Mercedes GLE aside, the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 are the best-selling German luxury midsize SUVs in America. Whereas BMW SUVs are known for their spirited drive and bold styling, Audi SUVs are known for refined manners and comfort.
Does that still hold true for the latest models? Let’s find out—today we’ll be comparing the new 2021 Audi Q7 to the 2021 BMW X5.
With the Q7, Audi have closed the gap and offer a seriously compelling alternative to the BMW X5. With a subjectively nicer interior and higher seating capacity, there’s lot’s to like. However, the X5 is still more fun to drive and is more economical to drive, despite a bigger engine.
The Audi Q7 and X5 are competitively priced, and both start from just under $60,000. However, the Q7 has better standard features on lower trims.
The price gap isn’t significant, but if you’re looking to spend the least, the Audi Q7 is cheaper. That’s because they offer it with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, whereas the BMW X5 base model features a 3.0-liter straight-six.
BMW X5 charges a premium for all-wheel drive, pushing the price over $60k. All-wheel drive is standard across the Q7 range.
To get a third row of seats in the X5 you’ll also need to option it, whereas it is standard on the Q7. These options further increase the price gap, meaning the BMW X5 typically ends up costing more than the Audi Q7 for the same perks.
Recent changes make the Q7 one of the nicest looking Audis yet. But those seeking a meaner and sportier look will love the X5.
The Audi Q7 was undoubtedly one of the most boring looking SUVs on the market back in 2019. Its design hadn’t changed since 2015 and it couldn’t compare to the aggressive BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE or spacecraft-like Lexus RX.
But new styling tweaks such as a redesigned grille, new side sills, chrome trim for the tailgate and revised exhaust tips, has made the facelifted Audi Q7 a much more attractive SUV than it was. It looks modern and oozes class from every angle.
Meanwhile, the BMW X5 remains the stylish beast we’ve grown used to. While the body dimensions are almost identical to the Q7, the X5 somehow has more visual presence on the road, whereas the Q7 looks a bit like a station wagon on steroids.
Overall the two SUVs are both attractive in their own right. The Q7 is now a pleasure to look at (though it doesn’t look quite as good as the futuristic Q8) and the X5 looks as good as ever. Ultimately it’s your call as to which vehicle suits your design taste better.
The Q7 interior feels more modern and less cluttered than the interior of the X5 (which is also excellent).
BMW SUVs typically shine across the board, and the X5’s interior is no exception. From seats to the glovebox, quality is top-notch, even in places hidden from sight which are often culprits of cheap, scratchy plastics. A large 12.3-inch touch display and 12.3-inch driver info display behind the steering wheel come as standard. For 2021, the X5 finally gets Android compatibility to match what the Q7 has had for years.
Thanks to its recent facelift, the Audi Q7 has an equally stunning interior. Unlike the bling-heavy X5 interior, the Q7 has a more minimalist and uncluttered design with premium, soft-touch materials throughout. Our favorite part is the two high definition displays stacked on top of each other that give off Tesla-vibes, something we prefer to the bulging screen in the X5. And of course, the industry leading Audi Virtual Cockpit digital driver display makes sure all the important information is presented to the driver clearly.
Overall, we slightly prefer the Q7’s interior to the X5’s, but you can’t go wrong with either. Both interiors are the finest on the market, beating out the ones you’ll find inside the Mercedes GLE and Lexus RX.
Passenger Space and Comfort
The Audi Q7 is a 7-seater, whereas the X5 is a 5-seater unless optioned with a third-row of seats. The Q7’s rear seats can also recline and slide back and forth, unlike the X5’s.
One of the Audi Q7’s biggest advantages over its competitors is the fact that it comes with a third row as standard. This means it can seat up to 7 passengers.
By comparison, the BMW X5 is a natural 5 seater. There is the option to add a third row, but the configuration is a little more clunky and doesn’t feel as well thought out as the Q7.
Be warned though, the third row in either car is really only suitable for kids.
While the BMW X5 offers slightly more headroom (40.7 inches vs 39.9 inches at the front), the Audi Q7 is roomier for passengers in the back. The Q7 offers middle row passengers 38.8 inches of legroom compared to the 37.4 inches of legroom in the back of the X5.
Not only that, middle row seats in the Audi Q7 are reclining and can slide back or forth. As comfortable as the BMW X5 rear-row seats are, the inability to recline them means the Audi Q7 is the more comfortable SUV for passengers.
