Car reviews - Audi - Q7 - 3.0 TDi Quattro
Comfort, serene cruising ability, fuel economy, dash control improvements, features, space, quality
Room for improvement
A monster in the city, hard rear seats, one-model only selection
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17 Dec 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
There’s only one Q7 at the moment, as the 3.0TDI replaces the previous line up that included petrol and diesel, six and eight cylinders (at one stage, 12), and five and seven seaters.
There’s also one price and at $103,900 plus on-road costs, it’s more expensive than it predecessor though adds a considerable amount of technology and equipment.
But there is also an exhaustive list of options, allowing the one-model approach to work well off the showroom floor but inducing considerable wallet pain as you pass the dealership door.
Some options could have, initially, been taken for granted. Audi talks lovingly of the LED headlights and the ability to option up to the premium LED Matrix lights.
In fact even the plain LED headlights, and the sequential tail light indicators, are an extra $2800 and the Matrix set adds $5500. Heated front seats are $950 more, the air suspension is $4950, the Bang & Olufsen premium 23-speaker audio is $14,850 and the panoramic glass roof is $4250.
Have enough cash to load up the base vehicle and you can go to town with some stunning technological gear.
The Matrix LED headlights alone each have 15 LEDs for high beam that use three reflectors. A camera on the cabin mirror works with the headlights to appraise oncoming traffic lights or other possible dazzling sources. It will then turn off or dim the LEDs depending on the situation.
The cornering lights will even activate before the vehicle approaches a corner with information sourced from the sat-nav system.
So there’s a lot of clever engineering – you just have to be able to afford it.
It’s one of the biggest SUVs on the market, extending its part-alloy body 62mm past the LandCruiser, and even though its wheelbase is reduced compared with the previous Q7, it’s remarkably spacious.
The cabin is based around seven seats, with a pair of fold-flat pews in the third row and a 35:30:35 trio of foldable sets in the centre row.
For greater versatility, the centre row slides fore and aft over 110mm and the third row collapses and expands thanks to electric motors.
Audi has thinned the centre seats, saving 19kg and improving legroom for the third row occupants. The result is room for five adults and two children. Or, for short trips, even seven adults. There are airvents and bottle holders in the back.
Audi said the third row is safety-approved to take two children up to 36kg each. Up to five child seats and/or booster seats will fit in the second and third rows and each has an Isofix connection and a top tether.
The boot space is equally as flexible as the seating, offering 295 litres with all seats in place (by comparison, the Volkswagen Golf has 380 litres) and has 770 litres with the third row collapsed. Drop the centre seat row and there’s a total of 1955 litres.
Seat options include heating and cooling, massaging, electric lumbar adjustment and perforated leather upholstery.
Its size correctly suggests good cabin utilization. Personal storage space is reasonable, though the bulk of the centre console robs a lot of potential.
This includes cupholders that are better suited to taking small doses of coffee or junior-size water bottles. We don’t know how this car passes the US fast-food drive-thru test.
But the door pockets take 1.5-litre bottles and the centre lidded console bin is liberal.
On the plus side, Audi uses the Q7 to take a big step away from its increasingly complex, multi-level cabin control system used on its upmarket car range.
It would require, for example when increasing the ventilation’s fan speed, pressing one button until the fan function appeared, then adjusting the speed on another knob. Now it’s back to just adjusting the fan button.
The simpler control unit applies to other functions as well as the new two-zone (a four-zone with rear-seat control is optional) air conditioner.
As previewed on the latest TT, the Q7 expands on the virtual cockpit concept with an imposing 12.3-inch TFT monitor with controls either on the steering wheel or the centre-console’s touch panel.
This touch panel allows front occupants to write, pinch to zoom, or scroll through the monitor’s index. It can be bypassed by using voice control.
It also has an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot to give access to the internet for handheld devices.
In addition to the audio options – up to a 1920-watt Bang & Olufsen 23-speaker unit – there is the availability of two tablets than can slip into special tabs on the front-seat backrests and serve as a portable rear-seat entertainment system.
Audi will early in 2016 offer a smartphone interface for the integration of Apple and Android devices. There is likely to be retro-fit facility for current Q7 owners, but this hasn’t been confirmed.
Engine and transmission
The spec sheet retains the numbers and letters of the outgoing model but there’s barely anything identical in the new engine.
The 3.0 TDI in the latest third-generation Audi Q7 is made of a different metal to lower weight to 190kg (the first-gen was 220kg), the pistons have ducts to allow cooling oil to pass through, the heads and crankcase have separate water-cooling passages, the camshafts are hollow, there’s anti-friction material in the cylinders and piston rings, the fuel pressure is up to 2000-bar and the turbocharger has been overhauled. Whew!It’s also more powerful, now delivering 200kW (previously 180kW) at 4250rpm and torque of 600Nm at 1500-3000rpm (previously 550Nm).
