It has been some time since I drove the previous – and only – iteration of Audi’s flagship SUV and, although perfectly fine, it was even then starting to show its age. So the replacement Audi Q7 seen here in sporting S-Line Quattro form is welcome and it makes its predecessor seem like a potentate’s barge. It has been given a complete overhaul. My week with this car has been varied and weather affected yet the Q7 rose above it all to give a great all-round experience.
Progress in the all new Q7 is commendably brisk thanks to the mighty 3.0L TDI 268bhp engine under the bonnet. You can get the same engine with just 215bhp but you would be missing out. Key features of this seven-seat luxury SUV are that it is a lot lighter and more efficient than its predecessor, with a host of technological advancements including the outstanding ‘Virtual Cockpit’ of which more below.
Our test car came with the optional adaptive air suspension (£2,000 to you, Squire) which is designed to keep the Q7 on the level. It works too as the big Audi advances untroubled over the lumpy, potholed roads of modern Britain. It is, as stated, an expensive bit of kit though, so air suspension and the many options available for the Q7 some of which were fitted to our car (see specification below) will always be budget dependent.
The now familiar ‘Drive Select’ modes are available (Normal, Comfort, Efficient, Dynamic) with the added benefit of ‘Off Road’ and ‘AllRoad’ settings or you can choose to set your own parameters for steering, throttle and suspension in ‘Individual’ mode. As mentioned, the Audi Q7 is certainly more agile and better to drive than its forerunner and by setting ‘Sport’ mode on the eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox (either in auto or utilising the paddles) and Dynamic on the selector, a really engaging drive is on offer.
The power comes in smoothly and it is very easy to find yourself heading into illegal realms of speed without noticing. The Q7 is deceptively fast and remains quiet and unassuming throughout. The test car was fitted with winter tyres – although they seem a bit superfluous this year – but I didn’t notice any deterioration in ride quality.
Drive quickly and you’ll pay at the pumps. I saw around 24mpg when driving with a bit of exciting brio and élan; settle down in Auto/Comfort – just right for the motorway – and I achieved 34.6mpg which is pretty commendable for a big motor and it doesn’t fall too far short of the ‘official’ figure. This is aided by a Stop/Start system. I wasn’t too keen on the re-start being triggered by the first throttle press but I got used to it.
Through the week I made full use of the cars abilities. The seats are great; in our car they were upholstered in grey Valcona leather which is a fab but costly (£1100) option. As you would expect on a premium vehicle the seats are multi-adjustable and even the second row can be manoeuvred to suit. There are two more child-friendly seats that rise out of the cavernous boot electrically.
Despite being shorter and narrower than the old Q7, the designers have done a good job with squeezing more out of less with extra head and legroom in all three rows. With the third row down there is room in the boot for, well, practically anything. Do a big shop and shove it into the bowels and there will still be room for, say, a harmonium or similar musical instrument. Even with the third row up there’s plenty of space for the aforementioned visit to Waitrose. All this and a quality ride too. At speed the car remains stable, showing only a touch of lean when sprinting into corners.
The Audi Q7 would make a grand tow car, especially with the ‘Trailer Pack’. See the shaky video I shot one-handed on a windy day whilst operating the electric tow hitch which, when not in use, stores itself magically under the car to save spoiling the rear lines. Genius. (Note: Most of the noise you can hear is another car pulling up adjacent. I bet Ridley Scott doesn’t have these problems.)
The extras available on this car added an eye-watering £9,000 to the bill. Some of what is on offer on the option list isn’t strictly necessary but some of the very latest technology is outstanding.
Things like LED headlights, cruise control, four-zone climate control, heated electric seats, Bluetooth, key-less go and sat-nav all come as standard and are to be expected at this price point. What really stands out for me is Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, which adds a screen in front of the driver that offers a variety of information and a wide-angle view of the satellite navigation.
The central MMI screen that rises from the dash on start-up is used to guide through all the media choices as well as sat-nav. Two versions of navigation on one car might seem like overkill but it has its uses. I love the ‘virtual cockpit’ screen and used it all the time which enabled the dashboard screen to be used for other purposes or, indeed, to be closed down.
Operating all this technology is via a choice of switches or an MMI touchpad between the seats. Personally, I found the old ways better, you can’t fiddle with a pad on the move. Actually, you shouldn’t fiddle with anything on the move.
The technology keeps on coming. There’s an excellent reversing camera and sensors around plus a system called ‘Pre-sense’. This comes in varieties but we had to make do with the basic forward looking warning which informed me when the car felt it was approaching an obstacle in front at a speed it felt less than seemly. It’s good; it works. It keeps you on your toes, but it does it discreetly, thank goodness, unlike some systems which can get a bit hysterical.
As They Say In Germany
Ever since that impressive Audi advertising campaign back in the 1980’s which the actor Geoffrey Palmer voiced over in his lugubrious drawl, we have been made aware that ‘advancement through quality’ was to be the German company’s catchphrase. They don’t really use it now although it has since become part of automotive folklore but quality is still at the forefront of the Audi philosophy; at least that’s how it seems to me.
The Audi Q7 is beautifully built inside and out. They are leaders in auto technology. Sure, as a 4×4 it can’t compete with other prestige rivals like the Range Rover but I don’t think that Audi ever saw this vehicle as an off-roader and I doubt that many buyers would think of it as such. Certainly it could pull a horse box over a field without issue but the four-wheel drive should really just be considered a valuable all-weather safety tool.
Audi seem to have something for everyone in their vast range. Some of the cars on offer strike me as being a bit worthy and businesslike but this is countered by the likes of the more sporting vehicles with S-Line or RS badges. I would be very happy to buy this new Q7; in fact the only question preying on my mind would be, “Is just one Audi enough?”
P.S. Just before it was due to go back I had to take the Q7 out into the teeth of ‘STORM IMOGEN!’ in the dark, with headlights sweeping through arrows of shiny rain. It didn’t miss a beat, remaining completely unruffled by the conditions save for the odd twitch when hit by a gust in exposed areas. Although I had nothing to compare it with I guess the winter tyres helped on the rain-soaked roads. It’s expensive but what a great all round family car this would make.