Audi SQ7 VS BMW X6
- Improved value
- Punchy diesel engine
- Cutting-edge interior
- Hefty weight
- Touchscreens are finger-print magnets
- Short warranty
- Bonkers performance
- High-end interior
- (Somewhat) affordable pricetag
- Questionable rear styling
- Limited rear-seat headroom
- Firm suspension
With car brands turning away from diesel engines in favour of more efficient petrol and hybrid powertrains, Audi has bucked the trend and stuck with an oil-burner for its latest SQ7 large SUV.
Outside, the SQ7 looks a little different thanks to a new front grille, but it's the changes on the inside that headline this update.
A dual-screen set-up is now found on the centre console, replacing the old version's button-heavy design, but is this enough to keep the Audi SQ7 competitive against its rivals?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
The BMW X6 has long been the ugly duckling of the Bavarian brand’s SUV family, often cited as the genesis of the swoopy, coupe crossover trend.
But look back at its 12-year history, and it's clear that the X6 has resonated with buyers around the world with more than 400,000 units produced.
Now in its third-generation form, the X6 has shed the awkward and even sometimes dorky image of its progenitor and evolved into a much more mature and confident model.
Crowing the new line-up, however, is the flagship M Competition grade that shoehorns a sporty V8 petrol engine to match the bulky and brawny exterior.
Is this a recipe for success, or should BMW go back to the drawing board?
|Engine Type||4.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Audi has thrown many ingredients into a blender to make the smoothie that is the SQ7, but while some of those elements might seem like they clash on paper, the brand has pulled off an absolute taste sensation.
The SQ7 is perfectly at home at slow speeds around town being a comfortable family hauler, and is also a credible performer in the bends.
The diesel engine also gives the SQ7 a unique point of difference, and serves up a nearly unmatched torque punch.
Add to that, the fact that Audi has thrown in more equipment for a slightly reduced asking price, and the SQ7 deserves its spot at the top of the large luxury SUV consideration list.
SUVs are so hot right now, and BMW’s X6 M Competition is the hottest high-riding coupe you can get until its German rivals bring in their high-powered equivalents.
In a lot of ways, the X6 M Competition is one of the most BMW-iest models available today; it's covered head to toe in luxurious features, its performance puts most sports cars to shame and it oozes a don’t-care-what-you-think swagger.
What more could you want from a modern BMW? Maybe high safety standards and a practical interior space? The X6 M Competition has those too.
Sure, you could go for the slightly cheaper and more conventionally styled X5 M Competition, but if you are spending more than $200,000 on a performance SUV, don’t you want to stand out from the crowd? And stand out the X6 M Competition certainly does.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
In fact, compare an SQ7 side-by-side with a Q7 and only the most keen-eyed punters will be able to spot the difference.
Look closely though, and you will see 22-inch wheels, S Line bodykit, different bumpers and red brake callipers, as well as quad-exhaust tips.
It's subtle – especially in our test car's Navarra Blue paintwork – and we dig that the SQ7 is statelier in appearance than shouty, despite its Audi Sport designation.
Differentiating the 2020 SQ7 from its predecessor is a new front grille, which now sports vertical slats instead of horizontal ones, and updated headlights.
However, it's the inside of the SQ7 that gets the biggest design updates to bring it into the new decade.
The centre console now houses two large touchscreen displays, one for the multi-media system and the other for the climate controls, replacing the old SQ7's numerous buttons.
While the screens look fantastic, they attract fingerprints like a magnet after a little use.
Audi has seen fit to include a screen-wiping cloth in the glovebox of the new SQ7, but grubby and greasy fingers will infuriate the neat freaks out there.
The dashboard has also been reworked to suit the new screens, with integrated ‘hidden' air vents, and gloss-black and matt-brushed aluminium detailing.
Sports seats also feature, finished in Valcona leather with diamond stitching, but tall front passengers should take note as the headrests are not adjustable.
The preceding SQ7 cabin might have cut the mustard at the time, but the interior of luxury cars has moved on in leaps and bounds since 2016, so it's great to see the new version scoring a significant upgrade.
The X6 has long been a love-it-or-hate-it model for BMW, and in it’s latest third-generation form, the styling is as polarising as ever.
Maybe it’s the fact that more coupe-like SUVs have hit the market since the original X6's debut, or that we’ve had time to get used to the idea, but the latest X6 looks … good?
OK, we’re as surprised as anyone, but, especially in this top-spec M Competition form, the athletic proportions, heavily sloped roofline and chunky bodywork don’t look all that awkward or unattractive.
What also helps set the X6 M Competition apart, is its sports body kit, fender vents, aerodynamically optimised side mirrors, arch-filling wheels and black highlights befitting the performance-honed flagship variant.
