Audi is no stranger to SUVs. As one of the first to truly offer 7-seater capability, the Audi Q7 quickly became a default choice to those who are looking for a 7-seat premium SUV. Sure, the BMW X5 can be optioned with 7-seats, but that’s it. It is an option, therefore it really never was considered in the design stage that the X5 would be used for regularly carrying 7 normal-sized people. It proved to be popular in the USA, where the demand for 3-row crossovers are high, and Audi won’t be resting on its laurels anytime soon. So, they released this all-new, smarter, lighter, faster, and more fuel-efficient Audi Q7. Will we soon see this roaming around Forbes Park? Let’s see.
The Audi Q7’s exterior, when it was first revealed, brought some mixed feelings to the public. Whereas the first Q7 looked like a sleek SUV with its blacked-out cladding and rugged looks, the new Q7 looked too angular and upright for its own good when looking up front, and with the lack of any cladding, it really looked like a long, tall wagon (or avant in Audi’s term). Ordering the Q7 3.0 TDI S Line with its 21 inch alloy wheels and more aggressive body design somehow cures any blandness or awkwardly shaped dimensions to the Q7’s design. Looking at it now, however, nearly 2 years after it was first sold around the world, and I have come to appreciate the Q7’s looks. The Q7’s exterior is not a matter of love-at-first-sight, rather, it’s a matter of having the looks grow on you. The large, trademark Audi single frame grille has been given a three-dimensional design similar to the facelifted Audi Q3, which are flanked by automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. The rear looks undeniably sleek and better looking than the model it replaces, and houses a pair of three-dimensional LED tail lights. At around 5 meters long, this Q7 is definitely a long three-row luxury crossover, and it has a distinct character of its own, despite platform sharing with the posh Bentley Bentayga, sporty Porsche Cayenne, and sensible Volkswagen Touareg.
While the exterior has raised question marks, the interior is undeniably gorgeous, one of the best in the business. I am particularly a fan of Audi’s interiors, and this Q7 is no exception. As ever, minimalism has played a key role in the interior theme, with few buttons and almost no clutter. Pressing the start button reveals an 8.3 inch display for the Audi MMI system, and a start up ceremony of animations in the Audi Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3 inch TFT LCD display the replaces the traditional gauges. Everywhere else, there’s plenty of plush materials, with almost an absence of hard scratchy plastics within your eye level. Pressing anything inside the cabin has the traditional Audi click, which feels and sounds so mechanically satisfying, it gives an aura of quality and luxury that is even absent in its rivals.
Space and Practicality
As this is a large SUV, there is no denying the abundance of space. While the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport have third row seats as an option, they all feel like an afterthought, and being there just for the sake of being a 7-seater SUV. The Q7, meanwhile, is genuinely capable of carrying 7 normal people in cosseting luxury. The second row of seats are individually movable fore and aft, therefore the third row passengers can bargain for space to the second row occupants. There’s also a large trunk with all three seats in place, at 295 liters. Fold the third row seats, and that grows to 770 liters. Fold all second and third row seats down, and the space expands to a massive, MPV-like 1,955 liters of space, 100 more than the Volvo XC90’s.
The second row of seats are also quite spacious, wide enough for 3 people abreast. People won’t be fighting for foot room either, as the transmission tunnel is not that large and does not impede foot space for the middle passenger. The first row of seats all have power adjustment, and is therefore flexible enough to have plenty of adjustments, providing the perfect driving position to all types of people.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of cubby spaces dotted around the cabin. There’s a neat place to store your smartphone under the climate controls, and it also has wireless charging capability, should your Android smartphone have that feature. There’ also a large glovebox, which also houses the SD card slot and CD slot, and large door bins, each enough to hold a 1 liter bottle, are placed on all 4 doors.
Features and Safety
Perhaps my most favorite feature in the Audi Q7 is the Virtual Cockpit. The 12.3 inch display is able to display a host of information legibly and it does not intimidate you with an overwhelming amount of information. It is able to minimize the gauges, and can instead provide an unobstructed, enlarged view of the navigation system, or even your music and media. Likewise, the Audi MMI (Multi-Media Interface) is logical and intuitive to use, and is one of my most favorite infotainment systems on all vehicles. The MMI dial is large, and has a satisfying click whenever you turn it. The dial also integrates a touchpad, which enables you to swipe, pinch, and zoom in the navigation screen, or write using your fingers when entering navigation data or entering a phone number to call someone.
