Two new SUVs from two established brands compete for segment bragging rights

The BMW X7’s arrival adds another worthy challenger to what is becoming a crowded mid-size luxury SUV market. The X7 joins other established models like the Mercedes GLE-Class, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, and the model that it’s being compared to here: the Volvo XC90. It’s been a while since BMW and Volvo are talked about in equal terms. That’s a credit to the incredible gains Volvo has achieved in re-establishing its place in the luxury vehicle segment. The BMW X7 arrives just in time to compete with the XC90, so it’s reasonable to compare to the two to determine which of these two SUVs has the edge over the other.

Exterior

Front

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Off the bat, the BMW X7 has a challenge in its hands because the Volvo XC90 is arguably the best-looking mid-size luxury SUV on the market today.

The Thor’s hammer headlamps on the XC90 are the first things you’ll notice in the front section, but it’s far from the only visual highlight that the SUV has in this section. No element is too big or too small in this section. Even the SUV’s front grille, which occupies a significant amount of the XC90’s real estate, doesn’t scream off the page the way other front grilles do. It’s proportioned fairly in the middle with the headlamps flanking it. The lower bumper isn’t overly aggressive, but it’s not timid, either. There’s design balance everywhere, and it’s one of the XC90’st most important characteristics. It’s classy and sporty without being too overly stated.

The X7, on the other hand, punches you in the face with its front design. The headlamps aren’t as cool as the XC90’s, but it’s still one of the better-looking ones in the segment.

The difference with the X7, at least compared to the XC90, is its massive twin-kidney grille.

Unlike the XC90’s grille, the X7’s version jumps off the page completely. You can say that it’s too big and you’re not getting any complaints from me. In some ways, it deflects attention away from some of the design details in the front of the SUV, including those impressive-looking headlamps. The X7’s lower bumper is also a little more aesthetically pleasing than the XC90, but its stylistic effectiveness is getting drowned out by that grille.

Side

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The side profile of both SUVs reveal just how big the X7 is.

The German SUV stretches 203.3 inches, which is almost 10 inches longer than the XC90.

The X7 also has a wheelbase of 118.54 inches. That’s an inch longer than the XC90’s wheelbase of 117.5 inches. It sounds inconsequential on paper, but there’s more to it than the numbers suggest, specifically when it comes to interior space.

On the design front, both SUVs show off their size in different ways. The Volvo XC90 has a more natural design compared to the more aggressive-looking BMW X7. The latter features more character lines in the side, none more prominent than the streaking straight line that extends from the front fender to the rear taillamps that bleed into the rear quarter panel of the X7. This line creates a look of masculinity, which is probably what Bimmer wants to convey. The Volvo XC90 doesn’t have that kind of character line, but it has its own lines, albeit used differently to enhance SUV’s width.

You can’t go wrong with either design approach. Both the BMW X7 and the Volvo XC90 look the part of full-sized SUVs from this specific angle.

Rear

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The rear section is the Volvo XC90’s weak link and it shows here when you compare it with the BMW X7. To be fair, there’s nothing outwardly wrong with the XC90 on this end. It just looks a little dated, which is true in some ways because the SUV is a little over two years old already.

Compare it with the recently revealed BMW X7 and you can see that the XC90, when it gets updated, has some catching up to do.

Give credit to BMW, too, for remaining consistent with its design approach for the X7. The German automaker opted to give its new flagship SUV a more aggressive design compared to its rivals in the segment. Even if it probably didn’t need to, Bimmer didn’t veer away from that approach because the rear section of the X7 still exudes the same aggressive design styling that we saw in the front and sides.

Exterior Dimensions

BMW X7 xDr40i Volvo XC90
Length inches 203.3 194.9
Width inches 78.7 79.1
Height inches 71.1 69.9
Width including mirrors inches 87.3 84.3
Wheelbase inches 122.2 117.5

Interior

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The respective interiors of the BMW X7 and Volvo XC90 offer similar richness and on-the-spot luxury done through different approaches.

The X7 gets the nod by having a more modern and sophisticated-looking dashboard layout, but the XC90 isn’t far behind with its own offering. You might even like the minimalist approach Volvo took with its design, and nobody’s going to tell you that you made the wrong choice.

