Volvo XC90 VS Audi Q7
- Stylish inside and out
- Powerful four-cylinder engine
- Spacious cabin
- Cabin storage could be better
- Quiet exhaust note doesn't match brutish looks
- Touchscreen takes getting used to
- Sleek design.
- Great cabin.
- Still strong engine.
- Not much cheaper than the 200kW.
- Some options are ludicrously priced.
- No CarPlay or Android.
Does the Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 have what it takes to match other large seven-seat prestige SUVs... or is it even better?
This Volvo XC90 is where it all began for Volvo way back in 2014. Okay, let me rephrase that, it wasn't the beginning of Volvo – that was in 1927. This second-generation XC90 was a kind of new beginning for Volvo because it brought with it the styling and technology rules for the brand's future models. But how does it hold up now?
See, when the new XC90 arrived in Australia in 2015 it wowed us with its large portrait display, advanced safety equipment and 'Hammer of Thor' headlights. Since then, safety and tech has come along way - has the XC90 been left behind?
And while on the topic of reality checks: what's this large seven-seat SUV like to live with – how did it cope with our nightmare car park test?
We tested the XC90 R-Design T6. What the heck does that mean? Well the T6 refers to the engine – it's a four-cylinder petrol – and R-Design is the highest trim level.
A four cylinder… in a giant SUV? Yep, we'll get to that.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Audi’s big banger Q7 relaunched late last year with a slimmer-hipped, lower slung replacement for the old bruiser.
There are a few bits missing that are standard on the more highly powered version, so with a relatively narrow price difference, is it a good fit for options-box tickers?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
The XC90 may have been the first of Volvo's new breed of cars, but it remains exceptional in its styling, refinement, technology and safety. The R-Design trim level makes it the burger with almost the lot in that it still gives you room to option more and doesn't assume you want, say a sunroof, when you might not.
The T6 engine is excellent – powerful, with plenty of torque. All that's missing is a beefy soundtrack to go with this brute of an SUV. A cool alternative to a large SUV from BMW, Benz and Audi.
Would the XC90 R-Design T6 be on your prestige SUV shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The 200kW Q7 is a brilliant car and the 160kW is little different. It’s hard to make the economic case for spending less, though, as options will quickly land you in 200kW price territory unless, of course, you’ve stretched yourself for the $96,300 in the first place.
If you have stretched, you’re getting an even better overall car than the excellent BMW X5. The fundamentals of the Q7 are such that you could almost whack the 2.0 TFSI from the A3 in it and it would still be just fine.
Does the Audi Q7's new styling sway you or is the options list too pricey? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Can you believe the current Volvo XC90 came into the world in 2014 and still looks this good? Signature elements are the giant grille with its oversized badge, the 'Hammer of Thor' headlights, the unmistakable Volvo tail-lights and the tall profile with enormous windows. Yup, the XC90 is still a futuristic, stylish and elegant-looking brute.
The R-Design trim level enhances the look by adding a gloss-black grille, body-coloured side skirts and bumpers, silver wing mirror caps, aluminium roof rails, a roof-top spoiler, fog lights in the front spoiler, dual tail pipes and the 20-inch alloys you can see in the images.
The modern, minimalist design cabin has also aged well – although the portrait-orientated screen now feels a bit small. I remember writing about how outrageously large it was when it was launched – and then I sat in a Tesla with its mega touchscreen, taking displays to a whole new level.
The R-Design spec makes its presence known in the cabin, too, with the R-Design steering wheel, R-Design Sport pedals and R-Design carpet; it also adds carbon-fibre door inlays and a leather illuminated gearshift knob.
The R-Design trim level also gives buyers two seat trim choices – Nappa leather/Nubuck or Nappa perforated leather. Both are no-cost options and our test car featured the perforated hide.
How big is the XC90? Let's take a look at this seven-seater SUV's dimensions. The XC90 is just less than 5.0m long, more than 2.0m wide (with mirrors) and nearly 1.8m tall.
The new Q7 is, thankfully, a lot less imposing than the first generation. That car really did loom and as time went by it became ever more covered in bling. The restraint of the new car is admirable (and good business sense – there’s bound to be a bigger Q8 before long) and looks more like a jacked-up wagon than a full-on SUV.
