Say ‘Audi‘, and the natural progression is ‘Quattro’, even if you’ve no interest in the heyday of Group B rally, and a certain brash, faux-Mancunian TV detective named Gene Hunt is more your thing.
It follows on, then, that Audi should be forerunners in applying their vast knowledge of driving all four wheels in the shape of a ‘proper’ 4×4, or SUV, and yet they were pretty late to market when they launched their first SUV – the Q7 in 2006.
Is it still quite as…….massive?
This is the second generation Q7 and it follows the same basic formula as the original; it’s got seven seats and, thanks to the PL73 chassis it shares with the Bentley Bentayga, is absolutely bloomin’ massive, although it has actually shrunk a few mm in terms of length and width.
Now, I’m well aware that I’m in the minority here, but I always found the original Q7 aesthetically pleasing. Not beautiful – I’ll grant you, but there was something about this behemoth’s smooth lines and befitting proportions that belied its gigantic form.
This new Q7, with its new Audi-family grille housing horizontal strakes where once were vertical is somewhat less graceful than the original, if graceful’s the word, although the old horizontal stripes rule does widen the front end.
More room inside
Inside the Q7 there’s actually more space than in the original, especially in terms of rear legroom and a cavernous boot. The rear-most set of seats are electric and fairly easy to access as long as no-one’s in the second row. The increased headroom in the new Q7 means adults do fit in seats 6 & 7, just don’t plan on any long journeys as they won’t thank you. The driving position is high, as is the norm in large SUVs, and even though the standard seats are adjustable in many directions, taller drivers may feel they’re looking down on the digital fascia.
The quality of build and materials found inside the Q7 will come as no surprise to anyone that’s sat inside an Audi recently. What is slightly un-Audi is the minimalist, horizontal design utilised; no fancy air-vents here – Audi’s flagship SUV’s dashboard actually has more of a BMW feel if anything.
Some otherwise-invisible pinstripe lights streak across the cabin at night and they really add an air of ambience, giving the Q7’s interior more of that exclusive, distinctive feel you might expect in an Audi.
Even with a high seating position, the Q7’s dimensions mean it was never going to be a doddle to park; rear ¾ visibility isn’t the best anyway but with seats 6 & 7 occupied, it’s basically non-existent. There are, of course, parking sensors all around the Q7 as standard, but if you want a rear camera, it’s a £500 option; I’d recommend ticking that one.
More refined drive
SQ7 aside, all Q7s are powered by a variant of their 3.0l TDi engine. This is the 217hp unit – the least powerful output on offer and it gets the Q7 from 0-62mph in 7.3s and on to a top speed of 134mph, whilst returning a claimed 49.6mpg combined and emitting 150g/km Co2.
It’s definitely refined enough, with hardly any noise or vibration finding its way into the cabin. It’s responsive, too, with the 8-speed tiptronic ‘box geared cleverly to react rapidly at lower speeds. It’s only when the Q7’s asked to really perform that the 217hp engine’s found lacking as it soon runs out of available revs and just creates more noise. For not much more money, I’d go for the 270hp model as it loses very little in terms of economy.
Should I opt for air suspension?
On the standard metal springs that our Q7 came with, it’s glaringly obvious that this is an SUV set up for road use, not for navigating though untamed jungles. It handles well on tarmac, not to the point that the old ‘shrinking car’ cliche should be used, because it just doesn’t, but for such a weighty craft, it does an admirable job. The trade-off is a ride that’s not altogether that giving, even in comfort mode; opting for air suspension at £2000 apparently noticeably improves the ride quality so, again, that’s probably a box worth ticking.
The new Audi Q7 has shrunk a bit, but it’s still absolutely huge. Despite that, it’s even more spacious inside and impressively refined, not only than the original but much of the competition also.
By Ben Harrington
Specifications; Audi Q7 S Line 218 PS Quattro, Transmission – 8-speed tiptronic, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 217bhp, Torque – 500Nm, Emissions – 148g/km CO2, Economy – 49.6mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 134 mph, Acceleration – 7.3s 0-62mph, Price – £51,250 OTR, £56,530 as tested
The Audi Q7 is available now. For full details go to; www.audi.co.uk