Car reviews - Audi - Q7
Quality, comfort, safety and multimedia tech, refinement, air-suspension ride, standard safety gear, cabin space, improved value, dynamic capability
Room for improvement
No petrol models as yet, buttonless dash may intimidate technophobes, smudge-prone touchscreens, expensive options, debatable ‘facelift’ aesthetics, remote steering
Intelligent, desirable updates and improved spec keep the ageing Q7 fighting fit
3 Apr 2020
LONG one of our favourite Audis, the second-generation Q7 has just undergone a significant makeover, adopting the more-modern styling motifs of the latest Q5 and related Q8 outside, as well as the latter’s lavish dashboard presentation.
Better still, while prices rise slightly, the Germans have increased content significantly, including standardising the air suspension that was an essential option in the previous iteration.
The result is a capable, classy and high-quality seven-seater luxury SUV.
First drive impressions
Has it really been five years since Audi unveiled the last Q7?
Expectations for that earliest iteration of the second-generation full-sized SUV were low, after the big, lumbering and quite uncouth disappointment that was the 2005 original.
Instead, the German firm seemed to pull all stops out to make its five-metre long seven-seater lighter, nimbler and lovelier to sit inside as well as behold.
While its predecessor seemed like a bloated Volkswagen to drive, this one felt like Audi had at last cracked the code as to how to build a high-quality luxury SUV.
With the $5K air suspension option especially, the Q7 was arguably the company’s best product. Audi, but with extra everything.
For years nobody could touch it – not BMW’s X5 nor Mercedes’ GLS. Only Volvo’s XC90 came close.
Now there’s been a facelift, and at first glance, we’re sceptical. The aggressive vertical grille slats look too much like a mouthguard while the newly-rounded tailgate has lost that designed-by-protractor angularity that was so distinctive.
Grafting a later styling language over an older design means the Q7’s visual cohesion has withered slightly. Now it’s as if a Q5 ate all the pies… and is angry about it.
Never mind. Inside, things are certainly looking up, since Audi’s decision to filter down the Q8 luxury SUV flagship’s space-age triple-screen gloss-black fascia (dashboard seems too plebeian a term) elevates the Slovakian-assembled seven-seater crossover into the upper echelons of motoring.
While some might lament the loss of actual physical switchgear in most cases – since the majority of vehicle, climate, multimedia and driving functions are accessed via one of two sizeable touchscreens – familiarisation soon makes things quick and easy to discover and deploy.
Better still, the sheer level of detailing and craftsmanship would not be out of place in an A8 limo, with lovely, lush surfaces, gorgeous fonts and artistic clarity abounding everywhere.
Do take the time to learn what’s on offer, because once acclimatised, returning to more regular cabins will feel like a demotion from business class.
There’s more; the wireless Apple CarPlay functionality is brilliantly seamless – no more cords! The fabric and textures seem to caress all the senses; and the levels of space and functionality – this is a seven-seater SUV after all – is as practical as the genre demands.
Loads of room for adults in the first two rows. A massive boot. Even vision out is child’s play, aided by the newly-standardised surround-view monitor. Easy as.
That’s not to say everything’s perfect inside, however. The digitised instrumentation is nowhere near as elegant as Audi’s traditional analogue dials, and this needs to be addressed, and it’s also too easy to smudge that glossy screen finish with grubby fingerprints.
Those big firm front seats might not be as cossetting to slighter frames as they could be, exacerbating the sheer bulk of the thing, and clambering out to the third row is best suited to smaller folk – though the motorised seat backs are a boon as they’re quite heavy.
Perfect for well-heeled families, then. But has Audi paid any attention to updating the driving experience?
The fact is, not much was needed in the first place. Having the resources to leverage a set of architectural components that have to serve everything from a Volkswagen Touareg to a Lamborghini Urus via a Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga means the gene pool is fabulously rich to say the least, and in some small ways, the Q7 has a bit of DNA from each to help see it through.
Let’s begin with the powertrains. The lowliest variant on sale right now is the 45 TDI quattro, which brings a 170kW/500Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 driving all four wheels via one of the world’s best automatic transmissions – ZF’s slick eight-speeder.
Now, plant the go pedal and there’s a moment’s delay, but after that, the power comes on thick and strong, and it’s likely you’ll soon be braking to keep from speeding.
Also, the distant, guttural growl as you bound along is far from unpleasant, and very un-diesel like.
Coupled with the welcome isolation from the outside elements as well as the road, we’d say that even the cheapest Q7 offers exceptional refinement.
Moving on to the 210kW/600Nm version of the same powertrain in the 50 TDI brings usefully more muscle in the mid ranges, for even greater oomph.
Yes, we know that diesel is a dirty fuel with a real bad reputation right now, but – gee – the sheer effortlessness and efficiency on offer in these models are compelling enough to convert doubters, if not environmentalists…
Audi’s decision to standardise the excellent air suspension further extends our admiration for the Q7, since it does a great job cushioning out the little road irregularities that so-often mar big-wheeled German vehicles, while providing a plushness over larger ones. Serene suppleness.
That all said, the flipside of all that isolation is… isolation.
While not completely devoid of sensory feedback, the Audi is a little remote in the utterly capable and perfunctory way it turns so coolly and calmly into corners, telegraphing nothing of the interaction to the driver except a sense of calm composure.
That’s not at all a bad thing in such a hefty SUV, and nor is the impressively contained body control through faster curves, which is actually quite astounding for something approaching 2.3 tonnes.
But if you’re expecting BMW X5 or even Mazda CX-9 levels of dynamic bonding, you may be disappointed. Everyone else, though, will love it.
Which is precisely what you want from a large luxury SUV, right?
All the fundamental engineering smarts that made this second-gen model a benchmark back in the mid-2010s still hold up strongly today.
Throw in all that dazzling interstellar dash, efficiency-enhancing mild-hybrid tech, improved safety and substantially higher standard equipment levels, and it’s obvious why the Q7 remains one of our favourite Audis.
Great job, Ingolstadt.
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