The acceleration to 100km/h is completed in 6.5 seconds, down substantially from the previous model’s 7.8 seconds, while fuel use now averages 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres, a big improvement from the old model’s 7.4 L/100km.
The Q7 has a new three-stage system to reduce emissions. It has a catalytic convertor for the nitrous-oxides, a diesel particulate filter and SCR (selective catalytic reduction) injection that adds ammonia to turn the exhaust into water and nitrogen gas.
The ammonia is marketed as AdBlue and is stored in a 24-litre tank in the Q7 and topped up at each service. AdBlue and the SCR process are also used by Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, predominantly for trucks. The system was not used on the previous Volkswagen Group 3.0TDI engines.
Aside from the new engine, the Q7 gets an updated eight-speed Tiptronic automatic and a revised all-wheel drive. Instead of a transfer case, there is now a new self-locking centre differential that is integrated into the transmission.
The drive is now more flexible, able to change from its default 40:60 front:rear drive ratio up to 70 per cent for the front wheels and, conversely, to a maximum of 85 per cent at the rear. It therefore always remains a constant all-wheel drive system.
All this translates into an extremely competent wagon for city or country. Even in the dirt the unrelenting torque of the engine and the ability to dial in engine response as well as ground clearance (with the optional air suspension) it is remarkably agile.
It is also very quiet – even at idle – and impressively responsive and brisk in traffic. But its most notable attribute is its ride comfort.
Ride and handling
Large SUVs have two acts of physics working against them – weight and physical size. It interrupts everything a car maker is out to achieve – a low emission, fuel efficient and nimble vehicle.
With each new model, car makers are paring back weight and, if possible, size.
Audi did both. Because there’s up to 240kg trimmed from the new Q7 compared with its predecessor, it stands to reason that the latest model is more fuel efficient (it is), quicker (it slices 1.3 seconds off its 100km/h sprint, now 6,5 seconds) and more nimble (yes, in concert with suspension and steering upgrades).
New for the Q7 is a freshly-designed five-link suspension at the front and rear (previously double wishbones), an electro-mechanical steering to replace the old hydraulic assisted unit, optional all-wheel steering (using electric motors) and optional electronic-air dampers with height adjustment.
There’s a greater focus on handling. The five-link system cuts weight by 100kg while the revised brakes cut 8.5kg, in addition to the aluminum brake pedal that shaves a further 1kg off the wagon.
Audi carries over its “drive select” handling system as a standard feature, allowing the driver to dial the chassis and drivetrain through up to seven modes from economy to sporty to specific settings for the air suspended versions.
The air suspension’s control unit allows millimetre adjustments to be automatically made to individual wheels to keep the wagon flat through corners and maintain a comfortable ride.
It also can be adjusted by the driver for ride height, from its off-road position for speeds up to 80km/h of 25mm above its 210mm normal setting.
For low-speed work below 30km/h, it can add 35mm to 245mm. To allow easy loading, the body can temporarily drop 55mm from normal.
The combination of all these engineering tricks is a large, seemingly ungainly seven-seat wagon that drives like a sports sedan and, even better, has a ride that eclipses pretty much every affordable car on the market.
The Q7 is remarkable at erasing distance, making it feel at home in Australia and perfect for travelers aiming to go bush in style. A full-size spare wheel would be handy, though.
But even as a town car, it is quiet and comfortable, safe and actually a lot easier to drive than its physical presence may initially suggest. Simply one of the best big SUVs available.
Safety and servicing
Audi claims this vehicle beats all others in its segment for the number of available driver assistance systems.
Aside from the option list, standard safety equipment includes driver fatigue monitoring, hill holder, cruise control, adjustable speed limiter, rear parking system, reverse camera and Audi’s “pre-sense basic” and “pre-sense city’’ systems.
The “pre-sense basic” system monitors and controls various vehicle functions and when it detects an unstable driving condition, it initiates preventive measures. These include electronically-tightening the seat belts, closing the windows and sunroof and activating the hazard lights.
At speeds up to 85km/h, “pre-sense city” uses a front-mounted camera to watch other road users.
If it believes a collision is inevitable, it will warn the driver then – if necessary – automatically brakes. Audi said that at speeds up to 40km/h, “accidents can be avoided completelywithin the system limits”. At higher speeds (up to 85km/h), warnings and brake intervention can reduce the impact speed.
