Two big 4x4s with permanent all-wheel drive and seven seats roll in for this month’s comparison. Is one of them for you?

T he Range Rover and its mates cruise through some pretty rarified financial air. In the soupier stuff below jostle several more affordable offerings, though, as ever, ‘more affordable’ is a relative term. Take the pair featured here: Audi’s biggest baby — at least for a while — is the Q7, which signs in at just under £53k in 3.0 S Line form. Or there’s the Volvo XC90, costing £51k at Inscription level. Both cars feature seven seats to accommodate the more productive family, drive all of their wheels and pack a turbodiesel up front.

So far, so equal — but factor in a few of the many option packs and the prices hop up to £63,665 for the German and £58,250 for the Swede. To set those figures in farm 4×4 market context, a good-spec Discovery lists at £56k before extras. From the outside you might need a doubletake to sort out which car is which. Both are lower and slipperier than a shed-like Discovery, and grilles apart they are uncannily alike — the same slitty headlamps, big alloys, long wheelbase, twin oval tailpipes and black-windowed cabin. Closer inspection shows the Volvo is a little more upright, a little more staid, a little less Flash Harry — which largely sets the stage for the rest of the show.

On the road

Volvo has decided that big engines are out. So even this flagship XC90 gets a 2.0-litre motor with just four cylinders, albeit with two turbos and 221hp. It’s enough; paired with a keen, smooth-shifting eight-speed auto and blessed with a respectable 480Nm torque, the XC motor brings lively, easily accessed performance. Only a sudden big helping of throttle catches it out. The downside is that around the lanes it sounds like a muffled Trannie diesel, which is not quite the thing when you’ve just laid out £50,000. Better news is that once you’re rolling the XC90 is truly quiet…

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