Audi SQ7 VS BMW X5
- Exhaust sound actuator
- Couldn’t match claimed economy
- Warranty off the pace
- Great new interior
- No price rise on 30d
- Loaded with tech
- Pricey seven seat option
- Warranty starting to look short
- No spare tyre
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|
It took decades to catch on, but Range Rover eventually inspired German carmakers to look outside big sedans to satisfy luxury car buyers. When BMW introduced its first SAV - Sports Activity Vehicle - the X5, the outrage was palpable. Nearly two decades later, the X5 is as indispensable to the BMW oeuvre as the 3 series.
The X5's sales statistics have been impressive, with 55,000 sold in Australia since 2001, and each generation outselling the previous one.
The fourth-generation X5 has arrived in Australia, with two diesels now and a petrol arriving early in 2019 before four-cylinder, plug-in hybrid and the head-butting X5 M arrive over the next year or two.
The G05 X5 is bigger, better-looking and loaded with new technology.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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.
The M50d is the more dynamic drive, but the 30d is an excellent all-round package, especially if you have the M Sport option pack onboard. The G05 X5 might be bigger but it hasn't lost its sense of driving fun. In fact, I'd say it's more fun than the F15 - it feels lighter on its feet.
What the G05 also has over the F15 is better value - BMW reckons there's an easy $11,000 of extra stuff in the 30d for no extra money and about $15,000 in the M50d for a price rise of about $5000. It feels a lot more luxurious, looks better inside and out and feels super techie.
It's not cheap and out of the two, I'd probably go for the 30d - it's not that much slower and you can spend a few bucks on the extensive options list.
Does the new X5 shape up against the fancy Porsche or the attractive Mercedes?
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 new X5, while bigger in most dimensions, hides its extra bulk well. The extra wheelbase length has improved its proportions slightly and BMW's new design language inside and out has delivered a fine-looking machine. The huge (sometimes chrome) grille is at first a bit hard to take but with time the car grows around it.
The new exterior design features a strong front end, classic X5 profile with a stronger, wavier character line along the flanks. The rear features a new-look set of LED tail-lights and satin finish rather than chrome exhaust tips.
You can tell the 30d from the M50d by the wheel arch extensions (among other things). The M50d's M Sport body kit features a different rear diffuser, side skirts and deeper front spoiler.
Inside is a new cabin that's high on quality with a choice of leather, wood and aluminium trim, including a very nice leather dashboard option. The base leather trim is known as Valcona and you can specify Merino, which is arguably better than the Nappa leather of some rivals. The cars I drove had a very premium feel, the materials a serious cut above the older F15 X5.
One interesting addition is the "Crafted Clarity" glass that comes in the Indulgence package. Obviously going for a very exclusive feel, the start stop button, shifter, volume control and rotary controller have a funky glass application. It could have looked awful but somehow it looks lifted from a Rolls-Royce and works really well.
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.
The X5 is a big car and delivers plenty of interior space. Interior images show an expansive cabin, with room for five in comfort. Front and rear passengers score two cupholders in each row, with plenty of storage bins and pockets throughout, including bottle holders and pockets in the doors. The rear armrest's clever folding cupholders liberate space for a phone-stowing tray.
Front passengers have plenty of room in all directions. Rear legroom is improved with the car's longer wheelbase - rear passengers are very well looked after.
The interior dimensions mean larger loads fit easily and if you have the air suspension you can drop the car to the weeds to make loading easier. An electrically retractable cargo cover will reduce the boot space dimensions but hide all your goodies and a set of rubber rails rise 3mm when the car is in motion to secure the load.
Luggage capacity is unchanged with the seats up at 650 litres, almost tripling to 1870L with the seats down.
The third row seat option must be combined with the air suspension, meaning you'll be paying around $7000 for the privilege of occasionally carrying people safely in the boot.
Gross vehicle weight ranges from 3010kg for the 40i to 3160kg for M50d. Turning circle is 12.6 metres and wading depth is 500mm.
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.
The price list is in RRP and reflects either no change (30d) or a small percentage increase (M50d). A BMW dealer might offer you a drive away price, but how much that will cost you will depend on your taste for options. Our range guide takes in the first three variants of the G05 X5 - the 30d, 40i and M50d. Unlike its British rivals, there is no launch edition.
The 30d ($112,900 plus on-road costs) and 40i ($115,900 plus on-roads) models comparison reveals they're basically the same apart from the motor. If gadgets are your thing, the X5 certainly delivers, even in its unadorned entry-level spec.
