- The BMW X5 and the Audi Q7 are two of the most popular midsize luxury SUVs in the US.
- The X5 and Q7 both offer a large complement of tech features, stellar driving dynamics, and room for seven passengers.
- The Audi Q7 starts at $US49,900 while our top-of-the-line V6 Prestige trim test car starts at $US65,400.
- The BMW X5 starts $US57,200 while our xDrive40e iPerformance hybrid tester starts at $US63,750.
- The Audi Q7’s superior ride, technology, and interior space won out over the BMW X5’s stellar driving dynamics and fuel economy.
It’s hard to believe that the BMW X5 is now one of elder statesmen in the luxury SUV game. But the reality is that the X5 is coming up on its 20th birthday.
With the new fourth generation 2019 BMW X5 expected to arrive in US showrooms this November, it’s easy to overlook the current third generation, dubbed the F30, that has served BMW’s lineup with distinction since 2014.
In his review of a 2018 X5 xDrive40e iPerformance plug-in hybrid (sounds like something a quarterback barks out at the line of scrimmage), my colleague Matt DeBord praised the Bimmer’s excellent driving dynamics.
“There’s something to be said for simply getting it right, year after year,” DeBord writes. “And make no mistake, BMW continues to get it right.”
But in recent years, Audi’s second-generation Q7 has risen in prominence.
The Audi’s chic style, state-of-the-art tech, and family-friendly demeanour has won over its fair share of premium SUV buyers. In fact, the Audi Q7 even beat out Volvo’s award-winning XC90 in our recent comparison test.
“Everything about the Q7 just feels solid and composed – a feeling you want in an SUV,” we wrote in the comparison test.
So, let’s see how the BMW X5 stacks up against the Audi Q7:
First in line is the BMW X5.
The base, rear-wheel-drive BMW X5 sDrive35i starts at $$US57,200 while our mid-grade all-wheel-drive xDrive40e iPerformance hybrid starts at $US63,750.
BMW also offers a $US74,050 turbo V8 variant along with a diesel version which starts at $US61,000. The high-performance X5 M costs considerably more with a starting price of $US101,700.
Aesthetically, the X5 is defined by its broad shoulders and aggressive stance. Even though it’s an SUV, the Bimmer looks like it’s primed to attack whatever piece of tarmac it encounters.
The BMW X5 is 193.2 inches long, 76.2 inches wide, and 69.4 inches tall. It also boasts a solid 8.2 inches of ground clearance.
Inside, the X5 is function over style.
Material quality is excellent and exactly what you would expect from a BMW product at its price point.
The BMW’s cabin ergonomics are solid. Most crucial functions are easily accessible while the switchgear is clearly labelled and intuitively placed. There is a good balance of traditional buttons versus functions that require the infotainment system.
In his review, Matt DeBord complained that the X5’s pistol grip shifter is a bit finicky and inprecise in operation.
Even though many of its rivals have gone to a digital instrument cluster, BMW stuck with a traditional analogue setup. Fortunately, for the driver, it’s about as clear and concise as a gauge cluster can get.
On the center console is a 10.2-inch wide-screen, high definition touchscreen…
…That can also be controlled using a rotary controller located next to the gear shifter. The system worked well in operation.
It’s running BMW’s iDrive infotainment system.
In his review, Matt DeBord praised the BMW system.
“iDrive has been around for a long time. It was once the laughingstock of the auto world,” he wrote. “But these days, it’s among the best infotainment systems we regularly sample.”
I agree, in part, with his assessment. There’s no doubt iDrive is greatly improved from the jumbled maze of menus and submenus and sub-sub menus that plagued the system when it launched a decade-and-a-half ago.
And while it’s certainly attractively rendered, incredibly reliable, and very quick to respond, the system is still not as intuitive as it should be.
Outside of iDrive, the X5 is loaded with a host of other tech features.
The BMW X5 is available with a 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control, BMW Assist eCall with an emergency SOS button, and pedestrian protection.
The X5 comes standard with room for five. An optional third-row seat is available to boost capacity to seven. However, the third row is incredibly cramped and will only be comfortable for children.
Fortunately, BMW is preparing a new three-row SUV called the X7 to fix this shortcoming.
