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Volvo XC90 vs Audi Q7 vs Land Rover Discovery – which is best?

After a seven-seat SUV with a premium badge? The Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90 should all be near the top of your shortlist. Each approaches the brief differently – whether it’s the Volvo’s calm and unflustered feel, the sporty practicality of the Audi or the go-anywhere appeal of the Land Rover. In our video, Mat Watson puts all three through their paces to see which is best.

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Prices

The Discovery has the least expensive entry-level price. At £43,995, it undercuts the £48,655 XC90 and £50,060 Q7 by a fair chunk, although the top-spec HSE Luxury model with the 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engine is almost £1,000 more than the top-spec XC90 T8 hybrid and just under £7,000 more than the equivalent Q7.

At the time of writing, you can get a discount of £2,813 on the Discovery through carwow, and £4,860 and £6,091 off the price of the Q7 and XC90 respectively.

Styling

The Discovery gets off to a good start with a similarly smart front end to the Discovery Sport and styling cues drawn from the rest of the Land Rover range. It suffers from the same bulbousness as some other seven-seat SUVs – the trade off being respectable headroom in the third row of seats. At the back, the offset number plate is a nod to previous generations of the car but does divide opinion.

There are no such problems for the XC90. It looks great and is arguably the most well-resolved design of the three cars here. With Volvo’s family face and ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights, the front looks smart and sophisticated, while the rear is neatly defined by the LED brakelights. The car here is in sporty R-Design trim, adding bigger alloy wheels and sportier bumpers.

Compared to the other cars here, the Audi looks more understated. It’s visibly smaller than the other two, despite being the largest car Audi makes, and gives the impression of an estate car on steroids rather than a fully fledged large SUV. Nevertheless, it’s handsomely styled with pleasantly angled surfaces and a brutish front grille.

Interior

The XC90’s interior is full of nice touches and minimalist simplicity. Avoid the darker colours on our test car and spec a lighter hue to make the most of the cabin. It’s not the best interior here in terms of outright build quality but the seats are incredibly supportive and you can specify an upgraded Bowers and Wilkins stereo with a special ‘Gothenburg Concert Hall’ mode.

Audi interiors are top-notch and the Q7’s cabin is no exception. It’s well made and feels a cut above many rivals, further enhanced by the amount of tech on offer. The infotainment is easy to use while driving, functions load quickly and the £600 Virtual Cockpit makes the view behind the wheel feel more modern than some rivals.

The Discovery’s interior is also a very nice place to spend time. While not quite as good as the Audi, the infotainment system is intuitive with a large 10-inch touchscreen. It’s slick and the menus load almost instantly. In general, the Land Rover is the most premium-feeling car here and even comes with a fridge in the compartment between the front seats.

Practicality

All three of these large SUVs are usefully practical, but the XC90 could be the most useful. It’s easy to put child seats in the Isofix points, there’s a built-in booster seat in the middle seat for children and the second row seats can all slide individually. Getting in the third row isn’t difficult and the XC90 has the largest boot of these three when all seven seats are up. However, headroom in the back is a bit tight, and middle row passengers don’t get USB chargers or climate control.

The Audi is great for passengers in the middle row – all the seats move individually and there are Isofix points on all six passenger seats, while the rearmost seats are easy to fold and the Q7 has the lowest load height. With the lower roof, it’s harder to get into the back and there isn’t a lot of headroom for adults.

The Land Rover has adequate space in the middle row but passengers won’t be able to stretch out much as those int he Volvo and the floor seems too high so some people might feel like they’re sitting awkwardly. The third row has loads of room making it fine for adults and the boot is huge with the seats down.

Driving

Despite being more upmarket than the last one, the new Discovery hasn’t lost any of its off-road magic. A high driving position and the luxury cabin makes for a regal experience and helps you feel isolated from the outside world. It has air suspension as standard making it comfortable and quiet at speed, though very keen drivers won’t appreciate its size and overzealous stability control. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the pick of the engines – it’s smoother and punchier than the smaller 2.0-litre diesel, and managed 32mpg in our time with it.

The XC90 is less intimidating than the Discovery on tight British roads. As a result, it’s easier to drive through town and feels more car-like in general. Firmer suspension means it rolls less through the corners, while the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines are fast enough but a little noisy when you put your foot down. The wind and road noise is a bit more invasive than the Discovery, too.

The Q7 is a step ahead in this department. It’s comfortable, quiet, handles with confidence and the 3.0-litre V6 diesel is fast, smooth and economical. Out of these three, it’s the best car to drive thanks to a perfect blend of stable, confidence-inspiring grip and impressive agility considering its sheer size and weight.

Verdict

If you’re after a luxury SUV, all three of these cars should be on your list. The XC90 is great for families thanks to its space and relaxing atmosphere along with the refined and sophisticated way it drives. If you need to go off road while retaining all the benefits of a luxurious SUV, the Discovery is the best choice. If you want a blend of all these plus points, the Q7 manages to offer a luxurious cabin, a great driving experience and loads of family friendly practicality.

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