The family’s growing fast and you’re full-tilt into everything - weekend sport, socialising with friends, even occasional camping road trips or boating adventures with the rellies. Not to mention regular routines like the school taxi run, grocery shopping, or the work commute.
You need a vehicle with lots of space, lots of seats, and lots of flexibility. A high-riding SUV is the preference, and you’re ready to explore the premium end of the market.
Happily, there are numerous options available, and this head-to-head comparison brings together the biggest and best from traditional rivals Audi and BMW.
In COVID-constrained times this review is socially but not technically distanced. We’re well familiar with the cars from recent testing, so while they weren’t physically side-by-side this time around, we’re able to give you a comprehensive rundown of their relative strengths and weaknesses.
The aim is to help you make an informed call on which one might be the best fit for your family. So, let’s get cracking.
What is it about primo German cars and massive grilles? If this trend continues we’ll soon be looking at grilles on wheels with car bodies attached as a cosmetic afterthought.
BMW appears determined to stick to its design guns and the X7’s signature ‘kidney grille’ undoubtedly gives the car presence. As does the flagship SUV’s sheer scale, with narrow (adaptive LED) headlights and huge alloy wheels adding to its imposing look.
BMW appears determined to stick to its design guns and the X7’s signature ‘kidney grille’ undoubtedly gives the car presence (image: James Cleary).
The rear is precisely composed with subtle chrome accents, slim LED tail-lights and dual exhaust openings..
The interior is awash with top-shelf leather, brushed metal highlights, and top-quality finishes, with the dash dominated by twin digital screen displays. Broad, flowing surfaces combined with simple shapes, and the execution is pretty much flawless.
Both these family haulers are big, but the Q7 is slightly smaller than the X7 in every key dimension - length (-88mm), width (-30mm), height (-64mm), and wheelbase (-10mm).
The Audi’s proportions are closer to that of a traditional wagon.
While the BMW’s expression is reminiscent of a certain carrot-chomping bunny, Audi’s ‘single frame grille’ echoes the appearance of a wide-mouth shark. The Q7 also features a narrow, angular LED headlight design which enhances its slightly menacing gaze.
The big Audi’s proportions are closer to that of a traditional wagon with massive rims filling the wheel arches, and the roofline tapering gently to the chamfered rear end.
Lengthy tail-light units feature distinctive repeating LED graphics, while a horizontal connecting chrome trim piece across the back of the car, accentuates the Q7’s width and lower overall height.
Inside, the seats are wrapped in top-shelf ‘Valcona’ (aniline) leather, and there are no less than three ultra-cool screens in the sleek, sweeping dash and wide centre console - one for the configurable ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument display, and two for the multimedia system.
The Q7 holds the advantage on power (210kW vs 195kW), while the BMW has its nose in front on torque, or pulling power (620Nm vs 600Nm). But suffice it to say either one is strong enough to pull the Earth off its rotational axis.
Slip the Audi onto the scales and the needle will swing around to 2.2 tonnes, pushing on to 2.4 tonnes for the BMW. Which goes some way to explaining the Q7’s advantage in straight-line acceleration - 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds vs the BMW’s 7.0sec.
But let’s not split hairs. Either time is ludicrously fast for a full-size, three-row, luxury SUV.
Both SUVs are powered by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine (image: James Cleary).
Both SUVs are powered by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine.
With loads of performance and eight gear ratios to keep things bubbling along, the Q7 50 TDI quattro is effortless to drive. Open road overtaking is a breeze, and the standard adaptive air suspension seamlessly irons out pock-marked suburban tracks.
Likewise, the X7 xDrive30d delivers impressive mid-range thrust. The in-line engine is smooth, quiet, and throttle response is quick. The eight-speed auto is ultra-slick and like the Audi, standard adaptive suspension delivers cloud-like ride comfort. But neither is wallowy or unwieldy.
That said, the Audi holds an advantage in terms of road feel through the steering. Both cars point nicely but the Q7’s connection to the road is just that bit better.
Despite their size, all-around visibility is good in both cars, noise levels are agreeably low and seat comfort (particularly in the front and second rows) is superb, although the BMW’s extra-supple yet supportive chairs have a slight edge.
Sophisticated all-wheel drive (AWD) systems seamlessly distribute power to the wheels that can make best use of it, which is brilliant in damp conditions or on loose surfaces (cheeky weekend snow trip anybody?).
The AWD is also great for towing (nothing like all corners doing their bit at the boat ramp) and thankfully both cars boast huge brakes, well able to cope with additional loads hitched to the back.
