Car reviews - Audi - Q7 - 3.0 TDI 160kW
Smoothness and isolation the epitome of luxury, exceptional fuel efficiency, consummate mile-muncher, perky dynamics
Room for improvement
A VW Tiguan has better interior storage, urban unwieldiness from big turning circle, no spare wheel
3 Nov 2016
Price and equipment
At $96,300 plus on-road costs, the Q7 160kW 3.0 TDI is $8000 less expensive than the 200kW version that debuted as sole variant of Audi’s all-new second-generation large SUV in Australia.
BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo will sell you an entry-level X5, Range Rover Sport, GLE or XC90 for less, but Audi Australia has so far refused to stoop so low as to saddle the big Q7 with a little four-cylinder engine.
In fact, it expects the majority of customers to go for the higher-spec 200kWvariant anyway. At the time of writing, the confirmed-for-Australia high-performance SQ7 and eco-conscious e-tron plug-in hybrid were not yet launched.
Standard gear on the 160kW includes an 8.0-inch retractable multimedia central display, complimented by a 7.0-inch screen between the instruments. Both offer access to the satellite navigation, phone and 10-speaker audio (including DAB+ digital radio, CD/DVD player and smartphone/MP3 connectivity). The reversing camera with guidance lines and visualisation for the parking sensors is displayed on the central monitor.
Standard safety and driver assistance gear includes tyre pressure monitoring system, cruise control with a speed limiter, hill hold assist, hill descent control, forward collision warning and mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and an exit warning designed to prevent occupants from opening the door on passing cyclists, pedestrians or vehicles.
There are power-adjustable front seats with memory function for the driver’s side, a powered tailgate, power-folding third-row seats, self-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control, part-leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, metallic interior trim strips, 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and automatic Xenon headlights and wipers.
Some of the features missing from the 160kW Q7 compared with the 200kW variant include Audi’s fabulous Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel, higher-grade leather upholstery and fully painted bumpers, while 360-degree cameras and park assist are only available as part of the $1300 upgrade pack fitted to our test car.
It also carried the $750 on-board WiFi hotspot, $2400 worth of metallic paint (and a $1300 ‘full body paint finish’), the $4065 assistance package comprising adaptive cruise control with traffic jam mode, lane-keeping assistance, autonomous emergency braking and collision avoidance technology such as and ‘turn assist’ which prevents the driver from turning into the path of oncoming traffic at junctions.
Full LED headlights ($2800) and customised interior trim ($1690) were also fitted. Absent was privacy glass, at a rather cheeky $1100.
Other available options include three versions of the sporty S line trim ranging from $8760 to $13,700, wall-to-wall leather ($14,500), a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio setup at $13,990 and dynamic upgrades including adaptive air suspension ($4690) and four-wheel steering ($2650) are also available, along with much more besides in the areas of technology, comfort and convenience features (heated seats $950, heated/ventilated $3590), alloy wheels and interior or exterior trim.
A five-seat interior layout is a no-cost option.
What has been said a thousand times before about Audi interiors applies quality materials, beautifully crafted finishes and satisfyingly tactile switchgear are all present and correct on the Q7.
But Volvo’s XC90 has stolen much of Audi’s thunder when it comes to the visual impact and sense of opulence in large luxury SUV interiors, and the boxy Swede has superior space and practicality too.
The Q7 cabin is perhaps more restrained and familiar-feeling though, with comfier front seats than the Volvo providing the perfect perch for a car that revealed itself to be the consummate mile-muncher. Only the overly-firm door armrest padding marred the up-front experience.
And it’s quiet. It might be a base model, but the sense of isolation in a 160kW Q7 marks it out as a true luxury vehicle. Smoothness is another strong point, but more on that later.
On the downside, Audi should have paid more attention to its parent company Volkswagen when devising the Q7’s interior storage. Considering it feels as though the well-thought-out Tiguan could fit inside the Q7’s boot, the big Audi offers minimal compartments and what does exist is frustratingly small – including cupholders.
We searched the options list – which rivals War and Peace for word-count – for some sort of extended interior storage pack. There isn’t one.
Perhaps Ingolstadt’s interior designers aimed the Q7 at adopters of the minimalist lifestyle. However, even families without enough offspring to fill a seven-seater know post-parenthood minimalism is an impossible dream. Unless you live in abject poverty, in which case you wouldn’t be buying a $100,000 Q7.
Those up front are well catered for in terms of comfort and technology, and comfort is also great on the plush second row as well. Each of the three seats individually slides and reclines. There is plenty of space and flexibility on offer here.
A pair of adjustable vents is present and correct, as are a cigarette lighter and a pair of ashtrays along with the usual 12V power outlet. We are not sure that encouraging smoking in the back is wise, as bad smells from the rear quarters were quickly transferred to the front vents, and in turn our noses, even with air recirculation switched off.
For us this led to an unpleasant olfactory assault on the way home from a curry meal, but could be useful early warning for parents during a rapidly escalating stealth code brown situation.