A standard feature nowadays in most Audis is what is called the Audi Drive Select. The system is able to switch from different driving modes, from comfort, sport, eco, and individual, wherein the driver is able to set its own parameters, such as having a comfort suspension while the engine is in sport, and such. Each driving mode has a truly distinct character, which I’ll discuss further in the driving part.
The Audi Q7 is also packed with safety features, in which two of these systems are unique to the Audi Q7. The first one is called Audi Pre-Sense, which when it detects that danger is imminent, the system will tighten the seatbelts, close the sunroof and any open windows, ensuring that no occupant will be thrown out of the vehicle. The second feature is called Multi-Collision Braking System. It is basically an enhanced version of the automatic emergency braking found in many vehicles nowadays, wherein it applies the brakes automatically to prevent a crash, or if a crash does happen, applies the brakes intermittently to mitigate the effects of crashing further into another object.
All Q7 variants are powered by a 3.0 liter TDI diesel engine, producing 272 hp and a monstrous 600 Nm of torque, enabling this Q7 to have an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of a hot-hatch shaming 6.3 seconds. Power is sent to Audi’s quattro AWD system, via an 8-Speed Automatic.
How It Drives
Pressing the start button is a ceremony of the 8.3 inch MMI screen rising up from the dashboard, and the animations from the Audi Virtual Cockpit settling in. It’s always an occasion starting up this thing. Once settled, just flick the nicely shaped electronic gear lever to drive, and off you go, but if you are parked in a tight corner, a rear view camera with dynamic lines and all-around sensors will aid you out of your spot. Additionally, the Q7 has good sightlines and great outward visibility, making this large SUV less intimidating to drive in tight spaces.
Once you begin venturing out into the road, the Audi Q7 manages to be comfortable without being floaty, being able to maintain composure and stability unless you really throw it hard around a corner. This is due to the Audi Q7’s air suspension with automatic or manual height adjustment. At low speeds, the Q7’s ground clearance is at its normal height, enabling the suspension to have greater travel to better absorb bumps, while out on a faster patch of highway, the Q7 lowers its ride height for better stability and aerodynamics. Additionally, if the vertically challenged are having difficulty loading items into the large trunk, the rear suspension can be lowered with a push of a button.
For a short while, I puttered around town in eco mode. Without a shortage of power, the Audi Q7 does not feel slow or neutered in eco mode, with only a slight delay in the throttle pedal input and the engine actually responding. Aided by the fact that the Q7 3.0 TDI comes standard with a Start/Stop system, which shuts off the engine when in say, a set of stop lights, I was able to yield a fuel consumption figure of 10.3 km/l in mainly the city. Not bad for a large diesel 7-seater SUV with this much power. The steering, a variable electrically assisted unit, delivers little feedback through the steering, but is light enough for darting in and out of traffic.
Placing the Audi Drive Select in sport mode, and a distinct new attitude replaces its tamed, relaxed nature. The gauges change to a more driver oriented set up, the throttle a lot more sharp, the suspension stiffened, the steering more responsive, and the gearbox holding gears and downshifting eagerly in automatic mode. Just a slight tap on the throttle is now enough to make this Q7 lunge forward, making any impromptu drag races in the stoplights possible for this large SUV. In this mode, the Audi Q7 becomes a lively large SUV to drive, defying the laws of physics with its great maneuverability and responsive acceleration. In this mode, all the systems work in harmony to now deliver a fun to drive nature that is unheard off in such a large vehicle.
On The Downside
We need to talk about the electronic shifter. While it does look good, it takes a little time of getting used to, and in many occassions, I was leaving the car in reverse when I really wanted it to be in park, since my mind is calibrated to bring the shift lever all the way back to park, when in fact, park is just a button on the gear lever. This is the same case with BMW’s shifter, and I simply don’t see the point on why companies need to change what has been a control logic or sequence used by mankind since the invention of the automatic transmission.
Weird gear shift lever aside, the Audi Q7 remains to be an excellent large 7-seater crossover SUV. Right now, its fiercest, sole competitor would be the Volvo XC90, and while the Volvo XC90 is distinctly Swedish with its bolder exterior design and remarkable safety cred, the Audi Q7 manages to be the better driving of the two, with its distinctly German sports car-like handling that defies its size. With its easy to use MMI system and logically laid out Audi Virtual Cockpit, the Audi Q7 just might have that little edge over the Volvo XC90 in terms of the overall driving experience. Now that we have driven the two fierce competitors side-by-side, this will make for a great comparison (a future article will be made for this).
Exterior Design: ★★★☆☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Quality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.2 out of 5