Both SUVs also come plush with premium materials. It doesn’t matter if its leather, Alcantara, carbon fiber, or whatever exotic trim that’s available. Both the X7 and the XC90 have them. Even better, you can pick and choose which materials you want and how much of them you want in your SUV. BMW and Volvo did a great job in creating a cocoon of luxury with their respective SUVs. That’s indisputable.

Both SUVs can also seat up to seven people so you can call that a draw. On the issue of headroom, the X7 has the edge with a front headroom of 41.9 inches and an average rear headroom of 39.75 inches. The XC90 isn’t far behind with a front headroom of 41.4 inches and a rear headroom of 39.3 inches, but that’s still a check mark on box for the X7.

2016 Volvo XC90 Interior
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The Swedish SUV does get back at its German rival, thanks to having more legroom in the front.

The XC90 measures at 40.8 inches, far bigger than the 39.8-inch front legroom in the X7. Unfortunately for the Volvo, it can’t keep that momentum going because the Bimmer has the edge in legroom at the back with 37.6 inches of space in the second row compared to just 37.0 inches in the Volvo.

In terms of cargo space, the BMW X7 also holds court over the Volvo XC90 with 48.6 cubic-feet in space when the third row seats are folded. The Volvo, on the other hand, can only open up 41.8 cubic feet in space in the same configuration. Fold all the seats and the X7’s cargo space opens up to a massive 90.4 cubic feet, a lot more space compared to the 85.7 cubic feet of space the XC90 has when all the seats are flat.

Interior Dimensions

BMW X7 Volvo XC90
Headroom front inches 41.9 39.3
Headroom 2nd row inches 39.9 39.3
Headroom 3rd row inches 36.6 36.3
Legroom front inches 39.8 40.8
Legroom 2nd row inches 37.6 37.0
Legroom 3rd row inches 33.3 31.9
Trunk volume (SAE) ft³ 48.6 – 90.4 41.8 – 85.7

Technology

2019 BMW X7
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No one’s beating BMW when it comes to loading up on technology offerings. The German automaker proved as much with an extensive lineup of tech systems and features on the BMW X7, beginning with its new Live Cockpit Professional infotainment system.

This new feature brings together a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, a 12.3-inch display on the center stack, new haptic controls for the iDrive controller, and a tablet-like touch surface.

The X7 also boasts intelligent connectivity capabilities, which it can access through apps for news, weather, office, and online search. There’s also Intelligent Emergency Call, which automatically calls for help in case of an emergency. Wireless charging and WiFi hotspot are also standard on every trim of the SUV For rear-seat entertainment; Bimmer offers a separate system that includes a pair of 10.2-inch full-HD touchscreen displays, a Blu-ray-compatible DVD player, an HDMI socket, and a pair of headphone jacks.

2016 Volvo XC90 Interior
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To its credit, the Volvo XC90 isn’t lacking in technology offerings, either.

It uses Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system software, which is regarded as one of the best systems on the market.

The system houses the SUV’s HVAC controls, most of the radio controls, and all other vehicle settings and options. The XC90 doesn’t have the same high-tech instrument cluster that the X7 possesses, but it still boasts a clean design that goes well with the premium look of the cabin. If you’re a fan of audio setups, you’ll love the choices you can make on the XC90 because Harman Kardon and Bowers & Wilkins are available in the SUV.

As impressive as these are for the Volvo SUV, the BMW X7 just has it better.

Drivetrain Choices

2019 BMW X7
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Here in the U.S., the BMW X7 comes with two different engines. The first one is a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder that produces 335 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

The second and more powerful engine is a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 unit that produces 456 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque.

Euro-spec versions of the X7 also have a couple of diesel engines in the fold, beginning with a 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel engine that generates 261 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque. If that kind of output doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can opt for the higher-spec version that uses the same six-cylinder unit that delivers 394 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque.

2016 Volvo XC90 Drivetrain
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The Volvo XC90 comes with an impressive lineup of engine, as well. It also has two gasoline engine options sourced from the same a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine. There are two states of tune with this engine, beginning with a version that produces 254 ponies and 258 pound-feet of twist.