As is Audi’s wont, there’s lots of aluminium, particularly in the MQB Evo chassis itself (shared with some pretty posh things like the Bentley Bentayga) as well as doors and bonnet.
Despite being smaller, there are still seven seats in the Q7, with a reasonably accessible pair of rear pews providing you’re at least four years old and in possession of two working legs. That third row gets its own air-conditioning vents, cupholders (there are six in total) and somewhere to store your ration of Smarties.
The middle row of seats can be slid fore and aft through about 15cm to liberate or rob the third row of space. The middle rear seat passenger does have to contend with a fairly solid transmission tunnel, however.
Storage is well scattered around the cabin, with four bottle holders, a shallow bin under the centre armrest and a few cubby holes here and there to supplement the good-sized glove box. Audi says the minimum boot volume is 770L with the third row of seats down and 1955 with both rows folded away. With the third row up, an educated guess says somewhere in the region of 300L is still available. There's also ISOFIX child seat mounts for all five rear seats.
The driver gets a clean, clear dashboard with two big dials flanking the central info screen and, as usual, everything is spot-on ergonomically. The dash is considerably less visually weighty than the old car, with full width air-con vents, the middle section blowing diffuse air so you’re not in a windtunnel from a 1980s music video clip.
It's a giant box on wheels, how could be it be impractical? Actually, there are ways it could be more practical, but first the good points.
There's plenty of room. This is one of the few seven-seat SUVs where even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare, and then behind that position in the third row with just enough room for my legs. Headroom in the second row is excellent, but the third row is getting tight although my head still isn't touching the roof.
The doors to the second row are large providing a tall and wide opening for easy entry and exit. The third row is a bit tricky to get into, but I haven't met a single seven-seat SUV where entry into the third-row is a breeze.
Even though the XC90 does well to slide and fold its second row (40/20/40 split) forward, I still ended up crawling in on my hands and knees. Older kids will be able to leap in, so put them back there.
The boot is enormous and with the optional air suspension the XC90 can lower itself like an elephant getting down on its knees to make it easier for you to load stuff into the back. Yup, with all seats up you have 314 litres of boot space; with the third row folded flat you'll have a cargo capacity of 1019 litres, and with all of the seats folded (no not the front ones), there's 1868 litres. Those are measured in ISO litres which are different to the VDA litres used by many other car makers.
Storage throughout the cabin is good but could be better. There are two cupholders in the third row, two in the second and another two up front, and while the storage boxes in the armrests in the third row are an excellent idea, the second row just has small door pockets and seat-back cargo nets. It would be good to see drawers under the seats or even a fold out tray from the centre console.
Storage in the front isn't great either – that long sliding panel next to the shifter (you can see it in the images) houses the cupholders, the glove box is also on the smaller side and so is the storage area under that armrest – but it does contain two USB ports. There's one 12-volt power outlet in the second row, another in the boot and a cigarette lighter (or another 12-volt) in the front.
There's four zone climate control – and directional air vents in all three rows.
Price and features
The Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 lists for $104,900, plus on-road costs. The trim level below, with the T6 engine, is the Inscription which lists for $102,900, and the entry-model is the Momentum for $96,900.
So, while nearly $105K might seem like a lot (especially once you add the on-road costs) you can feel comfortable knowing it's actually mighty fine value for money considering the amount of equipment you're given in return.
Coming standard is the 9.0-inch portrait touchscreen and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display and sat nav, there's a 10-speaker 330W stereo, Bluetooth and internet connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android auto, digital radio, 360-degree parking camera, gear shifting paddles, power and heated front seats, four-zone climate control, a pop-out booster child seat in the second row, bending LED headlights, fog lights and a proximity key.
That's along with all the R-Design gear which we covered in the section above and the extensive safety equipment list which we'll cover below.
Our test car was fitted with the $8000 'Premium Package' which brings sunblinds for the rear doors, a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, air suspension, plus tailored dashboard and door trims. The 'Bursting Blue' metallic paint our car wore is a $1900 option.
Worried you're paying too much? Fear not, because relative to most other prestige seven-seat SUVs the XC90 R-Design T6 is at the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum.
Audi's Q7 3.0TDI Quattro lists for $106,900, Mercedes-Benz's GLS 350d is $118,729, while the Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE manages to undercut it at $103,000.
