New Lexus RX L & Volkswagen Touareg vs Audi Q7 Comparison

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Not much can beat a luxury SUV for versatility. But can anything beat the class-leading Audi Q7? Newcomers from Lexus and Volkswagen are here to help us find out

The contenders

*** NOTE : £1 = $1.30 (correct at time of post)

Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 272 S line

  • List price £57,785
  • Target Price £53,143

Our Luxury SUV of the Year is a great all-rounder: spacious, comfortable and classy.

Lexus RX L 450h Premier

  • List price £61,995
  • Target Price £57,886

The RX is now available with a longer tail to give two extra seats and a bigger boot.

Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI 286 R-Line Tech

  • List price £58,195
  • Target Price £55,250

The Touareg enters its third generation packed full of tech, but there’s no seven-seat option.

New Lexus RX L & Volkswagen Touareg vs Audi Q7

What’s the perfect car? Before you start shouting out the names of two-seat supercars, giant extended-wheelbase luxury limos or 4x4s that could cross the Arctic with consummate ease, we’ll expand on that question.

Let’s boil it down to the perfect single-car garage. That means it needs to be a jack of all trades without being a master of none. It needs to be spacious enough to cope with friends, family and flatpack furniture, as well as quick and capable in corners, comfortable for the everyday grind, not too expensive to run and capable of coping with whatever the weather can throw at it.

Sounds like too much to ask, right? Well, actually, you could argue that such a car already exists: the Audi Q7. With a wonderfully wafty ride, tidy handling, bags of space and surprisingly good fuel economy, it’s been our favourite luxury SUV since its launch three years ago.

But when you’re at the top, there’s always someone or something wanting to take you down. In this case, the threat has two prongs.

First up is the Lexus RX 450h, now available with an ‘L’ in its name. This means it has had its tail stretched to give a bigger boot and a couple of extra seats. There’s also the all-new Volkswagen Touareg for the Q7 to contend with. Although it’s the only five-seater here, it fights back with lots of clever technology under its sharp-suited skin.

Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Although our three contenders all have V6 engines, automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive, there are some notable differences. While the Q7 and Touareg are equipped with 3.0-litre diesel engines, the RX is a petrol-electric hybrid. In addition, the RX’s 3.5-litre petrol V6 is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) rather than a conventional auto like the other two, so it has no fixed gears. Meanwhile, a pair of electric motors boosts power from 258bhp to 309bhp and allows for a limited amount of electric-only running.

The RX may be the most powerful, but it’s also heavier than its rivals, due to the batteries needed for the hybrid system. With a 0-60mph time of 7.6sec, it’s no slouch, but the Q7 and Touareg are well over a second quicker. Things are closer on the move, although the RX is still the slowest.

Not helping matters is the RX’s CVT ’box. Press the accelerator and the revs flare and stay high until you’re up to the speed at which you want to cruise. Even a moderate incline will have the engine howling like a wolf that’s stubbed its paw. With no gears as such, it builds speed very smoothly, though. Only when it switches from petrol to electric mode do you feel a little hesitation.

The Touareg and Q7 swap cogs pretty smoothly, too. Crucially, though, their engines don’t scream for mercy every time you accelerate. That said, while the Touareg is hushed, the Q7’s engine is even smoother and quieter. The Touareg is also behind the Q7 in terms of responsiveness; it has a long think before letting you pull onto a roundabout, for example, whereas the Q7 is far snappier to react.

The Touareg is also somewhat hesitant to kick down for maximum acceleration on the move, making overtaking more fraught than it needs to be.

Even so, the Touareg should make an impressive tow car, being capable of pulling a braked trailer weighing up to 3500kg. The Q7 can match this figure, but only when fitted with air suspension (£2000) – an option we’d definitely add. As for the RX, while the five-seater can pull 2000kg, the seven-seater can’t tow a thing, due to its weight. Lexus says adding towing capability would have exceeded the limits of the powertrain.

Most buyers will want a pillowy ride from their luxury SUV – something the Q7 really excels at with air suspension fitted. Even on big, 20in wheels, it wafts along in a manner that puts many luxury limos to shame. Although some might find that there’s a little too much fl oat over undulations in Comfort mode, you can flick the suspension to Dynamic to make the car feel better tied down. The RX isn’t in the same league for comfort, even with the standard adaptive suspension in its softest setting, although it’s far from a bone-shaker and actually rides quite smoothly at higher speeds.

