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Audi Q7 vs Volvo XC90

Introduction

Not many SUVs have caused as much of a stir as the original Audi Q7. When it was introduced in 2006, the seven-seater soft-roader was a world away from the brand’s sensible range of sedans and hatchbacks. So much so that little did Audi know their maiden attempt at making a luxury SUV would last well for a decade without any major updates whatsoever. Now though, Audi has put an all-new Q7 on sale, and by all-new we mean entirely new. What’s also new for this year is the second-gen Volvo XC90 which has been in the making for longer than we can remember. On paper, the Q7 seems to have it all: snob value, fresh new look, much lighter foundations and a painstakingly detailed interior a certain Tony Stark would approve of. Does Volvo’s much-improved XC90 then stand a chance? Stand by as we compare and fill out the score sheets. 

Grand appearance

For a lot of luxury car users in India there comes a point where inevitably a traditional sedan or a jazzy looking crossover just won't cut it in terms of luxury and road presence. It's at that point that XXL-sized SUVs like the Q7 and the XC90 become a sound choice. That being said, those with a liking for the old Q7’s gladiatorial stance would be disappointed to know that this new one is relatively mellowed down and looks more like a jacked-up station wagon than a proper SUV. The reason for this is the reduced proportions (the new Q7 is 37mm shorter and 15mm narrower while virtually the same height). 

Despite the lessened footprint, the Q7 feels pretty massive on the road and it unarguably looks better in the flesh than in pictures. Take the front-end for instance: the massive hexagonal grille, which is big enough to fill up the rear-view mirrors of most hatchbacks, is surrounded by dollops of chrome that merges into the clever Matrix head lamps. The minimalistic rear-end, though, is hardly tough looking. If anything, the new Q7 looks a bit too reserved when viewed from the rear and that’s despite the beautifully-detailed taillights and neatly designed twin tail pipes.

The Volvo XC90, on the other hand, expresses a lot through its design. Despite repeated efforts, I struggled to find any particular angle that made the XC90 look uninspiring or even remotely inappropriate. Volvo says there are ‘Scandinavian influences’ everywhere in the new XC90 and we sort of believe them. The T-shaped daytime running lights  - called the Thor’s hammer – are unlike anything else in the market. Despite the stark differences in their design approach, both the Q7 and the XC90 offer everything you would expect to see on a luxury SUV: Imposing looks, bona fide road presence and utmost attention to detail.

Lavish interior

Nobody probably does interiors better than Audi and with the new Q7 it is at it again. Audi has followed the minimalistic theme here. And the clean look works so well, we will call it classy. Soft finishes and elegant wood trim are paired with that very minimal touch Audi does oh-so well.

Like in most Audis, the tastefully finished dash has been designed around the driver and does a good job of cocooning the front seat occupants thanks to the wraparound contours around the dash edges and along the doors. Spicing up the cabin is a new 8.3-inch display screen that rises up from the dash when you fire up the Q7.

Moving onto the Volvo after a brief stint in the Q7 brings in a world of changes. Gone is the classy-looking beige interior that exudes a sense of space and serenity and in its place is a far sportier looking cabin finished in some nice-looking brushed metal inserts and an attractive layout. The sporty all-black treatment on our test car made the interior apt for a 400+ horsepower Polestar model than any regular Volvo.  Nevertheless, you will immediately notice how high set the dashboard is compared to the Audi which offers a nice view of the road ahead, thanks to the relatively slim and lowered dash. And because most of the controls and the layout of bits are nearer to the driver, the overall sense of space is seriously hampered and as a result, the XC90 ultimately doesn’t feel as roomy as the Q7.

Bad news for the Volvo continues as one starts to fiddle with the knobs and switches, some of which do not really operate with the same level of solidity as in the Audi. The twist-knob switch for the engine, for instance, could have done with a more tactile feel. The rest of the XC90’s cabin is fairly straightforward except for the tablet-like touch screen unit which forms the heart of Volvo’s new in-car control system. While this whole touchscreen modus operandi works rather well for someone like me who prefers having all the controls at one place, there are some, including our testing chief Ameya, who prefer the traditional way with knobs and switches.

