Car reviews - Audi - Q7 - 3.0 TDI
Confident styling, huge interior, third-row option, effective and economical turbo-diesel, refined road manners
Room for improvement
Base vehicle, at nearly $85,000, could surely have power front seats
23 Feb 2007
By CHRIS HARRIS
WE’VE waited a long time for Audi to come up with a purpose-built SUV.
The Allroad quattro that has been the German company’s sole crossover has been doing duty seemingly forever but, however good it may be, the fact is we all know it’s really little more than a pumped-up A6 Avant.
The new Q7 dismisses any thoughts Audi may be a fair-weather SUV player. For starters, it’s one of the biggest kids on the block. Available with the choice of five, six or seven seating positions, it is bigger than a LandCruiser, bigger than a Patrol and close to lineball with the new Mercedes GL-class.
Yet the Q7 manages to look sleek and driver-friendly with a drag co-efficient as low as 0.34 when (as an option on V6 models) air suspension is fitted.
The Q7 supports Audi values too. There’s no questioning the size – or weight, as it tips the scales at a little under 2.3 tonnes in TDI form – but the SUV is packed with technology and as good on the road is its appearance suggests.
The all-wheel drive system is genuine full-time, with three differentials – the centre unit self-locking to ensure drive will always be directed to both ends when required. The Audi continues the trend of not providing a low-range transfer case because SUV owners simply don’t buy these vehicles for off-road purposes.
The Q7 also offers adaptive air suspension that changes the character of the vehicle depending on how the driver feels – from soft and cushy to tied-down sporty, or a combination of both if the automatic selector is activated.
Only of benefit on unrestricted roads (no longer in Australia), the suspension automatically drops ride height by 15mm at speeds above 120km/h and a further 15mm at speeds beyond 160km/h. Selecting the sport mode takes the Q7 instantly 15mm below the standard setting.
And there are three engines: A 3.6-litre V6 that springs from the new 3.2-litre seen in the TT and A3, a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel TDI most recently adopted in the A4 and the 90-degree 4.2-litre V8 that appears in various guises across the range, from the A4 to the A8.
All engines drive through the familiar six-speed tiptronic ZF auto adopted by many car-makers, including Ford in Australia.
With the three powerplants, the Q7 presents three distinct personalities – dynamic and swift with the V8 (zero to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds, 13.9L/100km average), smooth, quick and more economical in the base 3.6-litre V6 (8.5 seconds to 100km/h, 12.7L/100km average) and torque-laden and very economical in the 3.0 TDI (100km/h in 9.1 seconds, 10.5L/100km average).
Although the pricing for Q7 starts at a reasonable $84,900 for the 3.6 FSI, there are plenty of options to load up with that will elevate it stratospherically.
Add air suspension, a power tailgate, adaptive Xenon lights, adaptive cruise control, satellite-navigation, power seats, TV, Audi’s "open sky" sunroof, BOSE sound system, the third-row seat, double-glazed glass and the gargantuan 20-inch alloy options, and you’re on a steady march deep into $100,000-plus territory.
If you’ve already opted for the V8, some of the gear is standard already – air suspension, satellite-navigation, power seats – but not all of it.
We were curious about the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel’s ability to cope with the Q7’s 2.3 tonnes. Sure, it makes a rocketship out of the A4 but that’s about 650kg in arrears of the big SUV.
But if we’d had any trepidation, we needn’t have.
For a start, the V6’s characteristics have been tweaked to better match the Q7’s requirements, so while it needs a few more revs to make the same 171kW as in the A4 (4000rpm compared to 3500rpm), it belts out a lot more torque (once again at slightly higher revs – 500Nm at 1750rpm compared with the A4’s 450Nm at an incredibly relaxed 1400rpm), which is much appreciated.
The result is a bulky SUV that feels light on its feet around town, delivers a nice mid-range surge and only starts to feel its weight under flat-out acceleration. Mind you, 9.1 seconds to 100km/h is nothing to be ashamed of.
The six-speed tiptronic plays a part here too, of course, with plenty of ratios available and a nice, power-loss minimising shift action.
For all this, the driver is aware of the bulk of the Q7, through the combination of the firm air-suspended ride and the obviously distant body extremities. Rear-view cameras are a bonus in vehicles like this.
The Q7’s weight isn’t evident in the steering – which is pretty light – or through corners, where the suspension works on virtually eliminating body lean. Audi makes much of the Q7’s role as a sports SUV but it’s still to be tried against the new BMW X5 and the upcoming reworked Porsche Cayenne.
The Q7, for the moment, seems about as good as a full-size SUV can get. It cruises the freeways with silent ease, eating up the kilometres frugally enough to promise a range approaching 1000km on its 100-litre tank.
We didn’t quite manage to equal the factory-claimed 10.5L/100km, even though a fair bit of highway work was involved, but we came close.
The interior, of course, is simply massive with loads of space available whether you’ve laid down the centre-row seats or not. The capacity varies from 775 litres to a barn-like 2035 litres.
The load area contains not just a restraining net for passenger safety, but also includes a telescopic rod with a restraining strap that can be adjusted fore and aft on rails fixed into the rear floor.
Our test Q7 was simply a five-seater, so we didn’t get the chance to try the third-row seat which is claimed to be suitable for people less than 160cm tall.
But the front and centre rows were as commodious as you’d expect of a vehicle running on a wheelbase of more than three metres and measuring 1983mm wide – way more than a LandCruiser and more even than the gigantic Mercedes-Benz GL-class.
The interior presentation is about as un-SUV as you can get with plenty of cues from A6 and A8 Audis, lots of light-coloured leather and classy instrumentation in a dashboard featuring two pear-shaped dials directly ahead of the driver.
There’s the Audi interpretation of iDrive in a slightly complex centre console, secondary controls on the steering wheel and a big centre storage bin.
There are eight airbags – dual front, sidebags on front and rear doors, and full-length curtain bags running through at head height.
For the moment – and it won’t be for long with BMW and Porsche looming – Audi seems to occupy the high ground for luxury SUVs.
Overall, the Q7 is big (though strangely it doesn’t look that huge), styled with the appropriate aggression and is clearly very competent on the road and in the outback, where its pre-release desert run proved its toughness of character.
We’re already seeing a number of Q7s on the road, so quickly after the launch. It seems the buying public has been waiting for a real Audi SUV for some time.
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