We’ve tested the Touareg R-Line with both its standard sports suspension and optional air suspension (£2370); the latter also adds rear-wheel steering. Put simply, air suspension is a must-have, because in standard form the Touareg thumps over potholes and jostles you from side to side over bumps that the Q7 smothers with ease. With air suspension, the low-speed ride is still a little more fractious than the Q7’s, but it just edges the RX for overall comfort, even on 21in wheels (£750).

Those optional wheels might explain why the Touareg kicks up the most road roar and is noisiest overall at both 30 and 70mph. It’s still far from a rowdy companion, though. The RX, which can run in electric-only mode at times (at speeds up to 40mph), is the quietest at 30mph, while the Q7 is the most peaceful at 70mph, with just the merest fl utter of wind noise around its door mirrors.

Although the way these cars handle won’t be a priority for most buyers, those looking for the greatest agility are best served by the Touareg. Its optional rear-wheel steering helps low-speed manoeuvrability, while grip levels are high and it resists body roll the best. The Q7’s extra length means it isn’t quite as deft in corners, but it can still be hustled along at a surprising rate and is predictable when pushed. The RX has the least grip and feels the least stable and composed when driven briskly on a winding road. All feel secure in an emergency stop, although the Touareg pulled up in the shortest distance in our tests and the RX the longest, separated by 4.5m.

Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality

Audi Q7 interior

If you’re a fan of a commanding driving position, you’re in luck. Even with the driver’s seat set to its lowest position, all three will have you staring over the roofs of most other cars. If you’re short, it’s easy to jack yourself up enough to see the end of the bonnet, thanks to standard electric front seats. They also have four-way adjustable lumbar support and extendable thigh support. We didn’t have any issues getting comfortable in any of them, although the RX’s seats are a little fl at, allowing you to slide around more in corners.

For those chilly mornings, all get heated front seats, although the RX adds heating for the outer seats on its second row, along with a heated steering wheel. Those last two items cost a reasonable £250 on the Touareg but £650 on the Q7. The Touareg is alone in offering massaging front seats (£1050).

All get front and rear parking sensors as standard, but there are definite winners and losers in the visibility stakes. While the RX is the only one to get a bird’s eye-view camera system complete with a reversing camera and blindspot monitors as standard, it also has the thickest windscreen pillars, smallest side windows and chunkiest rear pillars. Seeing out of the Q7 is easier, but it doesn’t get any cameras at all as standard. Meanwhile, the Touareg’s pillars are no more intrusive than the Q7’s, while a reversing camera and a self-parking feature are standard. When fitted with four-wheel steering, it’s the easiest to manoeuvre in tight spaces.

But the biggest differences between these three come when you take a closer look at the fit and finish of the interior. While the Touareg certainly looks fl ash with its 15.0in infotainment touchscreen butted up to a 12.0in digital instrument cluster, glitzy trims and white stitching, closer inspection reveals materials that would be more at home in a £25,000 Tiguan, not nearly £60,000 worth of luxury SUV. Sure, there’s plenty of squidgy plastic on the top of the dashboard and doors, but everything below this is hard to the touch and there were some inconsistent gaps between the chrome trim around the touchscreen in our test car.

Although the RX isn’t free of hard plastics, there are far fewer of them. Some of the upholstery on the doors feels thin, too, but overall the interior is sufficiently plush. But the undisputed winner for quality is the Q7. Not only does every switch work with delightful precision (a few of the RX’s could have been lifted from a cheap hatchback), but there’s also loads of squidgy plastic. All in all, it feels like the most expensive car here.

The Q7 is also the simplest to use, with all the controls in logical positions. In comparison, the RX places a few buttons (such as those for the heated seats and steering wheel) where they’re hard to see. Still, it’s better than the Touareg, which has an interior that has been largely stripped of phyical buttons. While that might sound like a minimalist delight, it means you have to delve into the touchscreen just to tweak the climate control and even make certain adjustments to the seats. That’s acceptable when you’re stationary, but it’s very distracting when you’re on the move.

