THERE'S NO DENYING THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN THE 2016 AUDI Q7. It’s visible in the fastidiously tight shut-lines, the stylishly ornate head and tail-lights, and the millimetre-precise interior.
Parts that move do so with fluid solidity, those that you touch are thoughtfully tactile. The experience is simply a delight from the moment you settle behind the wheel.
Audi has a reputation for that kind of attention to detail, and after letting this car’s predecessor run for ten years (just a little too long by contemporary standards), it’s clear that the extra time has been devoted to making sure every element is ‘just so’ in the new generation Q7.
Vehicle Style: Large luxury SUV
Price: $103,900 | As tested: $147,825 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 200kW/600Nm 3.0 6cyl turbo diesel | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.7 l/100km
A seven-digit price tag - $103,900 plus - is no small ask. That’s for the 200kW/600Nm Audi Q7 tested here, there’s also a slightly less-gutsy 160kW/500Nm version, yours for a little over $96k plus on roads.
Then there are the options, and this car was fitted with a whopping $43,925 worth of them.
Thanks to air-suspension, Bang and Olufsen audio, Matrix-beam LED headlights, and an interior illumination package that turned the darn thing into a nightclub, this Q7 was more than merely luxurious.
So, family conveyance, or high-end executive express? In fact, a little of both, and quite good in either role.
- Standard equipment: Keyless entry and start, climate control, leather seat trim, powered front seats, auto lights and wipers, self-dimming powered mirrors, Xenon headlights with auto high beam, Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.3-inch power retractable monitor, 10 speaker audio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 10GB flash memory hard drive, digital radio, CD/DVD player, USB, SDXC, and Aux inputs
- Key options fitted: 21-inch alloys $4075, Assistance package incl. Adaptive cruise control $4075, metallic paint $2400, four-zone climate control $1950, Matrix LED headlights $5500, Ambient lighting $1380, Adaptive air suspension $4950, Bang & Olufsen audio $14,850
- Cargo volume: 295 litres to third row, 770 litres to second row, 1955 litres to first row
Owners of the previous generation Q7 will barely recognise the interior of the new model - this is the biggest revolution in Audi’s interior design in over 20 years, yet it’s all still pleasantly familiar.
A strong horizontal design theme ensures the Q7 feels airy and generous inside, and the interior itself is slightly larger than before, despite exterior dimensions shrinking slightly. The light Rock Grey interior colour helps there too.
Standard fittings are generous, all Q7s feature three rows of seats with a power folding third row, LED interior lighting, power retracting 8.3-inch infotainment screen, electrically adjustable front seats, Bluetooth, Sat nav, and keyless entry and start.
The 200kW 3.0 TDI tested here also picks up extra standard equipment like a top-view camera system, and Audi's brilliant 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, but the feature-list between the low output and higher output variants is otherwise largely similar.
The infotainment system is accessed via Audi’s MMI clickwheel, with a pair of shortcut paddles for quick access to phone, navigation, radio and media menus. There’s a large touchpad to enter addresses (but in RHD cars it works best for left-handed folk) as well as voice entry.
As far as space goes, the Q7 offers plenty of it. There’s no shortage of room in the supportive front seats, backed up by a huge range of adjustment.
Similarly, the second row offers independent sliding adjustment and an adjustable backrest for each of the three positions. Pushed all the way back, the middle row offers an abundance of legroom, but a more limited space with the seats slid forward.
The power-folding third row offers a knees-up seating position and a narrow base for a pair of adults to squeeze into, but kids will find things more comfortable. Despite a thin and flat appearance, there’s actually some genuine long-range comfort too.
There’s even just enough room behind the third row (295 litres) to fit in a light grocery shop, or the basic soccer, football, or netball sporting equipment for both your kids and the carpool crew. Up to the second row there’s 770 litres on offer, and with all the rear seats dropped there’s 1955 litres.
The cabin offers generous door pockets front and rear, and a decent glovebox, but beneath the centre armrest there's only a shallow tray, with the front cupholders on the smallish side as well.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 200kW/600Nm 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: five-link front and rear independent
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
- Steering: speed dependent, electromechanical
- Towing capacity: 3500kg braked
The first thing you’ll notice once you hit the starter button in the Q7 is how remarkably quiet it is. There’s a 3.0 litre diesel under the bonnet, but the sound signature of the engine will have you convinced otherwise.
To go with the refinement, there’s a willing 200kW of power available from 3250rpm to 4250rpm, with a solid 600Nm of torque from 1500rpm to 3000rpm. An even power curve and mostly lag-free throttle response certainly makes the Q7 feel agile.
For inner city crawling the Q7 feels composed, with a clever and well-sorted transmission, and smooth acceleration that feels at ease coasting around suburban streets.
And out on the freeway none of the refinement wears off, with a hushed and serene cabin, but also with a torpedo-like rush of speed available if needed.
Audi’s $4950 adaptive air-suspension helps iron out any changes in the road surface, offering adjustable ride height for differing on and off-road conditions. With just the driver on board it can feel a little floaty, but load up the whole family and it feels more settled.
Thumb through to Dynamic mode and the steering and suspension seem to be happiest, the slightly firmer more settled ride feels just right, and has no problems absorbing potholes and cresting speed humps.
Minimal steering effort at carpark speeds help disguise the bulk of the Q7 - from the driver's seat you could almost be fooled into thinking you’re behind the wheel of a much smaller car.
If only the Q7’s stop-start system was as polished as the rest of the package. It’s only noticeable because every other aspect of the Q7 driveline is so refined, but the quake on re-ignition feels out-of-sorts with the rest of the car.
Audi’s fuel consumption claims also seem a little optimistic - 6.2 l/100km is the claim for mixed use on the official cycle, but even at a steady 100km/h cruise we couldn’t match that figure. Overall we returned 8.7 l/100km - still an impressive effort for a vehicle of its size and performance.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Eight airbags (dual front, front side, second row side, full length curtain) Front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, autonomous emergency braking, ABS brakes, stability and traction control, tyre pressure monitoring, around view camera, front and rear park sensors.
The optional Assistance Package (as fitted) adds active lane assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, collision assist and turn assist for $4075.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Mercedes-Benz GLS offers plenty of interior space, and on-road presence, but as an update of its forebear, the GL, some of the interior trimmings aren’t as 'up to the minute' as the Q7.
BMW’s X5 offers a seven-seat option, but it doesn’t match the length of the Q7, making the third row a tighter squeeze. Excellent dynamics and a brilliant automatic transmission help the BMW’s cause however.
Even the most powerful diesel version of Volvo’s new XC90 falls short of the others, offering only four cylinders instead of six. The huge central touchscreen shows how tech-focussed Volvo has become, all the while maintaining the reputation for advanced safety.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Superbly polished, both in terms of presentation and performance. Audi has managed to give the Q7 SUV the kind of qualities that the sumptuous and very impressive A8 limo embodies.
But it comes at a cost. The limo feel of this test car can perhaps be attributed to some of the many options fitted - adding nearly $50k to the purchase price. The Matrix LED headlights are truly impressive, audiophiles will adore the upgraded sound system, and the creamy ride comes coutesy of the adaptive air-suspension.
Those three options alone make up a hefty $25k of the added extras, enough to buy an entirely reasonable first car for your eldest child, or a decent chunk of the deposit on an investment property.
At its core though, the Q7 is a phenomenally good package, regardless of how you option yours.
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