that number to 705 litres. More than enough to hold our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), and the pram.
With the second and third row lowered you will have a mega 1890 litres to play with; enough to open a small shop from which you might sell luggage and prams.
The addition of tie-down anchors, a small netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (complete with first-aid kit), yet another 12-volt socket, strategically placed shopping bag hooks and useful lighting push the practicality factor through the roof. The only snag is the lack of a spare wheel (of any description), a repair/inflator kit your only option in the event of a puncture.
I was afraid you were going to ask this. Even though the X4 shares so much of the X3’s engineering the body itself limits space inside – which is just the price you pay for the coupe roofline.
So, while the boot capacity may sound good at 535 litres (and that’s only 25 litres less than the X3) the sloped rear window and roof will limit you from carrying taller items. With the rear seats folded down you have 1430 litres at your disposal.
Legroom in the second row of the previous X4 was pretty good, but it’s been improved further now that the wheelbase of has been increased in this second generation. At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with 30mm to spare, thanks also to the cleverly designed front seatbacks, too.
Headroom is where it starts to get ‘iffy’. If you’re as tall as me, you’ll be ok, just, but that roofline drops towards the back so quickly that anybody taller is going to be uncomfortable, especially if there’s a sunroof, which lowers ceiling further.
Up front there are no space issues. BMW says it’s a driver-orientated car which I have a feeling is a diplomatic way of saying only the driver will have the plenty of space and comfort, that and all the dials and control are angled in the pilot’s direction. I was the front passenger for a couple of hours and can report that leg, head and shoulder room was fine for me during my time riding shotgun.
Cabin storage isn’t bad, but could be better. There are large bottle holders in all of the doors, and there are two cup holders up front, but there aren’t cupholders in the back and the bin under the front centre armrest isn’t huge.
Price and features
With cost-of-entry sitting at $155,511 (before on-road costs), the SQ7 lines up against five well established, performance-luxury SUV competitors at the ‘around $150k’ price point; namely the BMW X5 M50d ($144,990), a relative newcomer in the shape of the Maserati Levante Gransport ($159,990), the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe ($146,200), the recently renewed Porsche Cayenne S ($155,100), and the Range Rover Sport SD V8 HSE ($150,200).
So, it’s fair to expect a big basket of standard fruit, and the SQ7 doesn’t come up short.
Highlights include ‘Valcona’ leather upholstery (with S embossing on the front seat backrest), sport front seats (heated and electrically adjustable with electric lumbar support and memory for the driver), four-zone climate control air, ambient lighting, the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument display, rain-sensing wipers, a leather-covered sports steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and adaptive air suspension.
You’ll also pick up 20-inch alloy rims, Audi’s ‘Parking system plus’ (sensors front and rear with reversing camera), as well as a 360-degree camera (four wide-angle cameras covering the area immediately around the vehicle), a head-up display (in colour with speed, nav and assistance info), auto LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators.
And before you start scoffing at those ‘show-off’ scrolling indicators, it’s worth remembering their safety value. As you’ve possibly discovered, too, in misty or foggy conditions, knowing a car up ahead on the freeway is not only changing lanes, but which direction it’s heading in is a huge plus.
But we’re not done yet, the standard features column also includes ‘Audi connect’, including an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a Bose 3D Surround Sound System (19 speakers and a 15-channel 558 watt amp), DAB+ digital radio, and ‘MMI touch’ including nav through the 8.3-inch high-res touchscreen (3D maps, voice control and free text search including handwriting recognition).
Worth noting, though, our test example was loaded with an A3 Sportback’s worth of extras, namely ‘Matrix LED’ headlights - $2200, 21-inch Audi Sport alloys - $4000, the ‘Dynamic Package’ (quattro sport differential, all-wheel steering, electromechanical active-roll stabilisation) - $13,500, a Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced Sound System - $11,340, Inlays (alternate materials) - $3800, phone box light (wireless charging) - $500, red brake calipers - $950, and premium paint (‘Sepang Blue’) - $7950 (yee-ouch!).
All of that adds up to $44,200, bringing this example within a whisker of $200k.
How much does an X4 cost? It depends which one you get – there are four grades in the line-up. The range starts with the petrol xDrive20i with a list price of $76,900 and there’s its diesel twin, the xDrive20d for $79,900.
Both come standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, digital radio, six-speaker stereo, cloth-leather seats, auto parking, a head-up display, adaptive suspension, LED headlights, M leather steering wheel and 19-inch alloy wheels. If you want Apple CarPlay you’ll have to option it for $623. Like all BMW's, there's no Android Auto available.
