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These luxury seven-seat SUVs have been a long time coming. Now, which one is superior? Joshua Dowling adjudicates.
The previous Q7 started at $90,000. The new one is so dear because Audi is launching with its big 3.0-litre turbo diesel. More affordable models may follow but don’t hold your breath. The options list is significant: our test vehicle had $25,950 worth of extras including metallic paint ($2400), air suspension ($4950), premium audio ($2775), ambient cabin lighting ($1380), aluminium trim ($2170). The list goes on.
Luxury brands know how to charge. The previous XC90 could be had for $70,000 late in the model's life. Now it's $89,950 because, well, they can get away with it. For now. As with the Audi, options are expensive: metallic paint ($1750), Nappa leather ($2950), 21-inch alloys ($2825), panorama sunroof ($2950). Our test car totalled $113,150.
With its massive grille the Q7 is very much in your face but inside it's a simpler design. Despite the acres of space and the vast dashboard, the Q7 has a small centre console, and the gearshift gets in the way of the cabin controller. You can easily think you've put the Q7 into Park even though it may still be in Drive. Disturbingly, it doesn't lock into Park once the driver's door is open, meaning you could have a runaway Q7. We nearly did.
If you're in the market for an XC90 you know by now the T-shaped LEDs in the headlights are said to have been inspired by Thor's hammer (they weren't — Volvo came up with the idea afterwards). It still looks the business. The highlight is the iPad-style central display screen, which works with pinches and swipes. But don't leave the showroom before proper instructions. You don't want to learn on the move.
The 3.0-litre (200kW/600Nm) is epic and effortless. Don't believe the fuel rating label, though (5.9L/100km). As has been well documented recently, this is a lab test not a real world number. Drive smoothly, however, and you will use less than 10L/100km.
This 2.0-litre turbo diesel (165kW/470Nm) is a sweetie. It has much more punch than you might expect, although is not as powerful as the Audi's. With an eight-speed auto it gets off the line smoothly and slips into the most efficient gear. It'll suit most buyers' needs.
All the usual mod cons are covered and it has five- star safety. But some of its highlights are optional, such as radar cruise control with automatic lane keeping ($4075). Curtain airbags extend to the third rows.
A five star safety rating and a raft of standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking. Oddly, the brand that built its reputation on safety still charges extra for some safety items. The "driver support package" (360-degree camera, head-up display, radar cruise control with lane keeping, distance alert and rear collision warning) is $4000. And while the XC90 has seven airbags, including head protecting "curtains" that run the length of the cabin, it does not have seat-mounted airbags that protect the ribs of second row seat occupants (as in the Q7).
Superb on the road, it has effortless power and light and precise steering. The Q7 has lost 200kg so it feels more nimble than before. With a slightly lower and wider stance than the XC90, it feels more secure in corners.
The XC90 drives much better than the previous model. Driven in isolation, the new model is fine. But a lap around the block in the Audi will demonstrate the Volvo still has room for improvement. Could I live with the way the XC90 drives? Absolutely. Just one word of warning, though: avoid the optional air suspension on the Volvo at all costs. It drives better with the regular suspension.
Both step up in price and sophistication. The Q7 is the better drive but the XC90 will suit most tastes. If you baulk at the prices, wait 12 months for cheaper variants to arrive.