It certainly stands out from the usual SUV crowd and, with a volcano of an engine tucked underneath the sculpted bonnet, the X6 M Competition is not a case of all show and no go.
You could argue that the X6 M Competition’s exterior styling is a bit ostentatious and over the top, but what would you expect a large, luxury, performance SUV to look like?
Step inside the cabin and the interior balances the sporty and luxury elements almost perfectly.
The front sports seats are clad in soft Marino leather with hexagonal quilting, carbon-fibre detailing is peppered throughout the dashboard and centre console, and small touches, such as the red start button and M toggles, elevate the X6 M competition from its more standard siblings.
Measuring 5067mm long, 2212mm wide, 1743mm tall and with a 2996mm wheelbase, the SQ7 is a sizeable large SUV.
Its large dimensions translate well to interior space, with enough room to seat four adults and three children comfortably.
The front seats are the best in the house for room, but storage options are surprisingly limited.
Large door bins can house big bottles, and then some, but the central storage bin tucked under the armrest is disappointingly shallow.
The dual-screen set-up in the centre console also means the SQ7 loses the small storage tray found ahead of the shifter, but at least the generously-sized cupholders remain.
In the second-row, my six-foot frame fits comfortably in the outboard seats with plenty of head-, shoulder- and legroom, even with the front seats set in my preferred position.
The middle seat in the second row is harder to get comfortable on, partly due to its smaller size, but children should have no problem, even during long journeys.
Each seat is also individually adjustable, able to slide and fold independently.
The second-row doors have generous door pockets for bottle storage, while the fold-down armrest sports two cupholders.
As for the third row, however, it's a little trickier to get comfortable with the limited room, but the space isn't too bad for occasional use or small kids. It even has its own set of cupholders!
The SQ7's boot only accommodates 235 litres when all seats are in place, however, stow the third row and that figure swells to 705L.
With the 40:20:40 second row also folded, volume increases to 1890L.
Even with all seats in place though, the SQ7 offers enough for some groceries or a stroller, while the cut-outs in the side should even help with a golf bag.
Measuring 4941mm long, 2019mm wide, 1692mm tall and with a 2972mm wheelbase, the X6 M Competition offers plenty of interior space occupants.
There is front-seat space aplenty for passengers, despite sports seats that hug and support in all the right places, while the rear seats are also surprisingly functional.
Even with my six-foot-tall frame positioned behind the driver’s seat set for my height, I still comfortably fit and had enough leg- and shoulder-room.
The sloping roofline however, doesn’t help the headroom situation with my head just grazing the Alcantara headliner.
It’s a different story for the middle seat though, which will only fit children due to the raised floor and seating positioning.
All in all, I'm actually surprised at how usable the rear-seat room is in the X6 M Competition – it's definitely more practical than the stylish exterior would suggest.
Storage options abound throughout the cabin as well, with a huge storage bin found in each door that is easily able to accommodate large drink bottles.
The central storage bin is also deep and cavernous, but it can be a bit difficult to retrieve your phone from the wireless phone charger there as it's tucked away under the shutter.
The 580-litre boot can expand to 1539L with the rear seats folded.
While that figure doesn’t quite match the 650L/1870L figure of its X5 twin, it's still more than enough space to take care of the weekly shopping and family stroller.
Price and features
Priced at $161,500 before on-road costs, the new SQ7 is $400 cheaper than its predecessor.
While a $160,000-plus pricetag is certainly nothing to scoff at, this is about lineball with other large performance SUVs.
According to Audi, the SQ7 now has more than $15,000 worth of added equipment compared to before, including red-painted brake callipers, a panoramic sunroof, 22-inch wheels and rear-axle steering that were options before.
Standard equipment in the SQ7 includes adaptive air suspension, Matrix LED laser headlights, four-zone climate control, push-button start, wireless smartphone charger, heated front seats, powered tailgate with kick operation, soft-close doors, power-folding third-row seats and heated side mirrors.
Audi's excellent 12.3-inch virtual cockpit unit also carries over as before, and is as intuitive and great to use as it has been since debuting on the third-generation TT.
The headline change to the new SQ7, however, is the new multimedia and climate control system, which now matches the A6, A7 and A8 passenger cars with a screen that measures 10.1 inches up top and an 8.6-inch display down below.
Both screens feature haptic feedback, making it feel as if you are clicking a button, but thankfully volume controls are handled by a physical knob.
Despite the extra standard equipment, options are still available and include carbon-fibre interior highlights ($1950), black exterior detailing ($1450), and a Sensory Pack ($13,300) that bundles an up-rated sound system, Alcantara headliner, cooled front seats and more in-cabin leather.