At more than 5.0 metres long (Audi 5.06m / BMW 5.15m) and around 2.0m wide, parking, especially in the cut and thrust of the shopping centre, demands your full attention. But lots of proximity sensors and cameras (including an overhead view) as well as light low-speed steering, make the job relatively straight forward.
Space is something a big family needs plenty of, and these premium, seven-seat SUVs open up the great indoors.
The Audi Q7’s wheelbase is close to 2.0m long, which means there’s no shortage of interior space, with heaps of room in the front, and loads of head, leg, and shoulder room in the back. And as you’d expect, boot space is generous.
Drop the third row [via handy buttons near the back of the load space], and that grows to 740 litres.
The standard electric tailgate is a big plus, as is rear cross-traffic alert, especially in the unpredictable confines of a busy shopping or school precinct.
For a family of five the Q7 is comfortable and roomy.
Likewise in the X7, there’s tons of room up front, and the next row back is vast. At 183cm (6’0”), I enjoyed abundant leg, head and shoulder room.
But despite the X7’s ample girth, the centre position would be the short straw option for long journeys given the two outer spots are more carefully sculpted and bolstered.
Even those in the ‘way-back seats’ have got it made, with access to the third row appropriately civilised, thanks to the second row’s easy, if glacially slow, electric folding mechanism.
The X7's middle row is vast (image: James Cleary).
Once installed back there I had enough head, leg and toe room for even a moderately long journey. Kids will be swimming in the space available.
With all seven seats upright there’s 326 litres of luggage capacity available (close to 30 litres more than the Audi). Enough to hold the large and medium hard suitcases from our three-piece set, with lots of room to stack to the roofline above.
Even those in the ‘way-back seats’ have got it made, with access to the third row in the X7 appropriately civilised (image: James Cleary).
Fold that 50/50 split third row forward (electrically via buttons in the boot or the side rear door openings) and you’ve liberated 750 litres (just 10 litres more than the Q7), which means you can add the third (smallest) suitcase and the CarsGuide pram with hectares to spare.
The two-piece (horizontally-split) rear door opens and closes remotely, through the key fob or a ‘Comfort Access’ sweep of the foot under the rear bumper.
And standard air suspension on the Q7 and X7 allow for (stationary) ride height adjustment to help with loading heavy or awkward things.
With all seven seats upright there’s 326 litres of luggage capacity available in the X7 (image: James Cleary).
Even with all seven seats up capacity sits at 295 litres in the Q7 (image: James Cleary).
Towing capacity for a braked trailer is a hefty 3.4 tonnes for the BMW and 3.5 tonnes for the Audi (750kg unbraked for both). And all you’ll find under the BMW’s rear floor is a cargo cover blind because the tyres on all X7s are run-flats, while rather than a (bulky) spare the Audi provides an inflator/repair kit only.
Nothing like a family pressure test to highlight any practicality issues, and both the Q7 and X7 pay close attention to the day-to-day details.
Cups and bottles are kept in check in the Q7 thanks to a pair of cupholders in the front, another two in the rear centre armrest (when that position’s not being occupied), and yet another two next to the rearmost armrests for when the third row seats are in play.
There's plenty of space for cups and bottles in the Q7 (image: James Cleary).
Bottle holders are also incorporated in the front and rear door bins, and other storage options include a medium-size box/armrest between the front seats and a decent glove-box.
Up front there are two USB-A sockets, as well as a SIM card and SD slot, with another two USB jacks at the rear of the front centre console for backseaters. And as back-up there are 12-volt outlets in the front, second row, and boot.
In the BMW, storage includes a lidded bin between the front seats, twin cupholders in the centre console, a generous glove-box and door pockets including an opening for big bottles.
A fold-down centre armrest in the back houses a lined, flip-top storage box and two fold-out cupholders, plus there are map pockets on the front seat backs, and large door bins, again including space for large bottles.
In the BMW, storage includes a lidded bin between the front seats and twin cupholders in the centre console (image: James Cleary).
Dual adjustable vents and climate control switches are housed in the rear of the front centre console, there are vents in each C-pillar, plus there’s a small oddments tray, 12-volt power and a pair of USB sockets.
The Audi Q7 plays a strong safety game, the 50 TDI S line boasting a full suite of active tech, designed to keep you out of trouble, including (deep breath… ), adaptive cruise control (with ‘Stop&Go’ function, traffic jam assist and distance indicator), ‘Audi pre-sense front’ with AEB (up to 85 km/h for pedestrians, and 250 km/h for vehicles), active lane assist, ‘Audi pre-sense rear’ (tensioning front belts, closing windows and sunroof where the risk of a collision is detected), blind spot warning, a multiple camera 360-degree view (including kerb view), ‘Intersection crossing assist’, ‘Collision avoidance assist’, and rear cross-traffic alert.
