We drove a $65,000 Audi Q7 and a $60,000 Volvo XC90 to see which is a better luxury SUV -- here's the verdict

Hollis JohnsonThe Audi Q7.
  • The Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 are two of the best luxury crossover SUVs in the world.
  • The Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 offer its occupants luxury car comfort and minivan-like utility with the off-road capability of an SUV.
  • The Audi Q7 starts $US49,900 while the Volvo XC90 starts at $US46,900.
  • The Audi Q7’s superior driving dynamics and infotainment system edges out the Volvo XC90 which has greater cargo room and more attractive styling.

The large crossover SUV makes a whole lot of sense.

It combines the user-friendly nature of passenger cars with the utility of a minivan and much of the off-road prowess of a traditional SUV.

And for those looking for a more plush crossover experience, the luxury brands have that covered. Two of the best large luxury crossovers we’ve ever tested are the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.

The Volvo arrived in 2015 just in time for the 2016 model year while the Audi debuted in 2016 as a 2017 model.

The Volvo XC90 was a revelation for us when we first tested the car in late 2015. It was the first new model to arrive in showrooms following the Swedish automaker’s acquisition by China’s Geely Group.

We loved the second generation XC90 so much that we gave it our 2015 Car of the Year award over some stiff competition like the BMW 7-Series and the Lamborghini Huracan. Amazingly, with the impending arrival of the new S60 sedan, the XC90 will soon become the oldest model in Volvo’s lineup.

And then there’s the Audi Q7. In our review of the second generation Q7, Matt DeBord referred to the Audi as the luxury SUV perfected.

In spite of the presence of the A8 luxury sedan, the Q7 is effectively Audi’s luxury halo product. The original Q7 debuted back in 2007. In spite of early criticism of its aesthetics, the big Audi eventually developed into a fan favourite.

Both crossovers are built on modular platforms and share their underpinnings with passengers cars. The Q7 is built on VW Group’s MLB Evo platform that’s shared with the Audi A4 sedan and Bentley Bentayga SUV. While the XC90 is built on Volvo’s SPA platform that underpins the company’s entire passenger car lineup.

Here’s a closer look at how the Audi Q7 3.0T Prestige and the Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription matches up:


First up is the Volvo XC90.

Hollis Johnson

The Volvo XC90 starts at $US46,900 for a base, front-wheel-drive T5 Momentum while our luxury spec T6 Inscription test car starts at $US59,450.

Volvo also offers the XC90 as a plug-in hybrid with a starting price of $US64,950.

While those looking for a luxury limousine feel can opt for the Volvo XC90 Excellence which starts $US104,900.


Aesthetically, the XC90 is simply stunning. It exudes effortless style and elegance. Volvo’s “Thor’s Hammer” headlight is a stand out design feature.

Hollis Johnson

The XC90’s rear end is punctuated by dual exhausts and vertical taillights — a feature carried from the first generation model.

Hollis Johnson

Inside, the Volvo continues to impress. The XC90 pushes the boundaries of Swedish luxury. The cabin feels plush and is beautifully appointed. At the same time, it feels warm and approachable. It’s a space meant to be lived in.

Hollis Johnson

The XC90’s cabin is adorned with beautiful details like the machine metal starter switch and stitched leather.

Hollis Johnson

The quality of the materials from the leather upholstery to the wood accents is as good as anything the Brits and the Germans can do.

Hollis Johnson

And then there’s the driver’s “cockpit.”

Hollis Johnson

Immediately in front of the driver is a 12.3-inch configurable digital instrument cluster.

Hollis Johnson

Since it’s a Volvo, the XC90 is also jam-packed with safety tech including Volvo On-Call emergency assistance; a head-up display; City Safety tech with collision mitigation and pedestrian/cyclist detection; and Run-Off-Road mitigation.

There’s also adaptive cruise control, surround view cameras, and headlights that bend around corners.


The center stack is dominated by a nine-inch tablet-style touchscreen infotainment display.

Hollis Johnson

Unfortunately, the overall infotainment experience wasn’t great.

The new generation Volvo infotainment system is packed with content and capabilities. The system will do everything from track your driving habits to mimicking the acoustics of the Gothenburg Concert Hall. But, the screen feels cluttered and the user interface is far from intuitive. Even after experiencing the system in several new Volvos, we still spend way too much time hunting around for the function we need.

On the bright side, the screen quality is top notch and the graphics are crisply rendered. The optional Bowers & Wilkins sound system is also one of the best in the world.


The XC90 is also a capable people and cargo hauler. The XC90 can seat up seven passengers and boasts up to 85.7 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded.

Hollis Johnson

Under the hood of all XC90s is Volvo’s Drive-E four-cylinder engine.

Volvo

The Drive-E is Volvo’s new generation do-it-all engine. Our T6 test car is powered by a 2.0 litre, 316 horsepower version of the four-cylinder powerplant that’s turbocharged and supercharged. The base T5 is powered by a 250 hp version of the engine that is only turbocharged.