Standard features include 20-inch alloys, two-piece power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry via BMW's digital "smart key" (part of the standard comfort access system), push button start (or keyless go), LED headlights, daytime running lights, floor mats (I know!), a basic first aid kit, active cruise control, "2.5-zone" climate control air conditioning, GPS navigation system, front view camera, side view camera, limited self parking, basic tool kit, roof rails, and a front and rear parking sensor setup.
Moving up to the M50d at $149,900 plus on-road costs ($5000 more than before) adds an active M differential, laser headlights, dynamic handling package including adaptive suspension with active anti-roll system, rear-wheel steering, M Sport exhaust and brakes (blue rather than red brake calipers), 22-inch alloy wheels, aero package, M steering wheel, four-zone climate control, heated front seats, soft close doors, and heated and cooled front cupholders.
The new park assist function is particularly clever - if you have driven forward into a tight parking space or difficult garage, the system can remember the last 50 metres and back you out automatically, twiddling the electric power steering while you run the brake and accelerator.
BMW's Operating System 7.0 (the name iDrive appears to be fading) looks after the multimedia and sat nav system. The big 12.3-inch touch screen is mightily impressive. You can control it from the rotary dial controller, use air gestures or by swiping or tapping the screen. The sound system has anything from 10 to 20 speakers with an intermediate 16 speaker setup. There's a subwoofer - actually, there are two - lurking in the back. The system includes Bluetooth and DAB radio with USB connectivity. iPhone owners will be pleased to learn CarPlay is standard, while the rest of the smartphone world will be frustrated - Android Auto isn't available at all.
Colours include Alpine White, Carbon Black Metallic, Black, Mineral White, Phytonic Blue, Arctic Grey and Sunstone Metallic (gold). Curiously absent are silver, red and green and even the brown of past models seems unavailable.
On top of the basic specs, there are additional trim levels - M Sport, Indulgence, xOffroad and Performance Package.
The $4000 M Sport edition for the 30d and 40i includes M Sport brakes, adaptive M suspension, aero package and interior trim changes including an M Sport steering wheel.
The $9500 Indulgence Package adds ventilated front seats, crystal glass on some of the switchgear, heated seats front and rear, front seat massage function, merino leather and on the 30d soft-close doors and heated and cooled cup holder for each front passenger.
The $5000 Performance Package (30d and 40i only) puts you on 22-inch rims, adds an M Sport exhaust and includes metallic paint.
Finally, the $7500 xOffroad package - the first of its kind on an X5 - adds additional off road capability (sand, rocks, gravel etc.), rear diff with diff lock, extra gauges in the infotainment screen, adjustable ride height air suspension and the clever display key. That front and rear air suspension negates the need for a lift kit. Aluminium side steps are optional.
BMW also offers a range of 20 inch alloy wheels, as well as 19 inch and 22 inch rims. The 22s, it must be noted, are not run-flats so you cop a space-saver spare. The xOffroad pack does not come with off road tyres but you can purchase the right ones through BMW. Only 22-inch equipped X5's feature a spare tyre as the tyres are run flats on all other sizes.
The accessories and options list is extensive: Apple CarPlay for iPhone integration, a heated steering wheel, a roof rack setup, darker tinted windows, laser headlights and various other technological and comfort enhancements are available.
Missing from these lists are a seat belt extender, light bar, car phone, xenon, HID or projector lights (you get LED lighting as standard, range-wide!), an auxiliary heater, nudge bar, snorkel, bull bar, winch, self driving, autopilot, CD player, homelink, quad exhaust, television, digital TV tuner, DVD player, cargo barrier, boot liner, carbon fiber trim, MP3 player, a rear seat entertainment system or wifi hotspot.
Where is the BMW X5 built? Spartanburg, North Carolina.
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.
At launch, you can have any engine size you like as long as you like 3.0-litre straight-sixes. Of course, each has its own specifications to arrive at very different horsepower and torque figures.
The 30d's engine specs are a 3.0-litre turbo diesel developing 194kW of power and 620Nm of torque.
Moving on to the 40i, this is a 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol knocking out 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Petrol vs diesel, the latter wins on torque, hands down.
Want even more? The M50d's 3.0-litre diesel has four turbos strapped to it - that's two times two - for a huge 294kW of power and 760Nm of torque.