There’s also ‘Attention assist’, and a tyre pressure loss indicator, although it’s worth noting there’s no spare on-board. A tyre repair/inflator kit is your only option.
If an impact is unavoidable, there are eight airbags on board (dual front and front-side, rear side, and head level, full-length curtain). All five of the second and third row seating positions feature ISOFIX anchors. There’s even a first aid kit and warning triangle.
And as you’d expect, the X7 showcases BMW’s latest active safety technology. As well as cost-of-entry features like ABS, EBD, BA and stability and traction controls, the standard suite includes high- and low-speed AEB, adaptive cruise control (with stop and go function), ‘Steering and Lane Control Assistant’, lane departure warning (with lane change assist), lane keeping assist (with side collision warning), front and rear cross traffic alert (with rear AEB), blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, an ‘Attentiveness Assistant’, and dynamic brake lights.
‘Parking Assistant Plus’ incorporates a reversing camera (that pans with steering wheel movement), ‘Active Park Distance Control’ rear, and ‘Reversing Assistant’, as well as ‘Surround View’, ‘Panorama View’ and ‘3D View’.
If all that fails to save the day you’re supported by eight airbags (driver and front passenger head and side, second row side, and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger). And in the event of a crash there’s an ‘Intelligent Emergency Call’ function to get emergency or rescue services on the case immediately.
As in the Audi, there are child restraint/baby capsule top tether points on each of the five rear seating positions, with ISOFIX anchors on the centre row’s two outer positions, and each of the third-row seats (compared to all five in the Audi).
The Q7 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2019, while neither ANCAP nor EuroNCAP has so far assessed the X7’s safety performance.
These two SUVs go at it toe-to-toe when it comes to tech, the Audi 50 TDI quattro S line packing a mega 19-speaker BOSE audio system as well as three ultra-sleek screens - 12-3-inch for the configurable ‘Virtual Cockpit’ dash display, and a 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch for the central MMI multimedia system. They look amazing,
The standard head-up display is welcome, as is the ‘Park Assist’ self-parking function, and the kids instantly fell in love with the adjustable ambient lighting (30 selectable colours, and six colour profiles).
These two SUVs both get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (image: James Cleary).
These two SUVs both get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The excellent reversing camera works in concert withy a 360-degree overhead view,
The ‘MMI’ navigation’s live traffic updates are handy, although the handwriting input and speech recognition functions are kinda clunky. On balance it’s best to stick with keyboard inputs.
The BMW X7 chips in with 10-speaker audio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, and gesture control), as well as twin 12.3-inch digital display and control screens (instruments and media), and a head-up display.
‘Park Assist Plus’ (parallel and perpendicular self-parking) is standard, as are a ‘Panoramic View Monitor’ (3D surround view), and a reversing camera (with rear parking distance control).
The Audi Q7 50 TDI S line will set you back $121,872, before on-road costs, with the BMW X7 xDrive30d weighing in at $133,900.
Claimed fuel economy for the Q7 on the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 6.8L/100km, the big Audi emitting 180g/km of CO2 in the process. The X7 xDrive30d sits at 7.3L/100km and 191g/km.
Over the course of a recent long-term test the Q7 returned an average of 8.4L/100km, which included a fair bit of highway running. During a regular test covering city and suburban kays, with some freeway driving thrown in we saw a real-world figure of 9.3L/100km for the BMW. Both impressive results for cars of this size.
Audi offers a five-year service plan at $3380, for an annual average of $676 (service intervals are 12 months/15,000km).
The BMW’s maintenance is ‘condition based’ with sensors and on-board algorithms (mileage, time since last service, fuel consumption, driving style) determining whether an annual vehicle inspection or oil service is required. So costs are variable and quoted at the time of service.
Talk about close? This is a photo finish. The biggest disparity in the final scoring relates to looks, which is a subjective call. To my eyes the Audi’s taut exterior and sleek interior nudge it ahead of the BMW’s bolder look. But obviously you’ll have an opinion on visual appeal, which might switch the result.
Other than that these two are line ball all the way. Both are supremely comfortable with ample performance, and great dynamics. They’re large enough to easily accommodate a big family with thoughtful storage and design touches throughout. Safety is leading-edge, tech is top-shelf, and they’re in the same price bracket.
If you need that little bit of extra oomph, more driving engagement, slicker tech, and marginally better fuel economy, with the sweetener of a slightly lower cost-of-entry, the Audi Q7’s looking good. But if you want even more space and the ultimate in user-friendly design, the X7 is likely the better option.
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