When it comes to the ultimate do-it-all family car, a seven-seater SUV seems like the obvious choice.
With plenty of space for passengers or luggage, a seven-seater SUV is capable of talking every conceivable requirement of a family, large or otherwise.
The two newest premium choices in the market are the recently launched Audi Q7 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class. We put them head-to-head to find out which one is a better choice.
The GLE-Class is the more immediately striking car. With its more upright stance, muscular shoulders and short overhangs, the GLE has greater road presence than the Q7.
The Audi Q7 isn’t soft by any measure, though. The lines across the car are cleaner and slicker than the GLE’s, giving it a more understated look.
That sense of professional slickness translates into the interior of the Q7 as well. As expected, it is high-tech and amply equipped, with plenty of digital surfaces that speak to the car’s overall sense of quality.
However, it does seem a little muted when compared to the more extroverted two-tone interior of the Merc.
The GLE, like every other Mercedes-Benz these days, immediately grabs your attention with its penchant for bling. There’s cool ambient lighting, the screen has more attention-grabbing graphics, and there is a greater immediate sense of luxury, too.
EASE OF USE
Of course, a seven-seater SUV needs to be evaluated on its overall functionality and flexibility.
Here, the Audi Q7 definitely edges ahead. It feels like the car has been developed with the third-row occupants in mind. The seats can be operated electrically via two sets of buttons found either in the boot, or just behind the second-row seats.
When trying to access the third row, the Q7 also makes things much more convenient.
Yes, the second-row seats are manually adjusted while the Merc’s are electric, but the outlying seats can be folded and flipped forward. This means the entry/exit aperture to the third row is reasonably large even for a full-sized adult.
You also get additional convenience features like the ability to lower the rear of the car for easier loading of the boot.
However, it is annoying that the boot’s tonneau cover can’t be conveniently stored anywhere in the car when the third row of seats are up. In the GLE, there’s a neat space underneath the boot floor just for it.
That said, access and ingress to the GLE’s third-row is trickier than in the Q7. Although you only need to press a button to make the second-row seats slowly move forwards, the resulting aperture is relatively small.
This is okay for kids, but adults will require some gymnastic flexibility.
There’s also a limit to how far forward the second-row seats can be adjusted, which means that third row legroom is also more limited.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Both the Mercedes-Benz GLE450 and Audi Q7 are powered by turbocharged 3-litre V6 engines, but that is where their similarities end.
The Q7’s powerplant produces 335hp, while the GLE450’s motor delivers 362hp, with both units churning out 500Nm of torque.
Both engines also feature 48-volt mild hybrid systems, though the integration of the mild hybrid systems is slightly different for the two SUVs.
The Audi Q7’s powertrain has a distinct turbo kick, and this actually makes the car feel faster, even though on paper it isn’t. The firmer suspension also makes more much better body control over bumpy roads, with the car remaining much more composed and assured.
The Q7 also packs more driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE450 is the softer of the two, and by quite a fair bit. There is definitely more body roll through corners, and over bumpy roads, the GLE tends to rock left and right notably more so than the Q7.
Straight on, the GLE’s steering (in comfort mode) is also a lot lighter and more vague than the Q7’s. It is only when you load up the steering through a corner that its starts to feel meatier and more connected.
However, the GLE450’s overall cruising comfort is more impressive than the Q7’s.
I prefer the powertrain in the Merc. While it doesn’t have the distinctive turbo punch of the Audi, there’s a better overall smoothness and languid muscularity to the engine that’s more suited to the car’s personality.
The extra torque provided by Mercedes’ mild hybrid system also helps create a much smoother and flatter torque curve. And, the softer ride quality makes for more relaxing long journeys.
CHOOSE WITH PURPOSE
The Merc is priced at $410,888, while the Audi is listed at $408,530 (as of 28 May 2021). At this price point, the difference between them is negligible.
So, which seven-seater luxury SUV should you get?
Well, it really depends on how you plan to use the car. If you regularly need to utilise the third row of seats because you have a large family, then the Q7 works better.
It is more fully realised and better designed as a seven-seater, with much better functionality across all three rows of seats.
The Q7 offers greater flexibility, whether it is for hauling passengers or cargo. Raising or lowering the third row of seats is an easy, one-touch operation. There’s more space here, and accessing it is easier, too.
Drivers who primarily need a five-seater SUV, on the other hand, would find the GLE450 to be a better choice. With its softer ride and smoother drivetrain, the GLE delivers a more premium and comfortable experience for five occupants.
Ultimately, the question you need to answer is this: How often will you use the third row of seats?
If the answer is anything more regular than “just occasionally”, then you probably want the Q7. If not, then the GLE will do the job.
Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic 3.0 (A)
ENGINE 2999cc, 24-valves, V6, turbocharged
MAX POWER 362hp at 5500-6100rpm
MAX TORQUE 500Nm at 1600-4500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 165.3hp per tonne
GEARBOX 9-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 5.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 11km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $410,888 (after $20k VES surcharge)
AGENT Cycle & Carriage Industries
Audi Q7 3.0 (A)
ENGINE 2995cc, 24-valves, V6, turbocharged
MAX POWER 335hp (340PS, 250kW) at 5200-6400rpm
MAX TORQUE 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
POWER TO WEIGHT 156.5hp per tonne
0-100KM/H 5.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h (governed)
CONSUMPTION 10.6km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $408,530 (after $20k VES surcharge)
AGENT Premium Automobiles