They're all 4x4 at this stage, fitted with ZF's always-brilliant eight-speed automatic transmission. It is pretty much the best gearbox on the planet and super-reliable. At this stage, all wheel drive is all you get. A rear wheel drive sDrive X5 is likely later down the track in combination with a smaller four-cylinder engine - 4x2 buyers don't tend to want the extra power of the bigger engines.
The oil burners are fitted with a diesel particulate filter to help reduce emissions and the 30d's twin-scroll turbocharger helps improve low-down response. Advanced technology from injector to exhaust ensure diesel engine problems such as black smoke have long since been banished from modern BMW diesels.
The 0-100km acceleration times are impressive - 6.2 seconds for the 30d, 5.5sec for the 40i and 5.2sec for the M50d. The rolling acceleration performance figures of the M50d are epic.
Towing capacity is uniform across the range - you can drag 750kg of unbraked trailer and 2700kg of braked load. Maximum down load on the tow bar is 140kg.
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.
The X5's fuel mileage figures are based on the new WLTP standards which better reflect real-world use.
The 30d's diesel fuel economy is the best of the three initially on offer at 7.2L/100km. If you want your fuel consumption km/L, that's around 14km per 1000mL.
The petrol consumption figure on the 40i is the highest figure of the three at 9.2L/100km (or 10.9km/L).
Moving on to the M50d, for all that extra power and torque, the increase over the 30d is just 0.3L/100km to 7.5L/100km (13.3 km/L).
Fuel tank capacity differs slightly between the models - the diesels carry 80 litres while the petrol 40i can carry 83 litres.
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.
On the launch we had the 30d and M50d available, the former with various option packs.
I started with the M50d. Big fast SUVs are pretty common these days but little prepares you for the quad-turbo thrust from the 3.0-litre straight six. The 294kW/760Nm combination means you cover ground very quickly indeed, especially in the gears. Overtaking the famously large log trucks on the roads of northern Tasmania was easy, the torque slinging me down the road with little effort or fuss.
While the road noise from the tyres is noticeable, you can shut it out with the stereo and wind noise is only apparent above the legal limit. Which I never breached, obviously.
The adaptive drive system, which you can switch for economy, comfort or sport depending on your mood, genuinely affects the M50d's demeanour. With sharper everything, the M diff and rear wheel steering, you can have a lot of fun in the corners. We didn't have variable or active steering on the car and it was just fine without it. The active roll stabilisation is very impressive.
The 30d is a very good unit too. It's really not much slower than the M50d in a straight line but is far more relaxed, of course.
The one with the air suspension was supremely comfortable and quiet, raising and lowering itself depending on speed and conditions. The 30d was very accomplished on the loose gravel surface BMW bravely sent us over once I'd pressed the adaptive switch. The standard underbody protection is clearly very good - barely a ping from the gravel.
On both cars, the steering was a standout - the X4 M40i I came home to had a less than deft setup, with the weight in sport plus set too high. Neither 30d or M50d felt too heavy.
As an xOffroad package wasn't available, we haven't done an off road review. I can, however, guarantee you won't have to get out and operate hub switches.
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 X5's significant safety features an airbag count of seven, AEB (auto emergency braking), lane departure warning, lane change warning, blind spot assist, electronic brake force distribution, reverse camera, DSC (sometimes called ESP), reverse cross traffic alert, speed limit assist and information, hill descent control, and a warning triangle (it is a BMW).
If you need to fit a baby car seat, there are two ISOFIX points and three child seat anchor points in the second row.
The X5 range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in late 2018.
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.
BMW's warranty remains - resolutely - at three years/100,000km. BMW is adamant that most customers aren't that bothered. Roadside assist is part of the bargain, from a flat battery to a crash. Rust and paint coverage is also included, although I can't say I've heard any complaints or common faults when it comes to recent X5 bodywork.
Like all BMWs, servicing is condition-based, but you can pre-pay your service cost for five years on the basic package for $1995. Service intervals are then set at 12 month/24,000km maximums. You can also increase your maintenance cost coverage with further levels of cover.
BMW now offers a Genius service at its dealerships, showing you through the features if you have any problems or issues working them out. Even the central locking is a bit complex for some - you can configure different settings in the iDrive system.
Reliability issues are seemingly rare on the X5, but you can purchase an extended warranty if any defects or complaints arise after the initial warranty period expires. As the car is brand new, things like automatic transmission problems, transmission failure or other dramas are yet to rear their ugly heads.
The owners manual will no doubt explain things like oil type and capacity. Resale value for the X5 appears strong over the years although the extra value in these new ones might mean some second hand bargains.