Car reviews - Audi - Q7 - 3.0 TDi Quattro
Magic carpet ride, surprising performance, classy and roomy interior
Room for improvement
Expensive options, glitchy navigation, overenthusiastic lane assistance
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6 Aug 2015
AUSTRALIA has a growing love affair with large SUVs and the luxurious end of the spectrum is no exception.
So it comes as no surprise that when Audi introduced its Q7 offering in 2006, high-end high-rider fans flocked to it.
For the new version, Audi has gone back to basics with a narrower range, at least launch, of one powertrain with two specifications in place of the previous-generation's three (for a while – four) variant line-up.
For now, the new Q7 is the 3.0 TDI Quattro priced from $103,900 before on-road costs.
With a significant output boost courtesy of the 200kW/600Nm turbocharged V6 diesel, the Q7 manages to cover a lot of bases, with power and torque not far off the previous V8 diesel and fuel economy figures that a mid-sized sedan owner would be happy with.
The claimed fuel economy of 5.9-litres per 100km is partly thanks to the tweaked engine but also a hearty weight-reduction of 240kg. The result can be felt as soon as you point your toe in the new Q7.
One expects a few things from a 100-grand Audi SUV, such as a well-appointed interior with lots of equipment, European style and German build quality, but more surprising is the way the Q7 accelerates.
With full torque available from just 1500 rpm and sent to the road through all four wheels, off-the-mark performance feels every bit as quick as Audi's reported zero to 100km/h time of just 6.5 seconds.
How does a two-tonne-plus Audi SUV accelerate as fast as a V8-powered 1980 Ferrari 308 GTS?Just as impressive is how smoothly and quietly the torque is delivered, with little perceptible diesel sound. While the upper part of the rev-range runs out of puff, there is little need to go there with all of the fun to be had under 3500rpm.
With eight speeds in the tiptronic automatic transmission, it is easy to keep the strong V6 in the sweet spot, either with the steering wheel paddles or leaving the electronics to their own devices.
Maintaining pace in the Q7 is effortless, with the abundant torque matched by excellent ride comfort and an eerily quiet cabin. Thankfully, all Q7s come with cruise control, because without it, speeds can build imperceptibly thanks to the insulated and serene interior.
On decent roads the comfort levels were excellent, and some large imperfections were ironed-out with no complaint from the chassis. Standard fitment coil spring suspension might not have fared so well, but the optional $4950 adaptive air suspension under our car was silky.
The big SUV defied its size well with light and sharp steering with better than expected feel through the beautifully ergonomic steering wheel. We particularly liked the rear-wheel steering that tightened the turning circle at low speeds, despite the Q7's 2994mm wheelbase.
Body-roll could be provoked with a heavy hand and when pushed hard the Q7 will reveal its size with a lots of inertia near the limit, but for most motoring, the Q7 has an impeccable road manner with lots of grip.
Flicking the Dynamic Drive switch to the sportiest mode sharpened the steering further and stiffened the ride to a choppier setting and, while the Dynamic mode focused the Q7 for more enthusiastic driving, we don't imagine the option would get much use in a large load-lugging car of any type.
With a choice of rear or four-wheel drive, BMW's X5 offers a more dynamic and driver focused option from $84,200 or $100,900 for a 3.0-litre diesel with 4WD equivalent, but the Quattro offers a viable alternative with a combination of comfort and driving fun.
Later in the trip we swapped to a Q7 fitted with optional 21-inch wheel. While the bigger rims matched the proportions of the big SUV, the ride was impacted noticeably with more road noise and vibrations making their way into the cabin.
For our money, we would stick with the standard 19-inches for the smooth ride while saving $4950 for some other goodies on the options list such as the Assistance Package, which brings adaptive cruise control and active lane assist.
We liked the ability to match the speed of leading vehicles, but the lane assistance technology may take a little more getting used to. When active, the system is constantly watching the lane markings and adjusting the steering angle with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm.
We felt the system intervened a little too fanatically, even when the vehicle was still well within the white lines. When necessary, the system is impressive and effective, steering the car around even sharper bends, but we found the constant changes in steering weight a little off-putting.
As one has grown to expect from Audi, the Q7's interior is a good balance of comfort and tasteful design with good quality materials and unusual features throughout.
Most notably, the Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster stands out as an example of modern technology and clever rationalisation of traditional dashboard layout.
All information necessary for the driver is offered up in the 12.3-inch LCD screen, with all other occupant-relevant information available on the centrally positioned retractable screen.
The Audi MMI navigation occasionally got a little lost in a similar manner that we have experienced in the TT, which also shares the Nividia-powered screen, but all other functions were easy to access with intuitive and logical controls through a touchpad, steering wheel buttons or voice control.
For a whopping $14,850, Audi will kit your Q7 out with a top-line Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced sound system with 23 speakers, 23-channel amp and an ear-busting 1920 watts of power.
The system has outstanding depth, clarity and volume, and even offers aesthetic features such as the protruding tweeters, but we would find it hard to justify the extra cash over the $2775 Bose system, which also has exceptional sound quality.
A wide air vent runs the full width of the dashboard between the cluster and the passenger door – a bold and imposing feature and was framed by an optional brushed aluminium and oak trim kit that sharpened the interior but at a cost of $2170.
With seven real seats, the Q7 will appeal to families wanting to cart a large number of offspring and a good haul of kit and pets too. We fitted seven adults in the SUV and while those seated in the third row would not want to spend hours on board, the exercise proved the 2+3+2 is not just a gesture.
We particularly liked convenience features such as the electrically folding 3rd row and versatile combination of seats, which permits a luggage space from 295-litres to 1955-litres.
As a device for moving lots of people and things for long distances in comfort the Audi Q7 is among the best in the field with an excellent on-road manner, a little Quattro confidence off road and a sharp new look.
It might not quite match the dynamics of BMW's X5 and until the new Mercedes GLE arrives on local roads, the jury is out on a Mercedes rival, but Audi's second-generation Q7 has enough luxury, performance and kit to keep it winning a strong Australian following.
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