The next grade up is the xDrive30i and it looks to be the best value in the range with a list price of $83,900. It adds full leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, proximity keys, adaptive LED headlights and 20-inch alloys.
At the top of the range is the M40i at $109,900, and it brings adaptive M suspension and an M Sport differential. There’s a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo, panoramic sunroof, wood trim, heated front seats, ambient lighting and 21-inch M alloy wheels.
The optional Innovations package adds wireless charging, proximity keys and the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster for $2200 on the 20i and 20d.
There’s also the $2800 Comfort package which brings heated seats with lumbar support, ambient lighting and wood trim.
As for colours only Alpine White is free – the rest you’ll pay for. Carbon Black, Glacier Silver, Sophisto Grey, Flamenco Red and Phytonic Blue cost $1950, while Sunstone Metallic is $2300.
How does the X4’s price compare to rivals? As a model comparison there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe which starts at about $70,000 and heads north to a bit more than $100,000; also check out Jaguar’s F Pace which lives in the same price range and Porsche’s Macan is more expensive at $80-147,000 but did you consider you can step into a Porsche for $10,000 more than the base X4?
Engine & trans
The SQ7 is powered by a 4.0-litre, double overhead cam, 90-degree, twin-turbo diesel V8 producing a maximum of 320kW (429hp) from 3750–5000rpm, and 900Nm across a broad plateau of just 1000rpm up to 3250rpm (perfectly placed for peak power to take over at 3750rpm).
Featuring common-rail, direct-injection and variable valve lift (on the exhaust side), the engine gets its added oomph from twin, sequential-charging turbos and an electric compressor (EPC) that acts like a supercharger to keep the turbos spooled up when they’re on low pressure, or completely off-boost.
It’s an amazing set-up that virtually eradicates turbo-lag, with Audi claiming the EPC can accelerate the turbos up to 70,000rpm in less than 250 milliseconds! The arrangement is powered by a 48-volt electrical sub-system delivering a peak output of up to 13kW.
The eight-speed torque converter auto transmission features a Tiptronic function for manual changes via the main selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Drive goes to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive with asymmetric torque split and self-locking centre diff. Default drive distribution is 40 front/60 rear, with up to 85 per cent able to go to the rear, and 70 per cent to the front axle as required.
There are four grades in the X4 line-up, a different engine for each and the most affordable is the least powerful.
The xDrive30i is also a 2.0-litre petrol four but makes 185kW and 350Nm, which should be enough for most people but if it isn’t then there’s the six-cylinder turbo petrol xDriveM40i which puts out 265kW and 500Nm.
While the X4 is all-wheel drive, dirt and gravel roads are as adventurous as you should probably get in this SUV. Ground clearance is 204mm which is better than most regular cars.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.2 litres per 100 km, emitting 190g/km of CO2 in the process. They would be outstanding figures for a hefty, high-performance, seven-seat SUV.
Even with the help of the SQ7’s standard stop-start system, over roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway driving we couldn’t match the claimed number, recording 11.3L/100km (at the bowser). And speaking of filling up, you’ll need 85 litres of diesel to brim the tank.
According to official combined figures, the four-cylinder diesel engine in the xDrive20d uses the least fuel of all X4s at 5.8L/100km. The most fuel-efficient petrol engine is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the xDrive20i and the xDrive30i, with both rated at 7.8L/100km. The six-cylinder petrol in the M40i is the thirstiest at 9.2L/100km.
With every one of its 900Nm available from just 1000rpm, the SQ7 feels like an erupting volcano from step-off. Audi claims 0-100km/h in 4.9sec, and there’s no doubt it’s properly quick. No 2.4-tonne SUV has a right to accelerate this fast, and the mid-range thrust is formidable, too.
And when it comes to transferring that forward thrust into lateral grip, the SQ7 pulls off a better than passing impression of a much smaller, lighter, lower vehicle.
The electrically-assisted steering delivers satisfying road feel, and the standard air suspension (working in parallel with a five-link independent set-up front and rear) manages to combine excellent ride comfort with impressive body control (thanks in no small part to electromechanical active roll stabilisation) and cornering accuracy.
In ‘enthusiastic’ cornering, grip from the (optional) 21-inch 285/40 Continental ContiSportContact rubber is tenacious, without any discernible penalty in terms of noise or harshness at lower speeds.
The eight-speed torque converter auto transmission features a Tiptronic function for manual changes via the main selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles. It’s quick and smooth in auto mode, and shifts rapidly in the manual setting.
The front sports seats are as comfortable as they are grippy (how good are heated seats on cold mornings, by the way?), and the big ventilated brakes slow this big car calmly and progressively.
