Does the world really need two-tonne behemoths with massive V8 engines? No, but let’s have some fun anyway, said Land Rover and Audi.
While it’s been around for a little while now, the Range Rover Sport still sells well, and in SDV8 form promises to be both ludicrously quick and reasonably frugal.
Audi has taken a high-tech approach to the SQ7, adding complex electronics to propel what qualifies as a house in some countries to frankly anti-social speeds while also promising not to kill polar bears.
Which would we take? Let’s find out…
Three years ago, the Range Rover Sport looked fresh and exciting. Time hasn’t been entirely kind to the design, although that’s arguably more to do with Land Rover using variants of the same design for the rest of its range. However, while it may have dated slightly, there’s no doubting its sheer road presence. That busy front end stands out in a rear view mirror, while the high waistline and slabs of metalwork for doors leave it looking absolutely indestructible.
Despite its massive bulk, the Audi actually looks more delicate than the Range Rover. A more curvaceous roofline softens the otherwise quite angular design, although some brightwork embedded in the doors and around the windows also helps to break up the metal. The front end houses a massive grille that is unmistakably Audi, and that gets some unique treatment for the SQ7 model. Ultimately, while the S7 can’t ever be described as subtle, the transformation to SQ7 isn’t as shouty as you might be expecting.
Audi can do no wrong with its interiors at the moment. The SQ7 has a design and quality that is second to none, including those from luxury manufacturers. The all-digital customisable ‘Virtual Cockpit’ works well, showing sat-nav instructions directly ahead of you, but the more time we spend with the customisations, the more frequently we end up switching it to a replica of a traditional dial arrangement.
There’s plenty of space up front, and the next row of seats gets enough space to accommodate three adults without too much complaining. Go further back and an extra two seats pop out of the boot floor for those busy school runs. The SQ7 also has a standard equipment list that is so long you’ll only have to choose the colour.
The Range Rover looks altogether more utilitarian. There’s a rugged style to it, but everything is wrapped in leather making it quite a luxurious place to spend some time. It’s all straight lines and angles, which suits the car well, but the infotainment system is beginning to show its age with slow responses and poor quality graphics. There’s also some ergonomic issues, such as the window switches not being where you expect.
However, the pop-up drive mode selector behind the gear stick (taken from the Jaguar F-Type) never fails to impress, and reminds you that this is a proper Range Rover, able to traverse virtually any terrain you throw at it.
It’s tighter for space than the Audi, but not by much, and most of that is because there’s a huge centre console that brings with it extra storage and comfort. The seats, all seven of them, are extremely comfortable and would be quite at home in a lounge by an open fire.
All the tech in the Range Rover exists to make it a formidable force off-road, while retaining its composure on tarmac. Adjustable air suspension ensures a suitable ride height for all occasions, but it’s the differentials, traction control, and associated electronic aids that really makes the Sport stand out.
The Audi uses all of its tech to go faster, which means there’s an electric compressor to help out the two turbos, and electric motors in the suspension to tension up the roll bars and keep the SQ7 cornering flat.
Inside the Audi has the Virtual Cockpit mentioned earlier, but its infotainment screen isn’t a touchscreen and has to be controlled using the tricky MMI controller between the seats. The Range Rover’s system is slow and clunky, but at least you can point your finger and stab at the button you want to press before waiting for it to respond.
On the Road
You can’t hide from the fact that both of these cars weigh about the same as the QE2, which means that the laws of physics take over earlier than they do in a more traditional sports car. However, the sheer grunt on offer means that they both do their best to defy Newton and rewrite the science books.
The Range Rover’s 4.4-litre diesel V8 produces 339hp and a monstrous 740Nm of torque that propels it to 62mph in just 6.9 seconds. It keeps on accelerating too, until the scenery starts to get just a little too blurry. It does this while remaining sublimely comfortable, the air suspension absorbing all but the harshest of bumps and leaving the passengers cosseted in their luxurious leather armchairs. Find a corner and it stiffens up and grips tenaciously, but the centripetal momentum eventually takes over and it drifts worryingly wide.
By contrast, the Audi has a small 4.0-litre diesel V8, but this generates a lot more power – 435hp to be exact, or 28% more than the Range Rover. Combined with an unbelievable 900Nm of torque, it’s no surprise that the SQ7 gets up to speed more quickly. The 0-62mph dash is despatched in a supercar rivalling 4.9 seconds, but it’s the cornering ability that stands out. Turn in and the car stays flat, clawing at the tarmac with more aggression that makes sense. It won’t be impossible to run out of road, but you’ll have to be a fool to do so.
That’s thanks to the optional sports suspension, and that system doesn’t interfere with the ride quality. It’s not as sumptuous as the Range Rover, and it falls apart entirely if you specify the 22-inch wheels, but it’s perfectly acceptable.
Really? You want to know? Ok then, but the short answer is ‘they cost a lot’. Neither will save you much at the fuel pumps, although the Audi’s official economy figure of 39.2mpg is somewhat ahead of the Range Rover’s 33.6mpg. The Brit also pumps out more CO2, leading to a marginally higher road tax bill than the German car. Both cars get a 37% BIK rate for company car drivers.
The Range Rover is also considerably more expensive than the Audi. A list price of just north of £86,000 is £15,000 ahead of the Audi’s £71,000 price tag – although you need to add £7,000 for the sports suspension and digital dashboard.
However, the Audi loses value more quickly than the Range Rover, to the extent that the SDV8 will be cheaper over three years thanks to it retaining 73% of its original value. The Audi can manage just 60%, leading to a £28,000 loss.
There’s no wrong answer here. Both cars are exceptionally talented, luxurious and ultimately a little bit pointless. They just go about their business in different ways, with the Range Rover using brute force to appeal while the Audi relies on technology. It’s like pitching Nigel Mansell against Lewis Hamilton.
However, while the Range Rover has enormous street presence and a brand cachet that’s difficult to match, the extra on-road abilities of the Audi SQ7 just edge it for us. It’s where we’d put our money, although in the knowledge that we’d then lose more of it.
|Audi SQ7||Range Rover Sport SDV8|
Official fuel economy:
4.0-litre turbo diesel
435 PS (429 bhp)
900 Nm (664 ft lb)
J / £270
4.4-litre turbo diesel
339 PS (334 bhp)
740 Nm (546 ft lb)
K / £295