Infotainment systems

Audi Q7

Audi’s MMI system remains one of our favourites. The display is big enough, with crisp graphics and easy-to-navigate menus, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are standard. It’s also a doddle to use on the move, thanks to the rotary controller that’s located between the front seats. Making things even easier is a touch-sensitive pad that can recognise handwriting, plus physical shortcut buttons for hopping straight to your required screen.

Lexus RX L

The RX gets off to a good start with a large screen that dwarfs the Q7’s and is mounted at a convenient height. But instead of a rotary dial controller or a touchscreen, the RX has a bizarre joystick that is infuriatingly fiddly to use, even when you’re stationary. To make matters worse, the graphics are looking a bit dated and there’s no support for either Android or Apple smartphone mirroring. At least you get a thumping Mark Levinson stereo as standard with Premier trim.

Volkswagen Touareg

The Touareg’s monster 15.0in touchscreen dwarfs the other systems here. But while its graphics are sharp and it proves responsive to commands, some of the menus are needlessly confusing and many icons are too small to hit on the move. At least the home screen is configurable, so your favourites are easily accessed. While you’ll appreciate it being heavily angled towards you if you’re driving, it’s trickier for the passenger to operate.

Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

Audi Q7 rear seats

If you’re taller than average, the Q7 will be your best bet, because the front seats go back the farthest and it ties with the Touareg for front head room. In Premier trim, the RX has a standard sunroof that eats into front head room; there’s a whopping 70mm less than in the other two. While most people will be fine, those with particularly long bodies might want to consider a lesser trim.

Passengers in the second row all have plenty of head room and sliding and reclining seats, so you can prioritise boot space or leg room accordingly. But while all are closely matched for leg room on paper, there are big differences when you actually sit in them. The Touareg and Q7 both have deep rear footwells and plenty of room under the front seats for feet, whereas the RX has a higher floor and less foot room, forcing taller passengers’ knees up towards the roof. At least the RX’s floor is fairly fl at, so the central passenger isn’t straddling a big hump.

With the Touareg not being available with seven seats, that leaves the Q7 and RX to duke it out for third-row honours. But it’s no contest; the Q7 has significantly more head and leg room right at the back, plus a deeper footwell once again. Put simply, the Q7 could take seven average-sized adults on a long trip in reasonable comfort, whereas the RX’s third row is really only suitable for emergencies. And all six of the Q7’s passenger seats are equipped with Isofix child seat mounts, whereas only the outer second-row seats get them in the other two.

The Q7 triumphs when it comes to boot space, too. Like the Touareg, it can swallow 10 carry-on cases in five-seat mode, but there’s more room left over. Meanwhile, the RX’s boot is shallower, managing one less case than the others, and there’s less luggage space than in the Q7 in seven-seat mode. When folded, its second and third-row seats create a slope up to the front seatbacks, too.

Audi Q7

Boot is even longer and wider than the Touareg’s; with the third row folded away, it’s the most practical here. Airsprung cars can ‘kneel’ for easier loading.

  • Boot 295-770-1955 litres
  • Suitcases 10

Lexus RX L

Hybrid powertrain’s large battery pack means the ¬floor is higher than in the others. In five-seat mode, its boot is somewhat smaller, accommodating one less suitcase.

  • Boot 176-432-1656 litres
  • Suitcases 9

Volkswagen Touareg

With no third row to worry about, the Touareg beats the bigger Q7 for boot space on paper but not in practice. There is a small lip, but it’s unlikely to cause any issues.

  • Boot 810-1800 litres
  • Suitcases 10

Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

Audi Q7

The Q7 is the cheapest to buy outright, followed by the Touareg and the RX, with around £4000 separating them. The RX accounts for much of this difference by having comfortably the most standard equipment, though.

Although official average fuel economy figures suggest the Touareg gets around 5mpg less than the Q7 and RX, we found there to be just over 1mpg difference between the three. The Q7 was most economical and the RX the least, but that’s only around £70 difference over three years and 36,000 miles. The RX is most frugal in urban situations, while the other two are more efficient on long motorway drives.