While it may not bother you, one thing I’m not a fan of is the sound actuator in the exhaust system. The SQ7 sounds gruff and grunty, more like a petrol V8, but that’s because the system is modifying the noises. It’s like (spoilers) learning Santa Clause isn’t real. Once you know, things are never the same.
My main takeaway from the original X4 launch in 2014 was that the suspension seemed to be over sprung, which resulted in a jittery, pogo stick-like ride.
This has been fixed for the new X4. The ride is outstanding, even on the giant 21-inch wheels of the M40i.
Helping achieve this is the M40i’s M Sport adaptive suspension – you can either lock it in Comfort or Sport, but adaptive will adjust the dampers on the fly by ‘reading’ your driving style.
I only had the chance to drive the M40i and the xDrive20i – so the top and bottom of the range. The pick for me is surprise, surprise, the M40i. While it’s not a hardcore M car, it comes under BMW’s M Performance banner, or somewhere in between mild and wild.
Its straight six is a beautiful engine. The sound, the grunt, and the power delivery through the eight-speed auto is wonderful, with great acceleration. BMW claims it will do 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2.0-litre four cylinder in the xDrive20i isn't flawed, but to me it just doesn’t have the bark or power to match those fighting-dog looks. Or the handling. The M40i feels taut, planted and confident in the corners despite it being an SUV with a high centre of gravity. That M Sport differential is there to reduce under and oversteer, too. The xDrive20i handles well, but more body roll reminds you that you’re not in a Z4.
What didn’t I like, about the driving experience? Visibility out the slim rear window from my driving positition is terrible, but the auto parking system and reversing camera partially solves that problem. Also, the steering in the xDrive20i feels a little numb – it’s accurate and well weighted but I like more feedback. The M40i has the same issue, but to a lesser degree.
As you’d expect, the SQ7 pulls out all stops on active safety tech, featuring ABS, EBD, ESC, ASR, as well as ‘Audi pre-sense city’ with Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection (detects impending collisions at up to 85 km/h), and ‘Attention assist’ (alert tone and visual signal if the system senses the driver’s attention may be lapsing).
There’s also an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop & Go’ function, side assist (including pre-sense rear), rear cross-traffic alert, active lane assist, and ‘Exit warning’ (detects cars and cyclists when opening doors and provides a visual warning to occupants).
Plus, you can expect the Parking system plus system, 'Park assist' (self-parking for parallel or perpendicular spaces), the 360-degree camera, and a head-up display.
But if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact, passive safety features include airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags (seat-mounted for front and rear passengers), head level curtain airbags (for front and rear passengers) and an active bonnet to minimise injuries in the event of a pedestrian collision.
The current (second-gen) Q7 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2015. And amazingly, top tether and ISOFIX child restraint anchor points are provided for all five seating positions in the centre and rear rows.
The new-generation X4 is based on the X3 which was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017. Coming standard across the range is AEB, but in the xDrive20i and xDrive20d it’s a city version which only operates at lower speeds. Step up to the xDrive30i and you’ll get the full AEB which also operates at highway speeds and brings adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. All grades come with LED headlights, lane departure warning and auto parking.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts in the second row and three top tether anchor points.
All grades come with run-flat tyres rather than a spare.
I gave the X4 a better score here than the first-generation car I reviewed earlier in 2018 because of the increase in advanced safety technology. That said, the new X4 did not score an even higher mark because the AEB offered on the 20i and 20d is limited to city speeds. They also miss out on blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance. Also, considering the poor rearward visibility, all X4s should be equipped with reverse AEB and rear cross traffic alert.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited-km warranty (as well as roadside assist for the same period), which is starting to lag the market when even Ford and Holden are at five years/unlimited km now, without even thinking about Kia’s seven years and Tesla’s eight.
On the up-side, Audi also offers a three-year paint warranty, along with a 12-year rust perforation guarantee.
Maintenance is scheduled by the on-board service indicator (up to 12 months/15,000km), and a three-year/45,000km ‘Audi Service Plan’ fixed-price service plan is available for $1900.
The X4 is covered by BMW’s three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is in line with its German luxury competition but lags behind the five-year status quo among mainstream brands.
Servicing is condition-based but you can pre-purchase a variety of service packages to add a bit of certainty to the maintenance bills. Terms range from three years or 60,000km to 10 year or 200,000km, and are available in Basic or Plus levels, with the Plus adding brake pad and disc, clutch and wiper blade replacement.
As an example, the Basic pack costs $1495 for five years/80,0000km, while the Plus package costs $2680 for the same terms.
I'm giving the X4 a fairly low mark here based on the short warranty and the need to pre-purchase the service packages.