roadtest

First Drive - Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line 272PS tiptronic

Audi’s original Q7 represented a lot of car for the money when it came out in 2007 – but for all its virtues, it never felt quite right. Too bulky, too obviously made with the American market in mind.

Now, the second-generation car is here, and it represents a significant leap forward in many ways. Lower, neater and less ostentatious than the outgoing model, the new Q7 is the first of a new generation of Audis, built on a platform called MLB Evo – everything from A4 to A7 will also be made on the same basic structure.

It’s distinctive too, and its looks represent the way ahead for forthcoming Audis. The Q7 has a bolder, wider grille, and this will be replicated across new models as they come on stream. Crucially, the car’s lightweight structure – a combination of aluminium and steel – has been designed so the “reverse tardis” effect of the old Q7 has gone – no more intrusive, thick pillars eating into the interior space.

PD website road tests Audi Q7 boot 5 seats

Interior versatility

It’s a seven-seater, and a competent one. It’s interesting that the Q7 is launched in the same month as the Volvo XC90 – both vehicles aim to offer maximum interior versatility – effectively, they are the “people movers” of their respective brands.

PD website road tests Audi Q7 boot 7 seats

It’s also interesting to compare the Q7 with the new Ford Galaxy. Both employ a similar electric third row seating system, allowing the car to be converted from a seven- to a five-seater and back by simply pressing buttons in the side panels of the boot space. And interestingly, in seven-seat mode, both cars could accommodate our two test suitcases. In five-seater mode, there’s a cavernous 770 litres of luggage space, as well as lots of legroom – it’s a much more agreeable back seat than before.

PD website road tests Audi Q7 digital dash

Digital dashboard

The dashboard is probably the most radical change. A completely digital 12.3in TFT panel, it can be switched from a conventional display with primary dials and centrally positioned information to a full-screen 3D map, using Google Maps, with the primary dials minimising to smaller displays in the bottom corners. You can toggle between the two displays using a steering wheel button.

This combines with a pop-up 8.3in screen, which emerges from the top of the dashboard cowl. This is a widescreen affair, and it allows two different map views to be seen on full screen – for example, a 2D “north up” map on the central screen and a 3D topographical display on the dashboard screen.

PD website road tests Audi Q7 reverse camera

This is a very different approach to the Volvo XC90’s portrait-format central multi-function screen. It’s more immersive, and doesn’t have any touch-screen capability – instead, a revised version of Audi’s MMI Touch system is used, with the writeable finger pad also having a clickable function for “enter” and “back”, while different modes can be switched with small toggle switches on the central console.

It’s intuitive enough, and will not take long for existing Audi users to adapt – it works in the same way as the system in current Audi saloons, but with slightly different positioning of the controls.

PD website road tests Audi Q7 front seats

Powertrain and trim

Unlike its Volvo rival, which uses exclusively four-cylinder engines, the new Audi Q7 only comes with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with an eight-speed Tiptronic auto box – there’s no petrol option for the UK, and no manual transmission.

Initially – and on test here – is a new 272PS version. A 218PS version will follow in the near future. Two trim levels are available – SE and S-Line. Our launch car is S-Line trim, with a loaded spec taking the price up past £63,000. Our guess is the 218PS SE model, with an entry price of around £47,000, will be the most in-demand.

CO2 emissions on our test car are rated at 153g/km, based on a combined fuel consumption figure of 47.9mpg. On test, we averaged 35.7mpg at an average of 31mph. On a rum, you’d easily get mpg into the 40s.The 218PS engine will return a claimed combined 52.3mpg with CO2 of 144g/km.

Later an e-tron plug-in hybrid version will mate an electric motor to the same V6 diesel to give a combined system output of 373PS. This range-topping Q7 will be capable of 34 miles on electric power, contributing to an official CO2 figure of less than 50g/km. It’ll go on sale toward the end of the year, with deliveries due in early 2016.

New design 19in alloy wheels are part of the SE specification, while S line versions upgrade to a 20in wheel. A powered tailgate is also part of the package for both versions. Our car actually had optional 21in wheels, which increase CO2 emissions by 10g/km. Opt for the smaller wheels if possible!

PD website road tests Audi Q7 rear

Lightweight structure

The Q7 looks less bulky partly because it is less bulky. Audi’s engineers have spent a lot of energy on saving weight within the car, for example in the front and rear axles, where 67kg was stripped away; in the 71kg lighter body-in-white and in the aluminium door panels, which are 24kg lighter than those fitted to the old Q7. Overall, up to 325kg has been saved.

This is definitely noticeable when you drive the car. The old car felt large and tall – the new Q7 is more like a large estate – it doesn’t feel notably higher than, say, the Audi A6 Allroad, which is a slightly jacked-up A6.

PD website road tests Audi Q7 rear seats

On the road

We drove the car on a mixed route around the New Forest, as well as some motorway miles. On curve country roads, the aglity feels very precise thanks to a four-wheel steering system fitted to the car. This works in two ways – front and rear wheels move in opposition on tight cornering and manoeuvring, while the wheels steer in parallel on motorways, making for smooth and stable overtaking.

There are five drive modes, with different steering throttle and suspension characteristics. Comfort mode proved a little too soft and bouncy on some more undulating modes, and eco mode isn’t quite the struggle that it sometimes is. We actually found “auto” mode, which adapts to road conditions automatically, to be the most agreeable.

Q7 is bristling with tech – optional driver assistance systems including an evolution of adaptive cruise control (ACC) incorporating a traffic jam assistant that can take over steering duties on marked roads if traffic is moving at below 37mph, and a predictive efficiency assistant, which uses the route data from the navigation system to alert the driver to situations in which it would make sense to reduce speed, such as before bends, towns or speed limit signs that are not yet visible.

The predictive efficiency assistant can also switch the eight-speed box to freewheel, offering a potential fuel saving of 10% on main roads.

Verdict

This is a much more European-focused car than its predecessor. It’s neater and lighter – the untrained eye might think it was a Q5 rather than a Q7. But it’s a big and roomy car, with a cabin that feels considerably more wide and spacious than the old car ever did.

We love the digital display – clearly this is something that will filter across all Audi (and possibly all VW Group) cars in time. The Volkswagen Passat has a similar system, but Audi’s is a much better execution.

There’s ample rear seat space and the third row of seats is properly useable for adults. The electric retraction system is neat and simple – in five-seat mode, the Q7 has ample luggage space.

The car is primarily targeted at rivals from BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volvo, but Audi has one eye on the Range Rover market too, especially as Audi’s cars have a strong celerity following, and even American popstrel Taylor Swift apparently insists on a Q7. Given her massive social media following, the Q7 could start “trending” in the market very rapidly.

Crucially, Q7 is now part of Audi’s Chauffeur Programme – so buyers will receive preferential support, including licensed replacement cars, as well as lower contract hire rates.


 

DATA

Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line 272PS tiptronic

Price as tested £63,025

Specification

Engine  3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel 
Transmission 8-speed Tiptronic auto, all-wheel drive
Power 272PS at 3,250-4,250rpm
Torque 600Nm at 1,500-3,000rpm
Max speed 145mph
0-62mph 6.5sec
CO2 emissions 163g/km
Combined fuel economy                 47.9mpg (combined)
Luggage volume 770 litres (3rd row folded)
Overall length 5,052mm
Overall height 1,741mm
Overall width 1,968mm
Wheelbase 2,994mm
Turning circle 12.4m
Fuel tank capacity 75 litres
Warranty 36 months/60,000 miles
VED Band G



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