Opt for the more potent version and you can play around with 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

Diesel engines are also available in the XC90. Both versions use turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engines, including one that produces 190 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and another that cranks out 225 horses and 346 pound-feet of twist.

From the perspective of power, the BMW X7 has the more versatile engine lineup, but it the German SUV doesn’t have — at least not yet — a hybrid version. The Volvo XC90, on the other hand, has the T8 Hybrid, the range-topping version that benefits from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine and a 60-kW (80-horsepower) electric motor connected to the rear axle. Its combined output sits at 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque.

Drivetrain Specifications

BMW X7 xDr40i BMW X7 xDr50i Volvo XC90 T5 AWD Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Volvo XC90 T8 AWD
Engine type B58 N63 In-line 4-cyl. turbo In-line 4-cyl. supercharged and turbocharged In-line 4-cyl. supercharged and turbocharged
Stroke mm 94.6 88.3 93.2 93.2 93.2
Bore mm 82.0 82.0 82.0 82.0 82.0
Displacement liter 3.0 4.4 2.0 2.0 2.0
Compression rate :1 11.0 10.5 10.8:1 10.3:1 10.3:1
Power hp 335 HP @ 5,500 – 6,500 RPM 456 HP @ 5,250 – 6,000 RPM 254 HP @ 5,500 RPM 316 HP @ 5,700 RPM 313 HP @ 5,700 RPM
Engine torque ft. lbs. 330 LB-FT @ 1,500 – 5,200 RPM 479 LB-FT @ 1,500 – 4,750 RPM 258 LB-FT @ 1,500-4,800 RPM 295 LB-FT @ 2,200-5,400 RPM 295 LB-FT @ 2,200-5,400 RPM

Performance

2019 BMW X7 Exterior
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Let’s start with the BMW X7.

The 335-horsepower version can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 152 mph.

These are good performance times for the X7, but it’s nothing compared to the more powerful 456-horsepower version, which can cover the same distance in only 5.2 seconds before peaking at a capped top speed of 155 mph.

The diesel-powered X7s don’t accelerate as fast as their gas-powered counterparts, but the 261-horsepower model can still do a 0-to-60-mph time of just seven seconds, to go with a top speed of 141 mph. The more potent 394-horsepower diesel version is much faster, clocking in a 0-to-60-mph sprint time of just 5.4 seconds. It’s top speed? 155 mph.

2016 Volvo XC90 High Resolution Exterior
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The Volvo XC90 doesn’t get off the line as quickly as the X7 does.

You can see that with the 258-horsepower XC90’s ability to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.

It’s a good overall number, but it’s nowhere near as quick as its German counterpart. Even its top speed — 130 mph — falls short compared to the X7. The more potent 316-horsepower XC90 doesn’t fare much better. Its top speed also maxes out at 130 mph, and it can cover 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Fortunately, the XC90 has its hybrid version to help the model save some face. This version of the XC90 can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds before setting off on a top speed un that peaks at 132 mph.

The BMW X7 is the clear winner here, and it’s not even that close.

BMW X7 xDr40i BMW X7 xDr50i Volvo XC90 T5 AWD Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Volvo XC90 T8 AWD
0-60 mph seconds 5.8 5.2 7.5 6.6 5.3
Top speed mph 152 155 130 130 130

Final Thoughts

2019 BMW X7 Exterior
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Before choosing which of these two SUVs you’d rather buy, you need to ask yourself one fundamental question: what am I looking for in a mid-size luxury SUV?

All of our answers will vary depending on our needs, tastes, and priorities. The Volvo XC90 is arguably the best-looking SUV in the segment today. There will be some blowback there, but for the most part, no one’s going to come out and say that the XC90 doesn’t look incredible. On the other hand, the BMW X7 is packed with incredible amounts of technology. It also has a more potent engine lineup. And it’s an all-new model, something the Volvo XC90 can’t say. In the end, picking between these two is like picking between two of your all-time favorite dishes. You can’t go wrong picking one over the other and vice versa.

Then again, all-new is always better, right?

Further reading

2019 BMW X7 Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW X7.

2016 Volvo XC90 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Volvo XC90.

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