On the bight side, this massive panoramic roof bathes the cabin in natural light.
Open up the slide rear tail gate…
…And you’ll find 34.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second row. With the second row folded, our X5 hybrid could hold up to 72.5 cubic feet of stuff. Delete the hybrid’s battery pack and the X5’s cargo space increases to 35.8 and 76.7 cubic feet respectively.
On a side note, the presence of a true Range Rover-esque tailgate proved to be a surprisingly popular feature with the Business Insider staff. It was particularly helpful for tailgating (naturally) and impromptu fast food photo shoots.
The BMW X5 is available with a host of engine options.
The base X5 35i is powered by a 3.0-litre, 302 horsepower, turbocharged inline-six cylinder. There also a 255 horsepower 3.0-litre, turbodiesel straight six and a 4.4-litre, 445 hp, turbocharged petrol V8 available as options.
Our xDrive40e iPerformance test car was powered by a 240 hp 2.0 litre, turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine paired with a 111 hp electric motor drawing energy from a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In total, the system produces 308 hp.
The X5 M is powered by 567 hp, turbocharged V8.
All X5s are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and are available with all-wheel-drive.
Our X5 hybrid is of the plug-in variety and can be recharged through a port located just in front of the driver’s door. According to BMW, it can fully echarge in three hours using a level two charger. The X5 should be able to return up to 540 miles of range and 56 MPGe in combined fuel economy.
So, what’s it like to drive?
BMW has long declared itself the “Ultimate Driving Machine” and the X5 certainly doesn’t let the side down. Or as Matt DeBord put it, the X5 is a “BMW-calibre people transporter.”
The 5,220-pound X5 hybrid delivered smooth and effortless acceleration off the line. The electric motor’s 332 pound-feet of torque really shines here, making up for the additional 485 pounds of weight added by the hybrid system.
According to BMW, the X5 hybrid can do 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 130 mph.
On the high way, the Bimmer cruised quietly and comfortably. In the twisty bits, the X5 was nothing short of confidence inspiring, successfully tackling each and every corner it encountered. Steering was quick and surprisingly communicative for a big SUV.
Our only complaint with the X5 driving experience was its somewhat harsh ride. The X5’s stiff suspension setup is certainly great for dynamic driving, but on the pothole-strewn roads of New Jersey, it gets old very quickly.
Next up is the Audi Q7.
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. It’s a bit chicer and a lot less butch than the X5. While the Bimmer looks more like a traditional upright SUV, the Q7’s proportions resemble that of a raised wagon more than anything else. That’s because Q7 is more than six inches longer than the BMW.
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.
In addition to its 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.
Audi’s counters BMW’s traditional analogue gauges with a configurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
It’s part of Audi’s award-winning virtual cockpit.
Here it is in action. The system is highly intuitive and gorgeously rendered.
There’s also an 8.3-inch TFT infotainment display that can retract into the dash.
Instead of BMW’touchscreen/rotor dial combo, 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.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system is responsive, intuitively organised, and packed with content. There really isn’t anything wrong with it.
The Audi Q7 is loaded with a comprehensive suite of tech goodies befitting a luxury SUV of its calibre.
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.
Open up the rear hatch and you’ll find a cavernous cargo area. Behind the third row, there 14.8 cubic feet of room. With the third row folded, space increases to 37.5 cubic feet. With both the second and third rows folded flat, there’s 71.6 cubic feet of cargo room.
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.
Here’s what’s it like to drive.
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 mph 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.
And the Audi Q7 takes the win.
BMW’s third generation X5 certainly put up quite a fight. The bimmer is a whole lot of fun to drive and the hybrid drive system delivers solid acceleration and fuel economy. In addition, BMW’s iDrive infotainment system has turned from a liability to one of the X5’s strengths.
But it is the totality of the Q7 experience that won us over.
As before, the big Audi crossover impressed us with its comfortable ride, confident steering, strong engine performance, near-faultless ergonomics, beautifully crafted interior, and the best infotainment system in the business.
However, BMW fans need not be concerned. The new fourth generation 2019 X5 is just months away from reaching US showroom and a larger X7 is not far behind it.
The rematch should be a whole lot of fun.
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