When I was growing up, the status rig for family hauling was a big-ass American station wagon with all the trimmings – and that usually meant great swaths of stick-on wood grain framed with ill-fitting chrome trim. These barges bragged tinted windows, the fanciest hubcaps, velour upholstery, possibly a rear-facing third row and, wow, air conditioning. Plus a lazy V8 and nautical handling that turned said rear seat zone into a barf-atorium.

Kids today can count themselves lucky. Parents too, for that matter, assuming they have the pecuniary resources necessary for the new go-to family chariot – the European premium seven-seat crossover. Blame BMW – they started this whole thing back in 2000 with the launch of the X5.

Today we’re looking at the 2017 Audi Q7 and 2016 Volvo XC90 T6, both completely redone from bow to stern. These second-generation seven-seat CUVs bristle with every new tech, safety and mechanical bit their respective automakers can throw at them. And their bottom lines reflect this. The Volvo XC90 T6 (“the most awarded SUV of the year”) has an entry point of $61,300, but this loaded-up R-Design tester tipped the scales at $80,025 before freight and taxes. (Yes, there is a pricier plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 T8 starting at $74,150 – more on that later.)

Not to be outdone, our Q7 tester shot from a base of $65,200 to an eye-watering $85,990 thanks to its top Technik trim level and a smattering of upgrades. Yup, Mom and Dad need to be comfortably solvent to run with this crowd.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 is the Swedish automaker’s renaissance vehicle – the first all-new car since Geely of China assumed stewardship. Billions have been pumped into Volvo, and this CUV sports the company’s new chassis and modular 2.0L four-cylinder engine that will be the basis of all mid-size and up models moving forward. The XC90 has been a sales success for Volvo (long time comin’) and has basked in media accolades while garnering numerous international awards.

The 2017 Q7 (Audi skipped the 2016 model year) also uses an all-new flexible platform, and power comes from Audi’s tried-and true 3.0-litre supercharged V6.

Design

If this were a beauty contest, the Volvo R-Design would don the tiara, spill a tear of joy on her Passion Red frock and teeter away on her stilettos – or in this case, optional $1,300 22-inch wheels. The XC90 looks fab from any angle, and here, the bright red offsets some of its stately conservatism. As do those massive wheels. The signature LED accents in the headlights represent the hammer of Nordic god Thor. All hail.

Conversely, the Q7 looks more like a creased box with a huge grill. Yes, it’s handsome as far as boxes go, but I don’t think the designers were overly concerned with making it pretty. Still, wonderful detailing and an impeccable sense of quality.

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