The BMW X5 was one of the first road-focused premium SUVs and was an instant hit. Its spacious interior, luxury fittings and powerful engines have found it many admirers. Since its launch, a raft of competitors have flooded the market.
One such rival is the latest Audi Q7. If you’re looking for a premium SUV, chances are both cars will be high up your list of potential options. We compare the two German giants to help you figure out which is best for you.
Both cars measure over 4.8m long and 1.7m tall, so look massive on British roads. The X5 looks closer to its forebears than the Q7 with the classic BMW ‘kidney’ grilles at the front. The Q7 gets Audi’s latest ‘singleframe’ grille lending the car an aggressive front end that’s sure to scatter outside lane hogs.
The Q7 hides its enormous size more effectively than the old model – you could almost argue it looks well-proportioned thanks, in part, to its huge alloy wheels. The smallest options measure 20 inches in diameter.
The X5′s clean interior layout is driver-focused, lending it a sportier feel than you might expect from a two-tonne SUV. Everything is impeccably well-screwed together, too. It doesn’t feel as bespoke as the Audi, however, with too many components borrowed from lower in the BMW range.
The Q7’s wide, flowing dash looks clear, is free from confusing arrays of buttons, and every surface is trimmed in the finest quality materials. The Q7 also makes use of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit – a 12.3-inch LCD display in place of the traditional dials. It works brilliantly and is intuitive to use.
Practicality is a strong point in both. The BMW’s second row of seats split in a useful 40/20/40 format and, with the third row folded away, 650 litres of boot space is available.
The Q7 is better still. In five-seat mode, a vast 770-litre load bay is offered, expanding to a van-like 1,955 litres with the second row folded. Even with all seven seats in place, the Q7 can muster up 295 litres of room – about the same as the average supermini.
While the Q7 and X5 are both capable of light off-roading, they’re unashamedly designed for on-road use. Audi’s gone to great lengths to improve the driving experience of the latest Q7. Using lightweight materials, the latest car is as much as 325kg lighter than the model it replaces. This means the high-riding Audi suffers less body roll through corners than its predecessor. When equipped with the optional air suspension, the Q7’s ride is serene.
The BMW X5 has always tried to put the ‘sport’ into sport utility vehicle, and this latest version lives up to that reputation. In all forms, it delivers a surprisingly agile drive with little evidence of the body roll you often get from this type of vehicle.
Owners of old X5s will be pleased to discover the firm ride has been softened – the latest version is impressively comfortable on long journeys, and road and wind noise is muffled inside. If there are any downsides to the driving experience, it’s that critics have noted the steering can feel somewhat vague.
Audi has ditched petrol engines for the latest Q7, offering only two diesels. The 3.0-litre turbocharged units produce 215 and 268hp respectively. Here, the previously mentioned weight reduction has really paid off – the lower-powered model is capable of an excellent 52.3mpg, while the more potent version is only marginally less economical but can sprint to 62mph from rest in 6.5 seconds. Testers note how smooth and quiet both versions feel on the move, too.
The BMW’s engine range is broader. Considering few people will ever take their X5 off-road, the entry-level version is rear-wheel drive only. The 2.0-litre diesel found in the sDrive25d produces a healthy 215hp and 322lb ft of torque, yet is claimed to return 50.4mpg. It’s no less refined than the other options in the range, so from a value-for-money point of view it’s potentially the best option.
Larger diesel engines are more closely matched to the Q7’s choices. A 3.0-litre delivers between 254 and 376hp depending on which version you pick. Claimed fuel economy is 45.6mpg, placing it just behind the Audi.
If performance is your thing, the BMW is the SUV to have. Powered by the same 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol as the M5 super-saloon, the X5 M delivers staggering speed. A claimed 0-62mph time of just 4.2 seconds will see off all but the most potent supercars, and the driving experience – defies both belief and physics.
Value for money
The high levels of standard equipment in the Q7 mean that, although any car with a starting price of almost £47,000 could never be considered cheap, it at least represents decent value for money thanks to its strong residual value. The same applies to the X5 though, with both cars, it’s worth being careful with which optional extras you select – things can get very costly once extra toys are fitted.
With a less powerful entry-level model available, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the BMW is the cheaper car of the two to buy. At a touch under £43,000, it’s almost £4,000 cheaper than the starting point of the Q7 range. Like-for-like however, the two cars are closely matched for price. The xDrive30d SE is the closest match for the 268hp Q7 SE and costs from £48,250 – just over £1,000 cheaper than the Audi.
Based on our wowscore, the Audi Q7 wins out over the BMW X5. The Audi’s interior is sublime, the ride is comfortable, and there’s more space for passengers. The limited engine range, however, means it won’t be ideal for everyone.
Buyers looking for the most economical or cheapest premium SUV should look towards the X5, as should those wanting a crazy performance model. Regardless of the Audi’s rating, there’s plenty to like about the X5 – it’s comfortable, refined and frugal for a car of this size.
In the end, it comes down to what you want from your SUV. If you’re looking for a car at either extremes of fuel economy or performance, buy the BMW. If you’d like a strong, refined, frugal all-rounder, then the Audi is the one to have.
Put either the BMW X5 or the Audi Q7 in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. For more options, head over to our deals page or, if you’re still struggling to pick what car you’d like, check out our car chooser.