2018 Audi Q7 vs. 2017 Volvo XC90: Compare Cars
The Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 are two of the most polished three-row luxury crossovers available on the market today, although they go about their high-end passenger hauling in distinctly different ways.
Where the Q7 is stoic, the XC90 feels light and airy. Ultimately, we give the Q7 the edge, but there’s no shame in being second place here. In our eyes, the XC90 is a 7.3, while the Q7 is an 8.0. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2018 Audi Q7 and 2017 Volvo XC90
The Q7 is a tall wagon that’s creased and folded, with Audi’s prominent grille stretching across its face. At the rear, a wide tailgate hints at a larger opening to the cargo area than there is, a look that’s become a signature for Audi’s latest crossovers. Inside, it’s business as usual, with controls grouped conveniently and a wide range of interior colors on offer. Everywhere you look, the Q7 is beautifully finished with a choice of glossy or matte wood finishes and a sense Teutonic seriousness throughout.
By contrast, the XC90’s tall greenhouse and upright front end give it a modern take on the traditional Volvo boxiness. Its fenders flare outward to give it a broad-shouldered look and a pair of tall taillights at the rear are a Volvo trademark that dates back decades. The XC90 isn’t offered in the wide range of interior colors you’ll find in the Q7, but the light grey, buttery tan, and black offerings are full of character. Unlike the Q7 with its infotainment screen that deploys and retracts when the crossover is started up, the XC90’s display is integrated into the dashboard and oriented vertically like a large smartphone or a tablet.
Neither crossover delivers long-distance third-row room for adults, but they’re both comfortable for front and rear seat occupants.
Predictably, the two crossovers’ infotainment systems work quite differently. Audi’s is menu-intensive, but easy enough to sort through after some acclimation. A touchpad and a control knob provide a pleasant tactile feel and make most settings easy to access. A particular highlight, albeit one that requires an extra-cost subscription, is Audi’s Google Earth satellite maps integration. Keep ticking your way through the Q7’s options list and you’ll wind up with the brand’s “Digital Cockpit,” which replaces conventional gauges with a wide, high resolution display that can be configured to show analog-looking gauges, a large satellite map, or a combination of the two.
In the XC90, Volvo’s “Sensus” infotainment is a touchscreen that works much like a tablet; swipe, pinch, and drag your way through its various screens. The vertical orientation of the system is novel—unless you’ve been in a Tesla recently, at least. It works well and we’re particularly enamored with the available Bowers & Wilkins audio system with its setting designed to mimic the signature sound of Gothenburg, Sweden’s concert hall. It’s whimsical, but it also works.
Both crossovers are available with a choice of engines—two for the Audi and three for the Volvo. Premium and Premium Plus trim levels of the Q7 are fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that cranks out 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Optional on those and standard on the range-topping Prestige is a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 that puts out 333 hp and 325 lb-ft. Both engines are mated exclusively to 8-speed automatic transmissions and they shuttle power to all four wheels.
The XC90’s lineup is all 4-cylinder, with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 250 hp in the T5 and a similar 2.0-liter that’s both turbo- and supercharged for 316 hp in the T6. An XC90 T8 tops the lineup; it’s a plug-in hybrid that delivers 400 hp and a 13-mile electric-only range. Eventually, Audi plans to add a plug-in hybrid to the Q7 lineup, too. Most XC90s are all-wheel drive, but the base T5 is available with front-wheel drive that may be appealing to sun belt drivers.
In practice, the Q7 delivers a slightly more polished ride and more linear acceleration than the XC90. The Volvo’s suspension, while well-controlled in most situations, can get a little more confused over rougher pavement. And although both handle well without much in the way of sporting pretensions, the Q7 shuffles its way through a winding road with slightly more confidence than the XC90.
Safety is a strong suit for either crossover. The Volvo comes with a slightly higher degree of collision avoidance tech in addition to the automatic emergency braking that’s standard on both. In the XC90, a pair of world firsts have made their debut: Run Off Road Design, which works to keep occupants safe if the vehicle veers off the edge of a road, and automatic braking in intersections if an other car drives into the XC90’s path of travel from a different angle.
The XC90 generally undercuts the Q7’s price, but the range-topping XC90 T8 Excellence’s rear seat is as close to international first class airline travel as you’ll find in a passenger car.