There’s something about driving SUVs that makes one feel invincible on the road. And if these vehicles belong to luxury performance brands known for creating cars that encompass speed, luxury, aesthetics and power in one, an exhilaratingly practical road machine is in order. That’s certainly the case with Audi and BMW’s latest giants, the Q8 and X7 respectively.
While both SUVs come fitted with top-of-the-line German technology, is one better than the other in any way? Alethia Tiang takes them for a spin to find out.
Belonging to Audi’s Q-tagged stable of SUVs, the Q8 is the slightly smaller sibling of the Q7, measuring under 5m long (66mm shorter), 1.7m tall (38mm taller) and about 2m in width. The car has been designed to be a strict five-seater, with a rather humongous boot.
The X7 is all around larger and heftier than the Q8, since it is crafted as a seven-seater. It stands at a little over 1.8m in height while spanning over 5m in length and 2m in width. Although bigger in size, the Beemer too is fitted with a 3.0-litre turbo engine like the Q8 and is ready to rumble at a maximum power of 340bhp.
On paper, Audi — smaller and lighter — surely wins on the 100km sprint in 5.9 seconds and top speed at 250km/h. BMW lags behind slightly by 0.2 seconds to reach 245km/h. But the difference is none too significant, to be honest – unless I’m racing both cars to the next traffic light maybe.
The Q8 delivers comfort over rougher terrain with its massive 22-inch tyres. The V6-turbocharged power train has the right amount of aggression and torque, yet isn’t too jerky, though it is a little on first gear. It also comes with a few drive modes, such as All Road, Off Road, Comfort and Dynamic to suit your preferences. Pedal to the metal and this Audi feels faster and lighter than other SUVs in its class, disguising its size to easily navigate through narrower roads.
Its BMW counterpart also promises cushy ride quality. The drive is smooth, and thanks to the presence of rear-axle steering, it boasts excellent agility to make the car feel smaller and nimbler. It handles the gravel with confidence with its two-axle air suspension set-up. Both engines deliver just enough muscle to satisfy a motorhead’s thirst for power, while body roll is well maintained.
It’s true that Germans do auto technology very well. Take a gander at the wealth of assistance systems within Beemer’s cutting-edge Driving Assistant Professional: Crossing Traffic Warning, Rear Collision Warning, Wrong-Way Warning, Lane Change Warning, even the Lane Departure Warning that includes active steering that brings the car back into the intended lane.
Then there’s Parking Assistant Plus with surround view camera that facilitates manoeuvring into parallel and lateral parking spaces, as well as Reversing Assistant that takes over the car’s steering to move for up to 50m. It makes me feel like I should just go driverless – and that’s the dream, right?
The Audi Q8 too has a host of the latest assistance systems. Adaptive Cruise Assist features technology that detects lane marking, structures and surrounding vehicles, adapting the speed to the road limit and traffic situation. Emergency Assist prompts the driver via visual and acoustic signals – jolted me a little, I must admit – as well as activation of brakes if the situation requires. And the list goes on: Crossing Assist, Audi Pre-Sense 360°, Cross Traffic Assist, Exit Warning and Lane Change Warning.
Additionally, the cars are voice control activated. Say commands like “I am hungry” in the Q8 and it will suggest restaurants in the area. The X7’s works similar to Apple’s “Hey Siri” command, except the driver goes “Hey BMW”, obviously, to be activated.
When it comes to aesthetics, both the X7 and Q8 are up there in delivering the premium. With the Q8 at the top of the Q line-up, the car is undoubtedly posh, with the right lines and curves for a bold look on the outside and luxury inside. Double-glazed windows and a well-insulated cabin mean extreme comfort in tranquility. And since it doesn’t have to hold the weight of seven, it certainly has ample space in the back for 605 litres of cargo, expandable to up to 1,755 litres.
Similarly, the X7 is at the top of BMW’s X portfolio. And while this car is meant to seat seven, the car still impresses with its spaciousness and plush interiors, showcasing soft leather, silky suede trimming and ambient lighting. The car also comes with the Sky Lounge panoramic roof that depicts a starlit sky – yes, like that of a Rolls-Royce. With all seats up, the car has 326 litres of boot space, which can be transformed to 750 litres and 2,120 litres respectively.
While these two cars are leading the pack in their respective model lines, they serve a slightly different purpose. The five- seater Q8 is equal parts about cargo and people, while the seven-seater prioritises passengers, yet is versatile enough to meet the driver’s needs for the day.
With almost all things equal on performance, it’s tough to make a choice between the two. If you enjoy the company of people or have a large family, go for the versatility of BMW’s X7 as your trusty companion. If you’re looking for adequate boot space as well as leg room, the Q8 is your choice.