It's interesting to note that while the XC90 T6 has a petrol engine, those rivals are diesels. Audi doesn't make a petrol Q7, Land Rover does make petrol Discoveries but only sell diesel ones in Australia, and as for a Benz GLS petrol there's only one - the GLS 500 and that lists for $165,129, which is $60K higher than our Volvo XC90.
With a price just a few thousand down on the original 200kW version, it almost seems like Audi doesn’t really want you to buy the base model. The price difference is “only” $7600. Remember that bit.
Despite the lower sticker, there is a generous equipment list, particularly on the safety front. Standard are a 10-speaker stereo with DAB+, Bluetooth and dual USB ports, 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, blind spot sensor, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors and park assist, cruise control, electric front seats with driver’s seat memory, satnav, bi-xenon headlights with level adjustment, auto headlights and wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), electric tailgate and tyre-pressure monitoring.
Our car had the optional Audi Connect wifi hotspot feature ($750), metallic paint (at a hefty $2400), Assistance Package - which adds adaptive cruise, active lane assist, pre-sense front, traffic jam assist, collision assist and turn assist ($4075), LED headlights ($2800!), Parking Assistance Package, which adds auto-parking and 360-degree cameras ($1300), full body paint finish ($1300) and interior inlays of high gloss black and oak (an even more mystifying $1690). This brought the total to an eye-watering $110,615.
That’s only $5000 less than a similarly optioned 200kW, which has a few more standard additions, more power obviously, bigger wheels and the full digital “virtual dashboard” from the lovely TT. Of course, neither Q7 is particularly cheap. If you’re willing to lose all-wheel drive, you can have a BMW X5 starting at $86,200 for the rear-wheel drive 170kW 2.0 diesel (but only with five seats).
Audi’s MMI system controls the operation of the retractable 8.3-inch screen that rises majestically from the centre of the dash. MMI looks after the entertainment, satnav and various settings of the car and does a fine job of it, supplemented by a generous touchpad for you to write out your destination with your finger, or choose your radio station.
You can also speak in reasonably normal terms to the nav via voice activation and it will take you to the nearest public toilet, or a petrol station or a nearby Italian restaurant.
Engine & trans
You may have noticed in the images that our test car wears a tiny blue square on its tailgate. This is the badge of Volvo's Polestar performance tuning division. All R-Design XC90s come with the 'Polestar Optimisation' package which increases the T6's power output from 235kW to 246kW and its torque from 400Nm to 440Nm.
The Polestar Optimisation package also recalibrates the XC90's throttle response and increases the shifting speed of the eight-speed automatic.
Acceleration from 0-100km/h according to Volvo is 6.4 seconds which is a tenth of a second quicker than an 'un-Polestar-optimised' T6 - say in the Inscription T6 or Momentum T6.
The XC90 R-Design T6 is all-wheel drive and for the five of you out there who will ask, including my father in-law – it's a Haldex 'Generation 5' system.
My bet is the same people will also want to know its braked towing capacity: 2400kg.
The 160kW is the same basic unit as the 200kW, just with the lower power figure and 500Nm of torque (down from 600Nm) to push its 2135kg frame to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds.
Fuel economy, courtesy of the ZF eight speed automatic and stop-start, is a claimed 5.8L/100km and, it must be said, a fairly unlikely figure to achieve. We saw 9.2L/100km on the dash display, which is still pretty impressive for such a large vehicle.
The Q7 is also rated to tow 3500kg with trailer brakes.
Volvo says the T6 four-cylinder turbo- and supercharged petrol engine with its eight-speed auto should use 8.5L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads – this goes for the Polestar Optimised T6, too.
We measured our test car's fuel economy at the petrol pump and calculated that after 246km of mainly suburban and city running we were using 14.3L/100km. The trip computer reported a slightly higher figure of 14.5L/100km.
At 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and nearly 1.8m tall the XC90 R-Design T6 is big, but in comparison to other large SUVs it's one of the easiest to drive.
The images in this review were taken at the top of an eight-storey carpark: it's a good place to take photos of my review cars and at the same time test pilot them through probably the worst-designed car park you'll encounter.
Narrow ramps and tight turns are not really ideal conditions for a large SUV but the great visibility through the XC90's big windows, the excellent field of vision offered by the wing mirrors, the light steering and smooth throttle response made climbing to the summit pretty simple.
