The skinny: Audi Australia, sitting on 17.0 percent growth for 2015, is in a happy place at the moment. And its new seven-seat Q7 will do the cause here for Europe's "number one" premium brand, no harm.
This, the Q7, is superior family transport. It offers lashings of luxury and style in equal measure to the lashings of power and torque from the 3.0 litre TDI under the bonnet. And it might sit high with the commanding presence of a large SUV, but it has sportswagon grip from the quattro AWD system below.
Vehicle Style: Large luxury SUV
Engine/trans: 3.0 litre TDI (diesel)/ 8-speed tiptronic quattro AWD
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.9 l/100km | tested: 8.9 l/100km
If you have to drive half-way across the continent, this is the car to do it in - Audi's new Q7. It is immensely powerful, swallows kilometres as relentlessly as a train, and is effortlessly comfortable.
There are few cars that will have you and your passengers emerging as refreshed after long, long kilometres at the wheel, as from the Q7.
It might look like a large wagon – it seats seven, no problem, and has a large and imposing presence - but it drives like an intercapital express.
As a single model offering at $103,900 (plus on-roads), it is not the car for the everyday family. This is certainly one for the well-heeled, especially once the pen comes out to tick a few of the options boxes.
The Bang & Olufsen sound system, for instance, which can add a sonic wall of amazing musical clarity to enhance the experience of any drive, will add an eye-watering $14,850 to that list price; the matrix beam LED headlights, another $5,500.
So, yes, exclusive buying. But the new Q7 feels to its core the premium SUV.
We drove from Melbourne, circumnavigated the Grampians, headed west to the border, then to the Coorong, and then north to Adelaide.
The second day, driving a little circuitously, saw us covering more than 850 kilometres before handing back the keys. But, for the way it left us, it might have only been 100 kilometres.
And the fuel consumption of that diesel powerhaus under the bonnet, especially given the (umm…) urgent way we kept the big Q7 to the task, had us scratching our heads: “How is it possible,” we asked, “that such mass can be moved so swiftly, with such efficiency?”
It sat on 9.1 l/100km for most of the way, dropping to 8.9 l/100km by the time we hit Adelaide. You will certainly do better, maybe, in everyday driving, even finding that 5.9 l/100km claimed by the factory.
Key standard features:
- Finely-grained leather upholstery
- Power-adjustable front seats with memory on driver's side
- Electrically-folding third row seats
- 10-speaker audio system with single-disc AM/FM/DAB+/CD/DVD/SD headunit
- USB audio inputs, 10GB onboard music storage
- 12.3-inch LCD 'virtual instrument panel'
- Bluetooth phone and audio integration
- Satellite navigation with 8.3-inch colour display and touchpad interface
- Dual-zone climate control
- Parking sensors, park assist
- Rain sensing wipers, dusk sensing bi-xenon headlamps
- Keyless entry and ignition
What a difference a model change makes to an interior. There was nothing discernibly wrong with the interior style and feel of the previous model.
But that was until you open the doors of this new one. Audi’s interiors – for style, fit and that rare feel of handcrafted care and quality – are simply the benchmark.
And the older model, now, suddenly looks old. The dash, narrowed and lowered, and ‘anchored’ left to right by a broad linear metal-rimmed style feature housing wide thin air-vents, looks simply superb.
There is a crisp modern style to the new model that creates an instant air of spaciousness and elegance, and appeals the moment you slide in behind the wheel.
The centrepiece though is the technology. The virtual instrument cluster – the same as we’ve seen in the new TT – is, at the moment, the best there is.
Configurable any way you want it (up to a point), its logic is easily navigated – even for Mrs O’Brien’s little luddite – and the clarity and instant accessibility of the information you can have displayed there, right in front of the eyes, is surely the way of the future.
We kept the navigation there, sitting behind the odometer and rev-counter displays, and used the centre screen for the entertainment (some immense sound files pre-loaded into the system).
And, below the centre screen, which is spookily clear when using the reversing camera, is a touch pad which you can ‘write’ on – just loosely using your finger, the fuzzy logic does the rest – to input destinations or search for music tracks, or anything really.
The leather seats and trims in the new Q7 are, surely, close to faultless. In fact everything you touch, all of the tactile surfaces, from the driver’s seat to the third rearmost row, are sumptuous, welcoming and undeniably premium.
The front seats are beautifully shaped for comfort, but also provide support in the right places to hold securely when hustling through the bends. Second row seats, three across, are also generously padded, and provide ample foot and kneeroom, even with the front seats pushed back.
The rearmost seats are electrically operated, and can be lifted and folded with button controls located in the boot as well as inside the C-pillar. Mums (or Dads) getting kids in and out of the back will really appreciate this handy mechanism.
