BMW X5 VS Audi SQ7
- Great new interior
- No price rise on 30d
- Loaded with tech
- Pricey seven seat option
- Warranty starting to look short
- No spare tyre
- Improved value
- Punchy diesel engine
- Cutting-edge interior
- Hefty weight
- Touchscreens are finger-print magnets
- Short warranty
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|
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 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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Price and features
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.
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.
Engine & trans
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.