Isofix child seat anchorages are available on all three central positions, but they are located behind leather-trimmed panels that must be removed first. Then the lack of storage rears its head because there is nowhere to put these foot-long items. A central fold-down armrest provides a pair of cupholders.
News from the very back is not so good. Conveniently placed electrical adjustment switches in the boot and by the rear door make things nice and easy, unless the manually operated and quite heavy central row is not in exactly the right position. This can cause the folding headrests to snag.
It is children-only back there, too, with not enough room for taller teens and only really small (or unpopular) adults will fit. No ventilation controls are provided, just a shallow tray and cupholders moulded into the plastic trim.
Isofix is also available at the back, making it possible to haul five young children at once, and these positions are blessed with less cumbersome anchorage covers. The top-tether points are on the seat-backs of all second- and third-row positions, meaning nobody has to duck under flapping straps. Big door openings make installing child restraints and strapping young ones in a cinch for parents of all heights. Likewise clambering into the third row.
With the third row in-situ, 295 litres of luggage space is available, but there is nowhere to stow the now-redundant cargo blind that covers the 770-litre boot available with the rearmost row stowed, expanding to a van-like 1955L with the both rear rows down. With all the seats in the right place, it can also form an almost seamless, flat-floored load area.
Parents will appreciate the lack of beeping from the powered tailgate, but might get frustrated at the hit-and-miss nature of the gesture-controlled opening mechanism. Reaching for the key is much more reliable.
But beneath the boot floor is a pump and can of sealant rather than a spare tyre. This is daft on an SUV that might be taken on tyre-troubling dirt roads and, more realistically, is brilliant at long-distance touring where limp-home solutions won’t cut the mustard.
While the large windows provide good visibility in theory, in practice the Q7 was difficult to judge when parking.
Even though the second-gen Q7 has shrunk by 37mm in length and 15mm in width compared with its predecessor – affectionately known as QE7 due to its cruise-liner proportions – almost all parking spaces are tight in a car this big. Don’t let the deceptive styling fool you.
Size-related urban manoeuvrability issues are amplified by the Q7’s large 12.4-metre turning circle, which is bigger than that of a dual-cab Toyota HiLux 4x4. The result is an unwieldiness that made us think twice about grabbing the Q7 keys for short local trips. Surely a bad sign.
The optional automated parking feature couldn’t cope either, forcing us to intervene when it almost punted us into a Pajero. It was wise, then, that Audi Australia specced this press car with the 360-degree camera option. At $1300 it could well pay for itself in insurance excess savings and an intact claim-free rating.
On the subject of options, we’d go for one of the more reasonably priced audio system upgrades, as it really feels like Audi was holding back with the standard, muddy-sounding 10-speaker outfit. Other audio niggles involved a dashboard rattle that emerged on dirt tracks or rougher bitumen.
Engine and transmission
The 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel produces 160kW of power from 3250-4750rpm and 500Nm of torque from 1250-3000rpm. These peaks are 40kW and 100Nm down on the more expensive variant, but the least expensive Q7 by no means feels underpowered and manages to dispatch the 0-100km/h benchmark in a claimed 7.3 seconds. Not bad for a vehicle tipping the scales at 2135kg unladen.
Full of passengers and luggage, or with the 3500kg braked towing capacity fully exploited it might be a different matter, but we found the engine well-matched with its slick eight-speed automatic transmission.
There is short initial delay during full-bore, standing-start acceleration, but we found the Q7 to be lively and flexible for almost all types of driving.
Apart from a little extra noise when starting from cold or a slightly bovine note under heavy acceleration, we enjoyed the drivetrain’s quietness, smoothness and refinement.
Smoothness was its most impressive trait, in fact the Q7’s defining quality.
The throttle calibration and pedal travel are delightful, making urban, suburban and motorway driving feel blissfully effortless. It really is easy to drive like a limousine chauffeur, just sitting much higher. Again, the sense of isolation marked the Q7 out as a true luxury vehicle.
On twisty country roads in dynamic mode, the driveline remains impressive. A combination of broad torque delivery starting from low revs and the intelligent automatic cog-swapper meant we only had to use the manual paddle-shifters while stringing together a set of hairpin bends. The rest of the time we just left it to its own devices and got on with enjoying the Q7’s handling.
We also achieved some staggering fuel-efficiency figures, including 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres on a 110km/h motorway run into a headwind. With a full tank, the trip computer’s range estimate read 1090km. We averaged 7.7L/100km overall.
To put that into context, we got better consumption out of the Q7 than a Hyundai i30 small hatchback the previous week.
The Q7 got a bit thirstier when thrashed, the trip computer reporting 11.5L/100km after a morning of urban and dynamic driving. Even then, not a heartbreaking figure for something so big and heavy.
Ride and handling
The Q7 is a strange car. On the standard suspension it generally feels softly sprung and cosseting but can become pretty crashy on really poor surfaces at low speeds. Like spotting a rat in the kitchen of a hatted restaurant after enjoying a delicious meal, the Audi’s otherwise seamless and luxurious impression is shattered.
