Volvo XC90 and the Audi Q7 go head-to-head

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The luxury SUV is here to stay. Many people have even replaced their executive saloons with them, and show no signs of going back. That’s why the next Land Rover Discovery will, when it goes on sale in February 2017, mark such a step up in posh refinement than its utilitarian predecessor. The market is ripe for the taking.

Cars such as the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 have proven what rich pickings lie in wait for Land Rover. They’re the current leaders in this sector. If the Discovery wants to be the one to beat, it has to beat these two. Time to find out what they’re made of.
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As it’s made of a 268bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, rather than a 221bhp four-cylinder turbodiesel, the Q7 quickly proves its performance edge. It’s two seconds faster to 62mph and breezes past traffic easily. The Volvo isn’t underpowered, but can’t match the Q7 for pace.

Nor is it as rumble-free, as you’d expect from a four-cylinder going up against a smooth V6. OK, it’s not loud and intrusive, but the Q7’s sleek quietness is ever-apparent. As too, surprisingly, is its more cushioned ride. Fitted with optional air suspension, it cruises nicely, enhanced by low levels of road and wind noise. Even with ultra-large 21-inch alloy wheels, it fidgets less than the XC90.

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The Volvo also has optional air suspension, but is firmer than the Q7, so it rolls less in corners. It’s also much better tied down and its steering is sharper – yes, the Volvo out-handles the Audi here. Even in Dynamic mode, the Q7 feels ponderous.

Its seven passengers may have to hold on if the driver fancies themselves a bit, but you’ll be doing so from great comfort. It’s largely a very roomy thing, giving those in the front a commanding view out. The middle row seats have better shoulder room than the Volvo, although both will take three abreast with ease. You also get standard four-zone climate control with the Audi. Very posh.

Perhaps surprisingly, when it comes to purchase costs, the Audi works out the cheapest after discounts, despite starting out with the highest list price. It’s cheaper to finance as well, although its advantage is eaten away once you factor in running costs – it’s cheaper to service than the Volvo, but pricier to insure and tax.

It’s less efficient as well. According to True MPG testing, it will drink £600 more diesel than the XC90 over 36,000 miles. And higher CO2 figures will cost company car drivers an extra £1825 in benefit-in-kind bills. It’s a smooth V6 engine, yes, but there’s a price to be paid.

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