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Volvo XC90 vs Audi Q7

Broadcast date : 12th November 2006

Detail changes have freshened up the Volvo XC90 for the 2007 model year, but the fact remains that this is still a very conservative SUV, just like almost every other Volvo in existence.

Thereís less industrial black on the body now, the door handles having been given the colour-coded treatment along with a bumper-brightening exercise. But it has to be said, the alloy wheels are still straight-up-and down affairs in the spoke department, nothing to get you licking your lips.

The latest Volvo five-cylinder diesel motor, mounted transversely in the XC90, gets a power boost and a torque increase, which now makes it quite handy on the move.

The engine in our Audi Q7 test model is one of the finest V8ís around, noted for its strong torque and free-revving character.

The Q7 body deserves the petrol V8 rather than the diesel which is also on offer. 

The shape says "fast-car" rather than bush-whacking people-mover, especially with twenty-inch optional alloys.

In fact 21 inch wheels are available as options on the Q7 which has distinct Audi trademark features like the rear tail-lights.

The wheel styling and low-profile rubber fitted to the Q7 would be more at home on an RS4 than an SUV. And herein lies a cue to the Audiís character.

Think fast tarmac country-touring, with a secondary ability to handle gravel roads and the occasional foray into the rough.

The Volvo XC90 comes in both five-seater and seven-seater configurations, although this is the basic five-seater.

Apart from cosmetic changes, and lots of goodies that open and shut, Volvo has introduced new developments in occupant safety on the XC90.

The fast-responding body-angle triggering of the airbag system is a feature designed to provide exceptional protection in the event of a roll-over.

The leather interior is smart and durable, if a bit subdued, and this is noticeable when hopping from the XC90 into the Audi Q7.

With the similar Touareg such a strong seller from the Volkswagen branch of the family, Audi had to reinforce its premium brand status, and it did so by increasing the wheelbase on the Q7, giving it plenty of space.

To free up more luggage space, an inflatable spare wheel is included, with a pump provided to inflate it.

The dashboard of the Audi features attractive tear-drop instrumentation, while the optional Multi-Media Interface offers Navigation and includes a very high-quality audio system.

The D5 version of the Volvo XC90 uses a full-time four-wheel-drive system and is available only as a five-speed automatic.

But in normal driving most of its power is directed to the front wheels, as much as 95 per cent, and itís only when slippage is detected that up to 65 per cent of its torque can be directed to the rear wheels.

Talking of torque - thatís the t.o.r.q.u.e. variety Ė the new up-rated diesel motor now delivers 400 Newton metres between 2000 and 2750 rpm, a substantial hike over the previous peak of 340 Newton metres.

Ground clearance of 218 mm is okay for this kind of gentle off-roading in the XC90.

And much the same type of pottering about picnic sites would seem to be the Q7ís limits, with one vital difference.

Our test model was equipped with the optional adaptive air suspension, operated from the Multi-Media Interface.

Ride height can be varied from a low tar-hugging position in sports mode, to up to 240 mm in lift-mode for slow off-roading.

With a self-locking centre-differential on the Quattro-drive system, and individual wheel-braking, the Q7 can negotiate some quite rough stuff, even though we stress that itís profiled towards tarmac comfort.

Nevertheless itís on country roads where these luxury SUVs are in their element, and on tar the diesel Volvo is no slouch.

An extra 16 kiloWatts and 60 Newton metres translate into a noticeable power increase for the 2007 model-year D5 version, and Volvo now claims an 11,5 second 0-100, and 195 km/h top speed. And although turbo-lag is present, itís better than before.

Turbo-lag, or any other kind of lag, is no problem with Audiís impressive naturally-aspirated V8 in the Q7.

Cornering prowess on tarmac is superb on the Q7, especially in Sport mode where the Adaptive Air Suspension adapts a low ride-height. Handling is close to sports car levels.

Audi is headlining the Q7 as "The Performance SUV" and the 4,2 litre V8 version certainly lives up to that claim.

Manufacturer figures of 7,2 seconds for the 0-100 sprint, and a top speed of 248 are quite astounding numbers for a vehicle weighing over 2200 kilograms.

Incidentally the 248 km/h top-speed figure is for the Adaptive Air Suspension model, with its lower, more aerodynamic ride-height in performance mode.

Prices for these vehicles are substantial too. Figure on R460 000 for the Volvo, and a base-price of R595 000 for the Q7.

In fact with all the options added to the test vehicle, the Audiís price came in at a whopping R727 000!.

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