Also strange is the way it goes round corners. This isn’t a criticism, because we didn’t expect it to be this good. At first, we thought it was a bit floaty.
But then our eyes focussed on the speedometer and we realised what corner velocities this big bus was achieving in an eerily fuss-free manner. The Q7’s sensation of speed, or lack thereof, required major recalibration of the brain.
Good job the instrument panel can be scrolled to a large digital speed readout.
The steering is super-intuitive and provides a surprising amount of feel. It doesn’t go dead around the middle during quick direction changes it is just smooth (that word again) and friction-free. Dynamic mode doesn’t make it go too heavy, either, but switching to the lighter Comfort felt anything but during this type of driving so we switched straight back to the excellently judged Dynamic.
What probably resulted in the aforementioned low-speed crashiness helped minimise roll through corners. The Q7 does not sit sportscar flat by any means, but it is well controlled and the chassis copes well with the weight transfer through faster left-right corner combinations. It can be quite good fun.
Unsurprisingly, the Q7 does not cope brilliantly with really tight corners and has to be slowed down substantially for its Pirelli Scorpion tyres – and the laws of physics – to get two-tonnes-plus of SUV round safely. Otherwise, howling understeer is accompanied by flashing lights and lots of electronic intervention.
Grab the right ratio using the left paddle-shifter (in these circumstances the auto tended to be in too high a gear) and the Q7’s quattro all-wheel-drive system provides plenty of traction to execute a graceful slow-in, fast-out hairpin.
Sporty driving shenanigans aside, the Q7’s off-road mode exhibited great stability calibration on gravel tracks. The Audi’s imperious feel on these low-grip surfaces can lead to over-confidence, but the electronics do a great job of safely keeping things in check.
Relatively chunky 55-section tyres on the standard 19-inch rims help soak up the worst of these rough surfaces and provide more give to help the Q7 dig deep for grip and traction. So it’s a shame Audi doesn’t include a spare of any kind.
But the biggest takeaway from the Q7’s ride and handling is its long-distance touring ability. The ride comfort, overall isolation, effortlessness and low sensation of speed make it a very relaxing vehicle in which to spend hours behind the wheel.
So long as you are not worried about punctures.
Safety and servicing
ANCAP awarded the second-gen Q7 a maximum five-star rating with a score of 94 per cent or adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 76 per cent for safety assist equipment and 70 per cent for pedestrian protection.
Six airbags (dual front, front-side and full-length curtain), anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, low-speed autonomous emergency braking, speed limiter and advanced seatbelt reminders are standard.
Service intervals are annual or 15,000km and under Audi’s Genuine Care Service Plan, the first three years of scheduled services (up to 45,000km) can be pre-paid for $1900 (plus Luxury Car Tax if purchased with the vehicle transaction) at participating dealerships, transferrable between owners.
The Q7 is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
If you regularly drive long distances, especially if they regularly include twisty sections of road, the Q7 is a masterclass of comfort, luxurious isolation, fuel-efficiency and dynamics. But the lack of spare tyre throws shade on that kind of usage.
The reason is, most Q7s will be deployed in cities and suburbs, where the size and unwieldy nature grated during our week with the car and made us not want to use it, even though we are used to driving all kinds and sizes of vehicle.
And despite its exterior dimensions, the big Audi’s rearmost row is disappointingly cramped.
But for all its flaws, with the Q7, Audi has surely created a landmark luxury SUV for those who cannot stretch to a Range Rover or Bentley Bentayga.
That’s because of the effortlessly smooth way it executes the majority of driving scenarios and provides a deeply engineered luxury feel even in this base-level trim.
We didn’t miss the extra power and torque of its more expensive 200kW stablemate, so put the $8000 saving toward some of the many options. Starting with the 360-degree camera.
Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription from $100,950 plus on-road costs
Cutting-edge cabin, potent four-cylinder engine and spacious seven-seat accommodation make the big Volvo a serious luxury SUV contender. Like the Audi, a bit flawed and also like the Audi, the quality of the overall package makes its foibles forgivable.
Mercedes-Benz GLE 250d 4Matic from $89,455 plus on-road costs
Refreshed and renamed ML can’t match the Audi on interior and its four-cylinder engine has a narrow power and torque band.
BMW X5 xDrive25d from $91,200 plus on-road costs
Like the Benz, this four-cylinder BMW is the brand’s most affordable all-wheel-drive diesel in this segment. It was the dynamic benchmark and still kicks butt on a mountain road but the Q7 gives it a good run for its money and the X5’s cabin feels dull in comparison.
Range Rover Sport SD4 S from $90,900 plus on-road costs
Apart from the disappointing touchscreen this Brit’s interior feels special like the Audi and Volvo. Although it only has a four-cylinder engine at this price, it’s the only one here that offers both sparkling road manners and genuine off-road talent.
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