The optional assistance package ($4075) contains lane departure with passive steer, and adaptive cruise control that keeps the Q7 at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. This two front radar sensors and covers the vehicle’s full speed range from 0 to 250km/h.
The optional traffic jam assist works up to 65km/h, takes over the steering and uses cameras and sensors to guide the car and follow vehicles in a convoy.
Like the basics of an autonomous vehicle, the Q7 orientates itself by the lane markings and the other vehicles on the road. When the traffic jam assist reaches its system limits – as when traffic eases or it encounters a curve in the road – the driver must take over control.
There is also predictive efficiency assistant that uses the sat-nav data to alert the driver of situations including curves, elevation and speed limit signs.
The collision avoidance assist and the turn assist complete the assistance package. The collision avoidance assist uses cameras and sensors to avoid an obstacle and will jolt the steering to alert the driver.
Turn assist monitors oncoming traffic when turning right at low speeds. It will intervene and slow the car to a halt if it gauges a collision, such as a car intruding into the Q7’s path.
There is also cross-traffic assist at the rear that uses the rear radar sensors to warn the driver of approaching vehicles when reversing and will warn occupants of pedestrians or bicycles in close proximity.
Audi’s park assist system automatically steers the new Q7 in parallel and perpendicular parking and pulls out of parallel parking spots by means of 12 ultrasonic sensors.
This works in conjunction with the 360-degree cameras.
Audi has a three-year or unlimited distance warranty, a three-year roadside assist program and an annual service interval.
There is no capped-price service system but buyers can pre-pay for a choice of service and maintenance programs and time periods.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the new Q7 will hold 63 per cent of its purchase price after three years, slightly better than its three rivals listed here that each have 61 per cent of retained value.
The bulbous Q7 of old is replaced by a chunkier version. The styling is subjective but in the areas of technology, comfort, space and driver enjoyment, the new version is streets ahead of its ancestor.
Almost no car on the market today cruises the open road like the Q7. The downside is the seemingly affordable sticker price that rockets alarmingly when a few niceties are added.
A wish list including audio, air suspension, matrix headlights, and a few niceties, results in a price of $139,000 plus costs. Even if you can afford it, it’s still a very big machine to punt around the suburbs.
But most people, including me, are willing to put its sumptuous ride ahead of its girth.
Volvo XC90 R-Design from $97,950 plus on-road costs
Timed to meet the new-gen Audi Q7 head on, the XC90 takes a major step forward in safety, comfort and technology. It buckles in Volvo’s one-size-fits-all 2.0-litre turbo-diesel (there’s 2.0-litre petrol and hybrid options) for 165kW/470Nm and a 6.2L/100km economy and a 1224km maximum range. The seven-seater has an on-demand AWD system, eight-speed auto and a modest 2250kg tow rating. Features include collision mitigation, sat-nav, perforated leather upholstery, iPad-style centre console plus adjustable TFT instrument gauge, 20-inch alloys, electric tailgate and a 10-speaker audio. The boot space is 615-1102-1951 litres depending on the seat position. Warranty is three years with roadside assistance, servicing is annual and there is a cost-effective service program. Resale is estimated at 61 per cent of the purchase price after three years.
Range Rover Sport TDV6 from $102,300 plus on-road costs
This polished Englishman is the less-expensive – but equally as capable – member of the Range Rover Vogue series. It is a five-seater but has seven seats available as a $3700 option. The wagon is very capable away from the bitumen. Power comes from a 190kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel that claims 6.9L/100km and has a potential range of 1270km. Features include 19-inch alloys, lane-departure warning, air-electronic suspension, sat-nav, electric tailgate and leather. The boot size is 784-1761 litres and the tow rating is 3500kg. It has a three-year or 100,000km warranty, annual servicing but no service program. Resale according to Glass’s Guide is 61 per cent after three years.
Toyota LandCruiser VX from $97,500 plus on-road costs
The real McCoy when it comes to surviving the Outback. The wagon is made for punishing off-road work though the VX (and more upmarket Sahara) are surprisingly lavish and thanks to the Australian-developed Kinetic suspension, adjustable for anything from bitumen to rocks. It has a 200kW/650Nm 4.5-litre bi-turbo diesel V8 engine quoted at 9.5L/100km and drawing from a 138-litre tank. It has a six-speed automatic and two-speed transfer case. Features include leather, seven seats, LED headlights, sat-nav, sunroof and leather. The boot is up to 1276 litres. It has a three-year or 100,000km warranty, six-monthly servicing and a cost-effective capped-price service program that costs only $1320 for three years. The resale is 61 per cent.
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