Car reviews - Audi - Q7 - 3.0 TDI 160kW
Interior quality, flat cargo floor, supple ride, impressive handling for 2.0-tonne SUV, crisp steering, engaging performer, tech levels
Room for improvement
Expensive options, tiny centre console storage compartment, rivals have cheaper base variants
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15 Mar 2016
THE take-up of Audi’s second-generation Q7 large SUV since its late-2015 launch is nothing short of impressive.
It has leapfrogged the sales of the perennial favourite – BMW’s X5 – in the first two months of the year and that is from just one single variant. BMW offers eight X5 variants.
Audi’s latest Q7 offering is powered by the same 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as the one that lobbed last year, only the power and torque have been dialled down by 40kW and 100Nm respectively.
The price of the 3.0 TDI 160kW has also come down and at $96,300 plus on-road costs is $7600 less than its 200kW sibling.
Aside from losing some power and torque, the 160kW drops a few standard features compared with the 200kW – it gets a smaller display screen instead of the impressive 12.3-inch virtual cockpit, misses out on ‘cricket’ leather upholstery, while the 360-degree cameras and park assist are only available as part of the $1300 Parking Assistance Package.
It loses the body coloured lower skirting in favour of dark grey and the standard 19-inch alloy wheel design differs from the slightly more powerful version, but that’s about it in terms of differences.
Value wise the 160kW Q7 sits somewhere between the base and lower-to-mid-spec versions of the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, but it is a bit cheeky that the entry variant is still close to $100,000, while BMW, Mercedes and Volvo all offer more affordable models ranging from about $86-89,000.
As with almost every high-end European offering, the options list is ridiculously extensive and, at times, eye-wateringly expensive.
Be careful what you choose here. Heated front seats add $950 but if you want heated and ventilated seats, that’s $3590 thanks. Even metallic paint is $2400.
If you are careful with the options list, Audi offers reasonably high levels of standard safety and comfort gear as well as loads of tech throughout the cabin.
And what a beautiful cabin it is.
Audi’s interiors are always the cream of the crop and the Q7 is no exception.
There is soft-touch material everywhere, the design and layout of the dash is flawless, the stubby gear-shift lever is delightful, the chunky three-spoke steering wheel feels lovely to touch and even the roof-lining looks and feels the part.
When you are forking out close to $100k for a car, you want the cabin to feel special and the Q7 does that and then some, which is more than can be said for some other premium European brands.
The tech is impressive, and while the 160kW misses out on the wiz-bang virtual cockpit found in the 200kW version, the screen that pops up from the top of the dash – and the seriously good sat-nav housed within it – is top notch.
Audi’s touchpad behind the gear lever takes some getting used to, but functions well and can be used to access a number of audio, nav and other functions.
Towards the rear, the Q7 has tumble-folding second-row seats for easier access to the third row, ensuring that getting kids in the back is relatively easy, although the seats were heavier than expected to lift.
If the third row is not required – a five-seat version of the Q7 is available as a no-cost option – the rear seats fold down via an electric control into the floor creating a perfectly flat cargo space, ideal for loading all kinds of Ikea flat-pack products.
The third row should be the domain of children or adults with very small legs, but the second row would be a delightful place to spend a few hours.
There is bucket-loads of head and legroom and ample bottle and cupholders throughout, although the centre console storage compartment is tiny.
In terms of on-board tech, the gesture control automatic tailgate system – it opens the boot when you stand at the rear of the car with the key on you and wave your foot under the bumper – is patchy.
So too is the Audi active lane assist, which is part of a $4075 Assistance Package. It steers the vehicle back into the lane you should be in, but as soon as you encounter a broken line on the side of the road, it loses its place and the driver must retake control of the wheel. You can choose not to turn it on.
Realistically your hands should probably be on the steering wheel anyway, and the way the Q7 drives means you will want to engage as much as possible with the high-riding German.
We can’t remember an SUV that drives, rides and handles as well as the Q7, and while the likes of the BMW X5 and Ford’s Australian-built Territory come to mind, the Audi has them beat.
It offers a lovely, crisp steering feel from the electromechanical power steering system, which offers precise turn-in and response.
Losing 40kW/100Nm has impacted the 0-100km/h dash time – at 7.3 seconds it is 0.8s slower than the 200kW version – but is not a deal breaker and when accelerating from a standing start, aside from a hint of lag, the Q7 picks up quickly. Most buyers will be more than satisfied with the in-line performance.
The official fuel consumption figure is 5.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but we achieved closer to 7.5L/100km, which is still impressive given how enthusiastically we tested the Q7.
But it is how the Q7 handles that really impresses. The 3.0 TDI tackles corners in a way that a 2.0-tonne-plus seven-seat family SUV should not, with barely any noticeable bodyroll.
On particularly twisty roads, it puts its rivals to shame, and it never feels weighty or bloated in the way its predecessor did.
The media launch was held in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and reaching the accommodation meant driving on some pot-holed dirt tracks that would have shamed a number of soft-roaders, but the Q7’s quattro all-wheel-drive system traversed the terrain with ease, with very little skipping or slipping.
The vehicles on the media launch were not fitted with the optional $4950 adaptive air suspension, which some journalists have raved about, but it didn’t matter, as the Q7 was compliant and composed across a variety or surfaces.
On the open road, the ride is supple to the point where you can imagine driving the Q7 from Melbourne to Perth and enjoying every minute of it.
Our time behind the wheel made us even more excited for the upcoming plug-in hybrid e-tron version and the stonking SQ7 performance variant. But until then, the 3.0 TDI 160kW is a fine choice.
Buyers looking for more bling and comfort goodies would do well to pay the extra dollars for the 200kW, but don’t buy that version thinking you need the extra power for overtaking or blasting other SUVs at the traffic lights because the 160kW is more than capable.
Audi has stepped it up with the Q7 in terms of cabin comfort and flexibility, technology advances, packaging, ride, handling and performance and it is now very much at the top of the luxury SUV pack.
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