WE’VE been extremely impressed with the second-gen Audi Q7 in the form in which it arrived, the 200kW 3.0 TDI quattro from just over $100,000.
Now there’s a cheaper version with just 160kW. How does it stack up?
WHAT IS IT?
A less powerful, and less expensive, version of Audi’s Q7 large SUV. This one has a detuned, 160kW variant of the 200kW 3.0L diesel with which the redesigned Q7 has already hit the ground running. The 200kW Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro has exceeded sales forecasts and wooed sceptics (including Wheels) with its civilised designer ambience, spacious interior, ultra-smooth performance, and superior ride comfort on optional air suspension.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
We've only tested heavily optioned, up-spec Audi Q7s in the past, with a suitably lofty price tag, incredibly cushy air suspension, and massively torquey 200kW 3.0 TDI V6 turbo-diesel. How does the ‘base’ detuned 160kW version fare, with standard steel-sprung suspension and poverty vinyl-y leather upholstery? Does it soar like the rest or crash to the ground?
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Audi's best car – step forward please. The Q7, currently available only in 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel quattro all-wheel drive guise – encapsulates all of the brand’s core values – exquisite quality, exceptional design, high-tech engineering, excellent efficiency, and effortless smooth power – into a large seven-seater SUV that you might think would be incompatible with some of those philosophies. But, with significant advances in packaging, lightness, safety, ride comfort (especially with the $5K optional air suspension – do it!), and functionality, the one-time overweight under-performer now stands tall as a high-tech showcase of the company’s prowess. Better still, we haven’t driven a better vehicle of this configuration. It’s not perfect, and never cheap, but the latest Q7 at last breaks away from the monotonous mediocrity of most other competitor equivalents. So, at least until the all-new Land Rover Discovery surfaces later this year, this is the way to go.
PLUS: Cabin detailing, exterior design, packaging efficiency, strong performance, car-like handling, options galore
MINUS: Entry price is still high, expensive options, awkward ‘P’ button on gear lever
THE WHEELS REVIEW
MOST largish seven-seater SUVs – even the posh ones – are flawed. Overpriced, overweight, and all-too-often dynamically underdone, they epitomise the more-is-less philosophy.
We’ve harped on the virtues of choosing the wagon alternative instead for aeons, but the SUV’s burgeoning popularity means the market has spoken rather than listened. Until recently, only the homegrown Ford Territory managed to hit the mark, mixing value and verve.
That all changed when the second-gen Audi Q7 lobbed in during 2015, bringing with it thoughtful packaging (smaller on the outside/larger on the inside), oozy refinement (cop that sumptuous interior design and detailing!), effortless yet efficient performance, and – hallelujah – car-like levels of steering, handling, roadholding, and ride. The ride, with the $5K-extra air suspension, is softer than the Vatican is on its own, helping earn the newcomer Audi Q7 a COTY podium. A real shock after the lardy, hard-riding previous version.
Questions lingered though, over a $103,900-plus luxury SUV’s value, particularly when reasonable options like that heavenly ride upgrade, trick Virtual Cockpit instrumentation, proper leather, a sunroof, better audio, bigger wheels, adaptive LED headlights, and the full driver-assist tech could see the price rocket past $120K.
Now there’s a cheaper Q7 too, with essentially the same powertrain and basic standard gear, but with 40kW less power, 100Nm less torque, and a sub-$100K opening gambit.
Here’s the deal. Brandishing 160kW and 500Nm, the detuned 3.0 TDI quattro could hardly be called slow or sluggish. In fact, in isolation, it would be difficult to pick the differences against the 200kW/600Nm powerhouse, such is the effortless oomph, combined with the slick-shifting ZF eight-speed auto’s seamlessness.
Meanwhile the steel-sprung suspension clearly lacks the cosseting isolation of the magic air set-up, with smaller bumps and some firmness detectable (though not annoyingly so). But the 160kW 3.0 TDI quattro’s responsive handling seems tauter than ever, since it steers and corners with a composure and finesse alien to most rival SUVs.
The well-specified standard-spec interior is no less opulent, either, with supportively firm seating, easy access to the third row, loads of space for spreading out in, heaps of storage, exceptional vision all-round (deep windows and narrow pillars help), and still that wonderful dashboard to admire.
Yet… if you’re already spending $96,300, another $7K to score the storming 200kW version won’t hurt. And that’s the crux of the newest Q7: spend up, get what you want, and enjoy.
Model: Audi Q7 160kW 3.0 TDI quattro
Engine: 2967cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v turbo-diesel
Max power: 160kW @ 3250-4750rpm
Max torque: 500Nm @ 1250-3000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Fuel economy: 5.8L/100km
On sale: Now
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