The BMW X6 Competition wears a $213,900 before on-road costs pricetag, just $4000 more expensive than its more conventionally styled X5 twin.
While a $200,000-plus pricetag is certainly not chump change, things start to look a bit better when stacking up the X6 M Competition against other models that share the same engine and platform.
Also, consider that the X6 is an SUV, making it more appealing to those looking for a higher ride height and more practical storage options.
As standard, the X6 M Compettition is fitted with four-zone climate control, soft-close doors, automatic tailgate, electric front seat adjustment, heated front seats, Harman Kardon sound system, panoramic glass sunroof, adjustable exhaust, keyless entry and push-button start.
For the instrument panel, BMW has fitted its 12.3-inch screen, while the multimedia system is a 12.3-inch touchscreen unit with support for Apple CarPlay, gesture controls, digital radio and wireless smartphone charging.
However, it’s the attention to detail that we appreciate in a luxury SUV like this.
Take, for example, the spare tyre, which is stored under the floor of the boot. In any other car where this happens, you would just have to lift up the floor and then struggle to take the tyre out as you fight to prop up the floor. Not in the X6 – the floor panel has a gas strut to keep it from dropping when it's lifted. Clever!
The front cupholders are also fitted with heating and cooling functionality, both of which have two settings.
Befitting an M model, the X6 M Competition also scores an active differential, sports exhaust, adaptive suspension, uprated brakes to go with its potent engine.
Of note, there is no cooling option for the seats and the steering wheel misses out on a heating element.
However, the metallic paintwork and carbon-fibre interior flourishes as seen on our test car are no-cost options.
Engine & trans
The result is a zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 4.8 seconds – making the SQ7 the world's quickest seven-seat diesel-powered SUV, according to Audi.
Audi has also fitted a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to the SQ7's powertrain, which feeds an electric-powered compressor to spool up a turbo quicker for better off-the-line acceleration.
Power and torque figures remain unchanged from the preceding SQ7, but the large Audi SUV has the distinction of being one of the only performance diesels in the segment.
Though power is a little lacking compared to its petrol-powered competitions, the SQ7 has the highest torque output of any large SUV available in Australia, matched only by the electrified Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
The SQ7 has a 3500kg braked towing capacity.
Drive is sent to the road via a rear-biased xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which enables a zero-to-100km/h acceleration time of 3.8 seconds. The X6 tips the scales at 2295kg, so this level of acceleration almost defies the laws of physics.
The engine is shared with the X5 M Competition, M5 Competition and M8 Competition.
The X6 M Competition also outpowers its Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe rival by 30kW, though the Affalaterbach SUV produces 10Nm more torque.
However, it is important to note that the current Mercedes uses the older 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, and is due to be replaced with a new GLE 63 S model that switches to AMG’s ubiquitous 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 for 450kW/850Nm.
Audi’s RS Q8 is also incoming later this year, and packs a 441kW/800Nm punch thanks to a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8.
Official fuel consumption figures are pegged at 7.8 litres per 100km in the SQ7, but we managed 11.5L/100km in our brief time with the car.
Tipping the scales at 2460kg, the SQ7 is surprising frugal for a large performance seven-seat SUV, likely due to a combination of its diesel engine and mild-hybrid set-up.
Between speeds of 55 and 160km/h, the 48-volt system can coast the SQ7 for up to 40 seconds, switching off the engine and conserving fuel.
Audi claims the system can save up to 0.5L/100km on fuel.
Official fuel consumption figures in the X6 M Competition are pegged at 12.5 litres per 100km, however, we managed 14.6L/100km in a morning drive covering almost 200km.
No doubt the hefty weight and big petrol V8 engine contribute to the higher fuel bill, but the start/stop engine technology helps keep the figure down.
Performance large luxury seven-seat SUV might seem a bit contradictory, but Audi has managed to pull this feat off with astounding success.
The SQ7 drives fantastically well, both around town in its most comfortable settings and out in the twisties with the settings dialled all the way up.
This dual personality is largely thanks to its adaptive air suspension, which does a wonderful job at absorbing road imperfections in comfort, and giving the driver just the right amount of feedback in dynamic.
New to the 2020 SQ7 is also the standard inclusion of rear-wheel steering, which can turn the rear wheels up to five degrees at low speeds for improved manoeuvrability, and up to two degrees at high speed for better stability.
We've tested cars with rear-wheel steering before and weren't fans of its implementation due to the unnatural feel, but the SQ7 offers plenty of feedback from the steering wheel and chassis in the corners – or as much as a large SUV can communicate.
At low speeds the system comes in most handy, as the turning circle is cut to just 12.4 metres, making the SQ7 more agile in a parking lot than the much smaller Q3 crossover.