Both these vehicles are poles apart in terms of design and packaging, but when it comes to space and comfort they are evenly matched – it’s easy to find a suitable driving position in either vehicle thanks to a plethora of steering and seat adjustment. Similarly, the back seats are supremely accommodating and leave little room for complaints. In this regard, the Q7 pips the XC90 by having better thigh support and though what comes as a neat little touch in the XC90 is the seat base which slides forward as you recline the backrest. A vast interior has always been one of the strengths of both the Q7 and the XC90 and these new models improve things further. Having said that, the third row of seats in both these vehicles remain best suited for kids, more so in the Q7 wherein one is ought to sit with their knees considerably up. In the XC90, things are slightly better thanks to the more accommodating pair of seats.

Equipped to the brim

As flagship luxury SUVs the Q7 and the XC90 are bound to come loaded with equipment, and they are! Common features here include 4-zone air conditioning, panoramic glass roof, leather upholstery, active headlights, auto park and a banging stereo system. While Audi uses a bass-friendly Bose system with as many as 19 speakers, the one in the Volvo by Bowers & Wilkins (also a 19-speaker system) is noticeably clearer. The ultimate party piece, however, comes in the form of the Q7’s virtual cockpit that we have already seen in the new TT. The virtual cockpit, in fact, is a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that can take shape of a traditional instrument cluster or a panoramic 3D map besides a ton of driver-specific information.

Out on the road

The Q7 has more headline grabbing numbers. At 1,995kg for this 3.0 TDI version, the new Q7 is well over 300kg lighter than the previous model, thanks to Audi using Volkswagen’s lightweight and flexible MLB platform. Even Volvo has paid special attention towards weight saving measures by using a lot of aluminium bits underneath the XC90’s shell.

The Audi Q7, then, is not only impressive but also surprisingly good on the move. The familiar 3-litre V6 diesel motor develops 245bhp and 600Nm of torque in this new model and since it has relatively less bulk to lug around, performance is more than adequate for all occasions. Add the quick-shifting 8-speed tiptronic gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive into the mix and the Q7 can hit 100kmph from standstill in just 6.74 seconds. In comparison, the XC90’s 2-litre, four-cylinder engine with 225bhp and ‘just’ 470Nm of torque seems anaemic and with a 0-100kmph time of 8.66 seconds, this Volvo is nowhere as sprightly; however, the Swedish brand is hardly bothered. Volvo, in fact, is betting big on small, turbocharged engines that will soon flood their entire car range.

Coming back to the XC90, it’s down on both displacement and power which should ideally result in it being left in the shadow of the considerably more powerful Q7, and that’s indeed the case here. Be it outright acceleration or in-gear responsiveness, the four-banger powering the Volvo is no match for the more powerful and noticeably more refined V6 lurking under the Audi’s hood.

On its own though, the XC90 is quick to react both in the city and out on the highway, thanks to the flat torque spread and an efficient 8-speed automatic gearbox. If anything, this engine behaves its best on part throttle wherein it can ride the wave of torque and allow the gearbox to upshift early. However, do note that at low to medium speeds, the XC90’s gearbox likes to hunt around a bit more than the Q7’s unit when it comes to finding the right gear. Despite this, the XC90 just about manages to beat the Q7 when it comes to fuel efficiency. During our efficiency runs, the XC90 returned 8.7kmpl in the city and 12.6kmpl on the highway whereas the Audi managed 8kmpl and 11.9kmpl in similar conditions.  

As for ride and handling, the Q7 feels slightly more planted over bad roads while the XC90tends to ride a bit clunky across similar surfaces. But, the XC90 has better steering response. It reacts more predictably in individual drive modes and ultimately lends more feedback too. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Q7 is more manageable and easier to navigate through traffic in. The low-set dashboard and slim A-pillars play their part here.

Verdict

Volvo XC90 Inscription Luxury

Price: Rs 77.90 lakh

Rank: 2nd

Final Score: 446/600

It’s been a long wait for the all-new XC90, an SUV that was primarily designed to broaden Volvo’s appeal as a legitimate rival to the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. And while it’s already done that and managed to put Volvo in the big league, the biggest hurdle yet to the XC90’s potential success will be to outclass its rivals – a feat that ought to be anything but easy. With its bold new design, solid road manners and a well put together cabin, there’s a lot to appreciate in the XC90 though inherently it means there is a lot to pay for as well. Carrying a base price of Rs 64.90 lakh for the Momentum version and a cool Rs 77.90 lakh for the fully loaded Inscription version that you see here, the XC90 is either on par or noticeably more expensive than its rivals from established brands.  