We filled the Q7 up with some boofy journos; it proved a little tight in the third row for kneeroom, but head and shoulder room was no problem. (And younger passengers travelling there will be perfectly happy with their accommodation, even for a long trip.)
The new Q7's squared-up lines create more space inside than in the old model, in length, width and height, but with smaller external dimensions.
This, with a bigger glasshouse at the rear, allows a hefty cargo space, seats up or down. The flexible 35/30/35 split of the second row also helps provide a flexible space back there if you've got long, bulky or odd-shaped items to shift around.
With the second row in place, the Q7 offers 770 litres of cargo space, rising to 1955 litres with second and third-row seats folded.
And if you've got a horse float or boat to tow, besides having mountains of torque nestled under the bonnet, the big Audi has a 3.5 tonne braked towing capacity, 770kg unbraked, and a 350kg downball load.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 3.0 litre TDI turbo diesel | [email protected]; [email protected]
- Transmission: 8-speed tiptronic with quattro AWD
- 0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds
- Quattro all-wheel drive with asymmetric torque split and self-locking center differential
- Suspension: front - independent five-link axle with aluminium transverse link and anti-roll bar
Rear - five-link axle with rearward track rod and anti-roll bar
- Steering: electromechanical with speed-dependent power-assistance
A brief look over the raw numbers of this car tells the story of the way it drives.
The 600Nm of torque hammered to the tarmac by the DOHC turbo V6 diesel under the Q7's imposing snout, will see this 2.0 tonne family box bolt to 100km/h in just 6.5 seconds.
That's quick in anyone's language, and a little numbing when considering the weight and size of the machine being pushed.
On road, what this means, is that the Q7 flattens hills, overtakes in an imperious rush, and feels as nimble as a small, light hatch. The sheer speed and agility of this car, does, really, mess with the head.
All of that performance however is kept nailed to the tarmac thanks to Audi's 'better-with-every-new-model' quattro system.
Truly, the Q7 tucks its nose into a corner, can be held to a rapier line through the apex, and will explode out the other side better than seems logically possible for a square-rigged SUV with its higher seating and higher centre of gravity.
And, thanks to the paddles and eight-speed automatic, you can keep things spinning right in the meat of that wide torque-band for some really rapid, and secure, point-to-point driving.
Comfortable? It is an easy chair. We had it on highways, freeways, secondary roads, gravel and sand and have no complaints with the suspension compliance, nor the quiet, hushed way the big Audi swallows the kilometres.
The turbo-diesel under the bonnet is as refined as any you'll find. Even from outside the car, you'll have to listen to discern that it's a diesel doing the work. And, under load, it makes a satisfying and sophisticated muted growl, rising to a gravelly humm at high speeds.
We preferred the ride of the smaller 19-inch alloys over the smarter-looking but compromised optional 21-inch alloys. We'd recommend sticking with the cheaper option; the bigger wheels 'track' more noticeably on secondary tarmac and tug at the wheel when cornering.
They're also a little noisier and 'slap' into road imperfections a little more crudely.
There are various 'Line' packages to option up the styling, they cost a poultice though, as well as convenience and feature packages (like a 'kick-opening' tailgate, leather upgrades and dress-up features).
Me? For the way the new Q7 drives, and for the feel of quality throughout, I'd be happy enough with the base purchase.
Among a full suite of safety features are driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags, seat-mounted for front and rear passengers and head-level curtain airbag system for front and rear passengers.
Dynamic safety aids include ABS braking, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) and Electronic Differential Lock (EDL).
The big Audi also comes with electromechanical parking brake, Audi pre-sense city (that detects obstacles ahead), active bonnet for pedestrian protection and seatbelt reminder for all occupants.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
In the rarified air above $100k, there is a surprising number of rivals all vying for the 'professional' family dollar. The new Q7, a single model and now $10,000 dearer than the model it replaces, has some stiff competition in BMW's X5 30d, Mercedes ML 350 DT and Range Rover Sport 30DTT.
While on-road performance, interior luxury and features, are comparable, as are prices, none of these rivals can match the fuel economy of the new Q7, nor, at the moment, its uber-stylish modern lines and technology-laden virtual dash.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The flagship of the Audi SUV range, this impressive new Q7, is, inside and out, a throughly improved beast.
And beast it is should you dare to show it the whip. The 600Nm that the turbo diesel can unleash onto the tarmac, and the sublime, refined way it swallows long country kilometres, makes it as much 'driver's car' as family car.
Beautifully finished, comfortable, comprehensively equipped, and a genuine seven-seater with premium accommodation for all, it might not be cheap, but it reeks of quality and exclusive style.
SUVs shouldn't have such long legs, shouldn't turn so well, nor power out of a corner so effortlessly. If this is the test of a touring wagon, and important to you and your family, then do have a long look at Audi's new Q7.
Your family will thank you for it (and that virtual instrument display is without peer).