However, there is no getting around the SQ7's hefty 2460kg weight and higher ride height, which means it can be a little slow to change directions in quick corners, and will tend towards understeer when pushed.
Grip is plentiful thanks to the quattro all-wheel-drive system and thick 285/35 tyres all round, though buyers can also opt for a $10,900 Dynamic Package that throws in active roll stabilisation and a sports differential.
We sampled the Dynamic Package in the platform-sharing SQ8, and while the active roll stabilisation is fantastic at keeping occupants from being jerked around in the corners, we reckon it's not needed in the more family-friendly SQ7.
Bringing such a sizeable SUV to a stop are equally sizeable 400/350mm front/rear brake discs, with six-piston callipers up front.
The brakes work very well at scrubbing speed from this large 2.5-tonne SUV, but buyers can opt for ceramic brakes that add a substantial $19,000 to the pricetag.
With such a large footprint, you just don’t expect the X6 M Competition to drive as well as it does, but it’s great to have your expectations checked every now and again.
The seating position is spot-on thanks to heaps of adjustability in the driver’s chair and the steering wheel, while visibility (even out the small rear window) is excellent.
All the controls fall easily in hand, and if you just left the X6 to its own devices, the sporty elements almost fade away into the background.
Dive into the drive settings, however, and you will notice Sport and Sport Plus options for the engine and chassis, while the steering, brake and M xDrive settings can also be dialled up a notch.
There isn’t a ‘set-and-forget’ drive mode switch though, as each of the aforementioned elements can be adjusted individually to dial in the exact response you want from the car.
Even the transmission has its own independent setting, with shifts in manual or automatic mode able to be tweaked to three levels of intensity each, while the exhaust also has an option for loud or less loud.
We love the flexibility this affords, and opens up the possibility of having the engine on full attack mode while the suspension and transmission are on the comfort settings, but it does require some time sitting in the driver’s seat and tweaking this and that to get things right.
Once you work it out though, you can store these settings in M1 or M2 modes, which can be switched on with the push of a button on the steering wheel.
With everything switched to the sportiest options, the X6 M Competition is much more akin to a rapid hot hatch attacking corners and devouring the open road than its high-riding SUV body style would suggest.
Credit where it’s due, BMW’s M boffins know a thing or two about building a big barnstorming bruiser.
Fitted with gigantic 315/30 rear and 295/35 front Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, the X6 M Competition benefits from superglue-like levels of grip in most situations, but a stab of throttle can still overwhelm the rear axle mid-corner.
Pulling up is a non-issue in the two-tonne-plus SUV, thanks to M Compound Brakes with six-piston fronts grabbing 395mm discs, and single-piston rears biting 380mm discs.
When you're not putting the boot in, the X6 M Competition also doubles as a convincing luxury runabout, but even in the chassis’ most comfort-orientated setting, road imperfections and high-speed bumps transmit directly through to the occupants.
Audi's latest SQ7 has not been tested by ANCAP, but it was awarded a maximum five-star rating by Euro NCAP after a Q7 50 TDI was examined in 2019.
It scored 92 and 86 per cent respectively in the adult occupant and child occupant protection tests, while for the vulnerable road users and safety assist categories, it notched 71 and 72 per cent.
Standard safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, eight airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, surround-view monitor and exit-warning system to stop dooring cyclists.
According to Euro NCAP testing, the SQ7's AEB system works from 10km/h.
Of note though, the SQ7 lacks traffic-sign recognition, but does display speed-limit information based on GPS data.
The BMW X6 has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP and does not have a crash rating.
However, the mechanically related X5 large SUV scored a maximum five stars when tested in 2018, notching 89 and 87 per cent for the adult- and child-occupant protection tests respectively.
Safety equipment fitted to the X6 M Competition includes a surround-view monitor, tyre pressure and temperature monitor, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, reversion camera, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and built-in dash cam.
In terms of safety gear, there really isn’t much left on the table for the X6 M Competition to pack in, though it does lose a point for not having a crash-safety rating.
In its favour though is the fact its onboard technology works unobtrusively and the adaptive cruise control is one of the smoothest and easy-to-use systems I've experienced.
As with all new Audi's the SQ7 comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with three years of roadside assist.
Service intervals for the SQ7 are set at 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Audi also offers a three- or five-year service plan with the purchase of an SQ7, priced at $2870 and $3910 respectively.
Scheduled service intervals are pegged at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
BMW offers two five-year/80,000km service plans with the X6 M Competition, a basic option for $4134 and a Plus for $11,188, with the later including the replacement of brake pads, clutch and wiper blades.
Though pricey to maintain, it’s not unexpected for a vehicle at this price point.
What we like to see though, is BMW match Mercedes’ pledge for a five-year warranty across its range, including high-performance AMG models.