Both SUVs are very comparable when it comes to cargo volume. However, the split tailgate of the X5 makes it easier to load cargo.
When the third row is folded down in the Q7, it has 35.7 cubic feet of space in the trunk. That’s slightly more than the X5’s 33.9 cubic feet.
However, when all seats are folded down, the X5 has a slightly larger capacity of 72.3 cubic feet. The Q7 has 69.9 cubic feet when all seats are down.
A nice feature of the BMW X5 is its electronic split tailgate. This makes it more convenient to put things into the trunk.
The Audi Q7 can be had with a 2.0-liter or 3.0-liter engine. The BMW can be had with a 3.0-liter petrol engine or a 3.0-liter plug-in hybrid engine, and a 4.4-liter V8 in the M50i.
Whereas the Audi Q7 comes with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder (45 TFSI) or 3.0-liter six-cylinder (55 TFSI), the base model BMW X5 sDrive40i/xDrive40i features a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine.
For 2021, BMW dropped the more powerful xDrive 50i in favor of the electrified plug-in hybrid xDrive 45e. Speed demons will be relieved to know the blazingly fast M50i that packs a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 is still available.
Comparing the 3.0-liter six-cylinder engines you can get on the Q7 and X5, numbers are very close. The Audi Q7 produces 329 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. The BMW X5 produces 335 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Both vehicles are fast off the line, although the BMW can do 0-60 mph in 5.2s, compared to the Q7’s 5.7s.
It’s also worth noting that whereas the Audi Q7 has quattro all-wheel drive across the range, the X5 is either rear-wheel drive (sDrive) or all-wheel drive(xDrive).
This makes the Audi Q7 the more affordable option for those who simply want all-wheel drive, especially if you are content with the smaller, 2.0-liter 45 TFSI engine.
Both SUVs match their engines with 8-speed automatic transmissions.
The BMW X5 has superior fuel efficiency compared to the Q7.
The 3.0-liter BMW is more fuel efficient, achieving 21/26 mpg (city/highway) and a combined 23 mpg. Note that this drops to 21/25 mpg when all-wheel drive is chosen.
The Q7 isn’t very fuel efficient at all, since even the 2.0-liter I-4 engine can only achieve 19/23 mpg.
Of course, the exception to all of this is the beastly BMW X5 M50i, which only manages 16/22 miles to the gallon.
The BMW X5 has a sportier feel and more responsive transmission. The Audi Q7 isn’t very exciting to drive, but delivers a very smooth ride.
The Audi Q7 delivers a comfortable, if somewhat unremarkable driving experience. The 45 TFSI model can feel a little underpowered, so it’s worth considering the 55 TFSI for a little more oomph.
The Q7’s gearbox isn’t bad, but at times it feels a little slow to respond. The steering also feels very slightly over-assisted, but these shortcomings are made up for by the fact the ride is ultra smooth and the cabin is tightly insulated from outside noise.
Although it’s not the best BMW to drive, the X5 is still exciting behind the wheel. As always, the BMW steptronic suspension is absolutely excellent, the vehicle feels well planted and it’s definitely the sportier feeling vehicle. You can also go for the M Sport package for stiffer suspension and thinner run flat tyres for an even more sporty drive.
The Audi Q7 fared better in NHTSA crash testing.
Both the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 fared well in crash tests conducted by NHTSA, IIHS and Euro NCAP.
Results for this year’s models aren’t out yet, but we can use last year’s results as a reference (the vehicle structures are the same).
The Audi Q7 was given the highest possible 5-star overall safety rating by the NHTSA. The BMW X5 scored slightly lower and received a 4-star overall rating.
Both SUVs have 6 airbags and essential safety assists like frontal collision warning, blind spot detection and pedestrian detection. Other driver assists like adaptive cruise control can be added on, but do not come as standard.
Thanks to the updated interior and various styling tweaks to the exterior, the Audi Q7 has really made a comeback. It is a natural 7-seater and passengers will enjoy a more comfortable ride than on the X5. Those who plan to drive in rougher conditions will also appreciate quattro all-wheel drive coming as standard.
However, the X5 definitely does what BMW does best—provide the ultimate driving experience. A better gearbox and options for more powerful engines spoils those behind the wheel.
Both midsize luxury SUVs are incredible offerings. The preference will come down to the individual, and we’d also recommend a trip to your nearest dealership for a test drive.