Audi’s extra-large SUV is smarter, safer and faster than before, and spoiling for a fight with the new Volvo XC90, the fresh Mercedes-Benz GLE and the BMW X5.
WHAT IS IT?
The long-awaited second generation of Audi’s flagship people mover, which also happens to be the most advanced car Ingolstadt has ever made.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
Audi’s mega-big and formerly mega-bloated Q7 has hit the gym, hard. It arrives Down Under 240kg lighter and bristling with high-tech toys, improved dynamics and class-leading refinement.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
PLUS: Ride; interior quality and comfort; armoury of high-tech toys; diesel performance
MINUS: Busier ride on 21-inch wheels; no third-row air vents; some tech doesn’t work in Oz
THE WHEELS REVIEW
CUT IT any way you want, 240kg is a lot of fat. It’s the weight of a big motorcycle, two fully grown pandas or, amusingly, two sumo wrestlers. It’s also how much Audi has sliced off its new Q7.
The second generation of Ingolstadt’s XXL SUV arrives Down Under this September not only lighter but smaller (on the outside), bigger (on the inside), and bristling with more on-board computing power than the Starship Enterprise.
Throw in improved dynamics, a 21 percent fuel efficiency improvement and class-leading levels of refinement, and Audi’s flagship SUV has quite a lot to crow about as it takes the fight to Volvo’s fresh XC90, Benz’s updated GLE and BMW’s driver-focused X5.
The Audi Q7 is the first car to be built on the VW group’s MLB Evo platform (which will be shared by the new A4, the next Porsche Cayenne and the Bentley Bentayga), and boasts a weight-saving aluminium-intensive body and a smaller footprint that’s 37mm shorter and 15mm narrower. (The Q7 is also 12mm taller.)
The sole engine choice at launch is a 200kW/600Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel (a cheaper, detuned version of the same donk is also being considered). This oiler is a peach: whisper quiet, dripping with torque and happy to rev.
It’s also fast. Weirdly fast. Fire the big 3.0-litre unit into life and you can hit 100km/h in 6.5seconds, which is quick enough to embarrass a hot hatch.
It’s how the Q7 delivers its prodigious pace that’s so disarming. Where a hot hatch leaps off the line, the Q7 never feels hurried. Instead it surges forward with a refined yet relentless ferocity. Shifts from the new 8-speed auto are seamless and fast and make the response to flattening the throttle a revelation. It’s like watching a two-tonne turtle effortlessly destroy Usain Bolt over the 100 metre sprint.
Mercifully, Audi has resisted the urge to use this performance as an excuse to make the Q7 sporty (that job belongs to the rumoured SQ7). As rapid as it is, the Q7 remains a big SUV that’s relaxed and luxurious.
The ride on standard 19-inch wheels and optional air-suspension (a $4950 option worth ticking) is excellent in Comfort mode, and the car is impressively agile in Dynamic, which drops the ride height and firms up the adaptive damping.
The new cabin is one of Audi’s best, and not just for its beautiful materials, improved space and high-tech digital dash (nicked from the new TT). Even with the turbo-diesel ticking over, shutting the door is akin to locking yourself in a room full of meditating monks. It’s that quiet in there.
It’s clever too. The second-row seating is split into three sections (35/30/35), with each individually adjustable fore-and-aft. Third-row access is a breeze, thanks to a two-stage fold and flip system. The third-row seats are erected electronically, and offer enough space and comfort for occasional adult use.
One glaring oversight is the absence of third-row air vents, which were standard on the first-gen Q7. And with seven seats in play there is nowhere to stick the bulky luggage bay cover.
Then there’s the Q7’s glut of technology. Option all of the Assistance systems and the Q7 is the most advanced car Audi has put on sale. Semi-autonomous tech means it can steer, brake and accelerate on its own in city traffic, park itself, warn you of approaching cars when reversing or getting out of the car in traffic, and even prevent the driver from turning into the path of an oncoming vehicle at intersections. There are also clever Matrix LED headlights that shine around oncoming cars, but they’re a $5100 option.
In fact, none of the Q7’s new tech is cheap, with the $103,900 sticker a $13,400 jump over the car it replaces. But it’s a price worth paying. The new Q7 isn’t only brainier, safer and more efficient. It is also better to drive and it has one of the most comfortable, high-tech and luxurious interiors in its class. Cut that any way you want.
Model: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro
Engine: 2967cc V6 (90°)
Power: 200kw @ 3250-4250rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1500-3000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 6.5sec (claimed)
On sale: September