Audi Q7 45 TDI Technology Pack

Price: Rs 77.50 lakh

Rank: 1st

Final Score: 468/600

The new Audi Q7 has lost some of that brutish charm of the old model and instead, has gone for a more universally acceptable look which, incidentally, has already raised quite a few eyebrows. However, the questionably mellowed-down look should not come in the way of your buying decision because Audi has done a commendable work overall on the new Q7. With its considerably lightened foundations, a powerful yet efficient drivetrain and a sumptuously finished interior, the new Q7 has taken the game forward considerably and is once again at the top of its game.

 

Pictures: Kapil Angane

Specification

CAR NAME Audi Q7 Volvo XC90
Variant 45 TDI Technology Pack Inscription Luxury
ENGINE    
Fuel Diesel Diesel
Installation Front, longitudinal  Front, transverse
Displacement 6 cyls, 2967cc 4 cyls, 1969cc
Bore/stroke 83.0/91.4mm 82.0/93.2mm
Valve gear 4 valves per cyl DOHC 4 valves per cyl DOHC
Power 245bhp at 3250rpm 222bhp at 4250rpm
Torque 600Nm at 1500rpm 470Nm at 1750rpm
Power to weight 130.09bhp per tonne 110.9bhp per tonne
Torque to weight  293.8Nm per tonne 238.5Nm per tonne
Gearbox 8-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
CHASSIS & BODY    
Kerb weight 2060kg 2011kg
Tyres 255/55 R19 275/45 R20
Spare Space saver Space saver
STEERING    
Type Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Type of assist Electric Electric
Turning circle 12.4m 11.8m
BRAKES    
Front Ventilated Discs Ventilated Discs
Rear Ventilated Discs Ventilated Discs
Anti-lock Yes Yes

Test Data

CAR NAME Audi Q7 Volvo XC90
Variant 45 TDI Technology Pack Inscription Luxury
PERFORMANCE & BRAKING    
0-20kmph 0.72s 0.86s
0-40kmph 1.64s 2.11s
0-60kmph 2.93s 3.79s
0-80kmph 4.67s 5.91s
0-100kmph 6.74s 8.66s
0-120kmph 9.41s 12.30s
     
20-80kmph in 3rd gear 4.41s 5.42s
40-100kmph in 4th gear - -
     
80-0kmph 25.25m 24.67m
FUEL ECONOMY    
City 8kmpl 8.7kmpl
Highway 11.9kmpl 12.6kmpl
Tank size 75 litres 71 litres
Range 635km 644km
INTERIOR MEASUREMENTS    
Front    
Legroom(Max/min) 810/580mm 800/640mm
Headroom(Max/min) 1020/940mm 990/910mm
Shoulder room 1540mm 1510mm
Backrest height 500mm 630mm
Rear     
Legroom(Max/min) 930/690mm 810/670mm
Ideal legroom 810mm 790mm
Headroom 950mm 950mm
Shoulder room 1490mm 1460mm
Seat base length 480mm 470mm
Backrest height 660mm 600mm
Boot 290-2075litres 368-1868litres
Length/width/height 540/1210/470mm 570/1150/500mm
Loading lip height 760mm 720mm

Score sheet

Parameters Max points Audi Q7

Volvo XC90 

DRIVING FEEL      
Steering response 20 12 13
Directional stability 25 14 14
Engine characteristics 25 18 16
Gearbox 20 17 16
Visibility 10 8 7
Intermediate results 100 69 66
       
SPACE      
Front Space 25 20 20
Rear space 25 20 18
Feeling of space 20 18 16
Boot space/flexibility 20 16 17
Payload 10 8 8
Intermediate results 100 82 79
       
IN THE CABIN      
Comfort equipment 25 13 13
Operatibility 15 10 11
Feel of quality 20 18 16
Front seats/ingress 20 17 17
Rear seat/ingress 20 17 16
Intermediate results 100 87 83
       
PERFORMANCE      
Acceleration 25 20 17
Top speed 10 6 6
Driveability 30 24 22
Braking 25 18 17
Environment 10 7 7
Intermediate results 100 75 69
       
ROAD MANNERS      
Ride quality 30 24 22
Turning circle 15 12 11
Handling 20 15 15
Manoeuvrability 15 11 10
Safety 20 17 17
Intermediate results 100 79 75
       
PRICE      
Price 45 39 37
Resale 10 8 6
Warranty 10 7 7
Fuel efficiency 35 22 24
Intermediate results 100 76 74
Total 600 468 446

Photos

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Volvo XC90 Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Bangalore₹ 1.02 Crores onwards
Hyderabad₹ 96.95 Lakhs onwards
Mumbai₹ 98.94 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 98.71 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 96.37 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 91.54 Lakhs onwards
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