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The 2018 Audi Q7 vs. the 2019 Porsche Cayenne: Which Luxury SUV Best Suits Your Needs?

The Q7 and Cayenne share similar bones but are executed with distinctly different missions in mind. Is one better than the other?

By Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver

The explosive popularity of SUVs in general, and of luxury entries specifically, meant that it was inevitable we'd line up the newly redesigned 2019 Porsche Cayenne against the Audi Q7, our reigning 10Best Trucks and SUVs winner in the mid-size luxury segment. While these very different looking SUVs have a lot in common-both come from the same parent company, the Volkswagen Group, and are built on the same MLB-Evo platform-they each offer a unique look and experience.

The Matchup

First off, the Q7 is six inches longer than the Cayenne. That additional length and a 4.0-inch longer wheelbase helps the Q7 package a standard third row of seats. And while the roofline doesn't taper off to provide even remotely sporty fastback styling, that long roof ensures that the third-row will house actual adults with actual heads and legs, provided the second-row occupants are accommodating and slide the second row forward.

Porsche's engineers didn't have to consider a third-row of occupants because there's only room for cargo in the back of the Cayenne. Second-row comfort is excellent and nearly on par with the Q7, which feels wider in comparison despite actually being a half-inch narrower. but the Cayenne's shorter length results in less practical space. For those headed on vacation or just to Home Depot, there's 27 cubic feet of cargo space, 11 fewer than in the Q7 when its third row is tucked into the floor. The Audi still can swallow 15 cubes of stuff with all of its seats raised.

Both vehicles have blown 3.0-liter V-6s mounted under their hoods. The difference is that the Porsche's engine features a turbocharger and makes 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Instead of a turbo, the Audi's powerplant employs a supercharger to produce 333 ponies and 325 lb-ft. Connected to both engines is a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts with the grace and speed of a luxury sedan, but the Audi features a slightly older version with a narrower ratio spread and its shift strategy’s fuel-economy bias is more apparent. The transmission seems acutely focused on getting to top gear as quickly as possible, and downshifts are reluctantly called up after your foot has slammed through the floorboard. The more athletic Porsche isn't quite as focused on remaining in higher gears, but it can be caught off guard and slow to downshift for passes.

The 2018 Audi Q7 vs. the 2019 Porsche Cayenne: Which Luxury SUV Best Suits Your Needs?

Both powertrains return nearly identical EPA fuel economy estimates. The Q7 and Cayenne both achieve 19 mpg in the city cycle and 21 combined, with the difference being their highway numbers: On the interstate, the Cayenne delivers 23 miles for every gallon, while the Audi will travel 25 on the same amount of fuel. Thrashed mercilessly on the canyon roads of Southern California, the Porsche averaged 13 mpg to the Audi's 12.

On the Road

As you might expect, the Porsche is the sportier of these two utes. Tight, responsive, and heavy steering provides real feedback that sports-car drivers will enjoy. Everyone else might find the steering a bit heavy, but there's no denying its accuracy and secure feel. The Audi has lighter efforts and swims down the road without much drama or feedback through the wheel. Both test cars rode on optional 21-inch wheels wrapped with summer tires featuring small sidewalls. Sharp impacts do send shocks through the Q7's structure, but provided you're not in Sport or Dynamic mode, the ride won't disturb passengers or make your commute annoying.

Both the Audi and the Porsche employ standard all-wheel-drive systems to corner with security and grip that will make you forget all of the panicky warnings that once filled the media about SUVs being more susceptible to rolling over. In fact, the Porsche clung to the skidpad strong enough to rival some sports cars: 0.94 g versus the Audi's merely decent 0.86 g. Bend the Cayenne into corners, and its grip, the flatness of its body, and the control it offers will have you forgetting that it's more a 4699-pound rhino than a 911. Both vehicles stop from 70 mph in a solid 160 feet.

Next to the Porsche, the Audi comes across as capable, if a bit unexciting. Its 6.1-second zero-to-60-mph time is more than a second in arrears of the 386-pound-lighter Porsche. The Q7 seems to just want to lie back and think of Angela Merkel when you drive it like you have five minutes to get home before the Game of Thrones finale starts. Unlike the Porsche, the Audi doesn't shrink when you start hustling it. It does your bidding, and the summer tires hang on, which will be more than enough for most buyers.

The Inside View

A look at the option list on our particular Cayenne test vehicle makes it clear that it has been built to perform and handle like a sports car. There are plenty of luxury options to dress up the Porsche's cabin, but our example doesn't have them. Instead of spending on the adjustable air-springs and 21-inch wheels, you could have leather, wood, and Alcantara dressing up the interior. Without those options, the basic Cayenne cabin looks a bit dour and serious next to the Audi's wood- and leather-filled den of comfort. The Audi's second row slides and reclines, and the Q7's sense of added width makes it a great place to sit. The Porsche's rear bench slides fore and aft, but it doesn't recline, which makes it a less-than-ideal place for a nap.

Judged by their infotainment systems, the Audi gets the nod, but possibly because the Q7 has been out longer and we're more familiar with its menu structure and coaxing it to do what we ask. The Porsche's system does bury simple functions in menus, such as disabling the engine stop/start system, and there's no hard button to change radio stations or to go to the next song in the playlist. It's relatively easy to adapt to these annoyances, but the sheer number of options and features will be bewildering at first.

The Bottom Line

What we have here are two different goals achieved on the same platform. Both start at nearly the same price-$66,375 for the Q7 and $66,950 for the Cayenne-and both offer similar options. What your goals are for luxury SUV ownership will determine which of these two is right for you. If your other car is a Porsche sports car, and you'd like your SUV to have relatively familiar grip and feel, then the Cayenne is an easy choice. That said, the Q7 handles securely enough for 99 percent of the population and boasts good feel when you're trundling along in traffic. Add in the Q7's posh and spacious interior, useable third row, and refined manners, and most buyers in this segment will find it a solid pick. Drivers that we are, we're willing to trade a little versatility for a similar vehicle that is far more engaging to operate when the mood takes us, even if it's behind the wheel of a mall-running SUV. That vehicle would be the Porsche.  


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Autos News: The 2018 Audi Q7 vs. the 2019 Porsche Cayenne: Which Luxury SUV Best Suits Your Needs?
The 2018 Audi Q7 vs. the 2019 Porsche Cayenne: Which Luxury SUV Best Suits Your Needs?
The Q7 and Cayenne share similar bones but are executed with distinctly different missions in mind. Is one better than the other?
Autos News
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