The top-of-the-line T8 hybrid adds electric motors and a battery pack to the equation. In total, the T8 produces 400 hp with a virtual all-wheel-drive system that uses internal combustion to power the front axle and electric motors to power the rear.


So, what is it like to drive?

Hollis Johnson

The Volvo XC90 is a capable performer on the road. According to Volvo, our T6 can do 60 mph in a stout 6.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 130 mph. The T8 hybrid is even quicker with a 0-60 mph time of just 5.3 seconds.

However, the XC90 is far from a performance machine. Everything about its driving dynamics screams solid, but not spectacular. The twin-charged engine is more than capable of hustling this 4,800 pound SUV around but lacks the grunt of a larger engine. I guess this is a case where there’s no replacement for displacement.

The XC90’s offers a comfortable and compliant ride while the steering is quick but numb and uncommunicative.


Next up is the Audi Q7.

Hollis Johnson

The Audi Q7 starts at $US49,900 for the base four-cylinder Premium trim level. Since all-wheel-drive is standard on the Q7, its pricing is on par with the base all-wheel-drive XC90 which starts at $US49,100.

Our top-of-the-line V6 Prestige trim test car starts at $US65,400.


Aesthetically, the Audi Q7 is handsome and understated. However, it lacks the elegance of the XC90.

Hollis Johnson

But inside is where the Audi Q7 really comes to life. Even though Audi is the master of minimalist interior design, there’s actually a lot going on inside the Q7. Just look at the air vents that run the entire length of the dash and the metallic accents around all of the edges.

Hollis Johnson

In spite of the stylish looks, the Q7 boasts near faultless ergonomics. Almost every button and switch is where it should be. Our only gripe with respect to cabin ergonomics is the location of the adaptive cruise control stalk which can be found on the lower lefthand side of the steering column.

Even though the adaptive cruise control works great, the location of the controls forced us to take our eyes off the road when adjusting the system.


Like the XC90, the Audi is equipped with a configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

Hollis Johnson

Except, here, it’s part of Audi’s award-winning virtual cockpit.

Hollis Johnson

Here’s a shot of Audi’s virtual cockpit in action in the little brother SQ5.

Hollis Johnson

There’s also an 8.3-inch TFT infotainment display that can retract into the dash.

Hollis Johnson

Instead of using a touchscreen, Audi uses a rotary dial controller and a touchpad. It’s a rather elegant and effective input system. We usually aren’t huge fans of touchpads, but it works relatively well here.

Hollis Johnson

Audi’s MMI infotainment system is responsive, intuitively organised, and packed with content. There really isn’t anything wrong with it.

Hollis Johnson

The Audi Q7 is loaded with a comprehensive suite of tech goodies befitting a luxury SUV of its calibre.

Hollis Johnson

The Q7 is available with adaptive cruise control; a head-up display; lane keep assist; night vision; collision mitigation; parking assist; and a 558-watt, 19-speak Bose sound system.


There’s available seating for seven in Audi’s mood lighting-drenched cabin. But the two passengers in the third row will have to be of compact size. Overall, the cabin is best described as stylish yet business-like.

Hollis Johnson

Open up the rear hatch and you’ll find 71.6 cubic feet of cargo room which is significantly less than the XC90.

Hollis Johnson

The base Q7 is powered by a VW-Group 2.0 litre, 252 horsepower, turbocharged, inline-four cylinder that’s shared with a host of models including the Audi A4, Q5, and the Porsche Macan. Our top-spec test car was powered by a 3.0 litre, 333 horsepower, supercharged, V6. Both engines are hooked up to an eight-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel-drive.

Hollis Johnson

Our driving impressions.

Hollis Johnson

The Audi Q7 is one of the best driving large crossovers on sale today. According to Audi, the V6 Q7 can do 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 130 mph. The turbo four can do the run to 60 in a respectable 7.1 seconds.

We came away impressed with the Q7’s poise and performance. With the Audi Drive Select toggle set to Dynamic mode, the Q7 can legitimately be called sporty. Engine power is easily accessible and acceleration feels brisk. It certainly feels a lot lighter than its 4,916-pound curb weight would indicate. The steering, although a bit on the numb side, proved to be communicative enough to make spirited driving fun. While the chassis felt really well balanced for a big SUV.


Our verdict.

Hollis Johnson

And the winner is… The Audi Q7.

We were impressed by the comfortable ride, confident steering, strong engine performance, near-faultless ergonomics, beautifully crafted interior, and the best infotainment system in the business.

Everything about the Q7 just feels solid and composed – a feeling you want in an SUV.

This isn’t to take away from the magnificence of the Volvo XC90. Its stunning sheet metal certainly beats out Q7 in the looks department. While its larger dimensions make for a more capable cargo hauler.

However, Audi’s superior driving dynamics and infotainment system allowed the Q7 to edge out the XC90.

The Audi Q7 really is the luxury SUV perfected. There really is very little wrong with it.

Honestly, I’d spend my own money on the Audi Q7. It’s that good.

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.