Factor in other running costs such as servicing, depreciation and insurance and the Q7 is the cheapest option for a private cash buyer by a significant margin, largely because it sheds value at a slower rate. Mind you, it’s the Touareg that’s cheapest per month if you’re buying on PCP finance, thanks to a hefty deposit contribution from Volkswagen. The RX is the priciest, setting you back another £100 a month.

If you’re a company car driver, you’ll pay the least in benefit-in-kind tax (by about £2500 a year for those in the 40% tax bracket) if you opt for the RX. That’s partly because it emits a lot less CO2 and partly because it runs on tax-friendlier petrol. Meanwhile, the Q7 is the cheapest to lease and Touareg the priciest, although only £11 a month separates them.

As for safety, both the Q7 and RX gained a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. The Q7 was marginally better at protecting those in the front and a fair bit better for rear seat passengers, while the RX scored higher for driver aids, having more as standard. The Touareg hasn’t yet been tested.

The RX’s driver aids include automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and a rear cross-traffic alert. The Touareg gets AEB and lane departure warning, but you’d need to spend £860 to bring it up to a similar spec to the RX. The Q7 gets the least active safety kit as standard, although you do get AEB. We’d recommend considering the Tour Pack Advanced (£2655) for the Q7, because you get lane-keeping assistance, AEB that works over the car’s entire speed range, adaptive cruise control and air suspension, which is £2000 on its own.

verdict

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It may be three years old, but the Audi Q7 is still the best luxury SUV you can buy. Not only is it one of the most relaxing cars on the planet to bumble around in, but it can also pick up its skirts and charge up to motorway speeds, even with a full load on board. Given that it’s the most spacious and has the joint highest towing capacity, with optional air suspension fitted, there really isn’t much it can’t do.

In second place is the Volkswagen Touareg. Although it doesn’t have seven seats, it’s thoroughly practical, roomy and, in the right spec, almost as good to drive as the Q7. However, it’s let down by its cheap-feeling interior and an uncomfortable ride unless you pay extra for air suspension.

Bringing up the rear is the Lexus RX L. While it’s well equipped and makes a great deal of sense for company car users, it lags behind when it comes to the driving experience and has a downright frustrating infotainment system.

1st – Audi Q7

  • For Best to drive overall; most spacious; cheapest to buy and run for private buyers
  • Against You’ll need to add a few options
  • Recommended options Tour Pack Advanced (£2655), Technology Pack (£1695), metallic paint (£675)
Specifications: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 272 S line
  • Engine size V6, 2967cc, diesel
  • List price £57,785
  • Target Price £53,143
  • Power 268bhp @ 3250-4250rpm
  • Torque 443Ib ft @ 1500-3000rpm
  • Gearbox 8-spd automatic
  • 0-60mph 6.2sec
  • Top speed 145mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 47.1mpg
  • Test MPG 34.3mpg
  • CO2 emissions 158g/km
2nd – Volkswagen Touareg

  • For Sharpest handling; cheapest on PCP finance; best brakes
  • Against Hesitant gearbox; cheapest-feeling interior; priciest to run
  • Recommended options Air suspension with rear-wheel steering (£2370), metallic paint (£850)
Specifications: Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 TDI 286 R-Line Tech
  • Engine size V6, 2967cc, diesel
  • List price £59,195
  • Target Price £55,250
  • Power 282bhp @ 3500-4000rpm
  • Torque 442Ib ft @ 2250-3250rpm
  • Gearbox 8-spd automatic
  • 0-60mph 6.3sec
  • Top speed 146mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 42.8mpg
  • Test MPG 33.8mpg
  • CO2 emissions 173g/km
3rd – Lexus RX L

  • For Best equipped; best reliability record; quietest around town
  • Against Fiddliest infotainment; smallest boot; no towing capability
  • Recommended options Metallic paint (£645)
Specifications: Lexus RX L 450h Premier
  • Engine size V6, 3456cc, petrol, plus electric motors
  • List price £61,995
  • Target Price £57,886
  • Power 309bhp (total system output)
  • Torque 247Ib ft @ 4600rpm (engine only)
  • Gearbox CVT automatic
  • 0-60mph 7.6sec
  • Top speed 112mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 47.1mpg
  • Test MPG 33.3mpg
  • CO2 emissions 138g/km

(whatcar.com, http://bit.ly/2PqqF7p)

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