The flat, broad bonnet helps with being able to see exactly how much room you have between the concrete pylon and an insurance claim, too. Other large SUVs with curvaceous lines and noses that dip away from sight will have you sitting up like a meerkat trying to see how much room you have.
A four-cylinder petrol engine may seem small for such a large SUV but the T6 is outstanding – it's efficient and impressively powerful. Not once did I feel like it was lacking in grunt, but there were many times I wished the exhaust note sounded beefier.
Our car had the optional air suspension which for the most part turned out a composed and comfortable ride, although being fitted with fairly low profile tyres on large wheels (Continental ContiSport Contact5 275/45 R20) meant when the road surface turned bad the ride suffered.
And these aren't even the largest wheels. The R-Design T6 comes with no-cost option 22-inch wheels – they look good, but you'd be wise to try them before you buy.
The touchscreen will take some getting used to – I kept discovering more hidden 'pages' and functions the more I swiped around it.
A serenely quiet cabin, comfortable seats with uber-stylish surrounds, a commanding driving position and not being in just another German SUV made the experience even more special.
It might be down 40kW and 100Nm of torque, but the Q7 still feels pretty nimble for what is a very heavy car, despite its average weight loss of 325kg. The mid-range is very strong, meaning effortless overtaking from rarely more than a toe on the throttle pedal. When your car is this big, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether it will trip over itself when you’re in the cut and thrust of the school pick up or daily commute.
This is the first Q7 I’ve driven without the air suspension and it was a pleasant surprise. It rode and handled almost as well and you’d have to wonder whether it’s worth the extra outlay. When a press fleet has nothing but air-suspended cars, it makes journalists suspicious; I’m pleased to say there was no need. The only real difference is more noticeable body roll when you’re getting a bit ambitious in the corners. Not really a Q7’s core business.
The steering is quite light but weights up nicely in dynamic mode. It’s tidy in the bends and excels in the wet or dry; its stay with us coincided with some truly apocalyptic rain, which the car simply shrugged off. Needless to say, the cabin is extremely quiet, with just a slight rustle around the wing mirrors and a distant growl from the engine.
If this was Family Feud and the question was: 'Name a type of car that's safe? I'd bet the answer would be 'Volvo' every time. I'd also wonder if Volvo had paid for the question to be asked on the show.
Anyway, the reputation is justified and the brand continues to pioneer life-saving technology and equip its cars with the latest safety gear.
What's just as noble is how Volvo applies the full range of safety systems to all grades of XC90 – so even the base grade Momentum T6 comes with the same safety features as the R-Design T6.
This includes AEB which Volvo says is active from four km/h and can brake effectively to avoid a collision with a pedestrian at up to 45km/h. At speeds higher than 45km/h but below 70km/h the collision is mitigated.
According to Volvo the system will also detect cyclists and if one swerves into the path of the car, the XC 90 can reduced its speed by up to 50km/h. As for other cars, the XC90 can brake to avoid a collision if the speed difference between the cars is less than 30km/h.
The XC90 is also equipped with adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert with AEB that works while reversing.
A run-off mitigation feature also brakes and uses evasive steering to pull the car back into its lane if the vehicle accidentally starts to veer off the road.
The XC90 is fitted with front airbags, side airbags, driver knee airbag, plus second and third row inflatable curtains.
For child and baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the second row – there aren't any in the third row.
The XC90 R-Design T6 has a space saver spare located under the boot floor.
Chinese company Geely own Volvo, but the XC90s that are sold in Australia are made in Sweden.
Eight airbags, blind-spot sensor, forward-collision mitigation, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and active safety bonnet all add up to the maximum five ANCAP safety stars.
The Assistance Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, pre-sense front (to keep you from crashing into the car in front), collision assist (helps you out with your braking and steering when the car thinks you’re heading into a crash) and turn assist (stops you turning into the path of an oncoming car).
The XC90 is covered by Volvo's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12months – whichever comes first.
There are two service programs offered for the XC90. There's the 'SmartCare' plan which costs $2225 for three years/45,000km; $3500 for four years/60,000km and $4230 for five years/75,000km. Then there's the 'SmartCare Plus' plan which costs $3050 for three years/45,000km; $5350 for four years/60,000km and $6540 for five years/75,000km.
It would be good to see Volvo offer capped price servicing, which doesn't need to be purchased as an additional piece of coverage.