What is it?
The Audi Q7 has become, in one decade-old generation, imprinted on the psyche of the UK’s consumer hordes, just as firmly as those household names with which it competes, from the Range Rover Sport to the BMW X5 and the suave new Volvo XC90.
It looked promising when we first tried one abroad, but we’ve now got hold of the range-topping 3.0 TDI 272 version for a drive on UK roads. It’s a model that’ll cost you, after you’ve added the optional £2000 air suspension and £1100 21in alloys to the as-tested S line spec, almost £57k.
What’s it like?
Fit for purpose in every way. S line trim is likely to be the most popular, and is currently only available with the higher-powered 268bhp version of the two 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel motors on offer. It’s a peach of an engine, too, and virtually silent at low revs, where you’ll find yourself most of the time, thanks to the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. This slides through its ratios imperceptibly, especially if the engine isn’t under load.
If you do stick the standard Drive Select in Sport and go for it, using the paddles is the most effective thing to do, and you can make remarkably sprightly progress thanks to the deep and wide well of torque.
Mercifully, the new Q7 is slightly smaller and substantially lighter than the previous model, which would be more of an achievement were the original Q7 not in command of its own gravitational force, such was its mass.
Despite this, the new Q7 on air springs is a more ponderous feeling thing than an X5, Cayenne or RR Sport. Body roll is substantial but progressive even in Sport, and while it feels precise enough to thread with conviction down a B-road, it doesn’t have the incisive responses of those more sporting rivals. We’d avoid the £1100 four-wheel steer option, which shrinks the low-speed turning circle by a metre to 11.4m, but otherwise results in slightly inconsistent feeling steering response. The standard steering is good enough, with decent bite and enough feedback to make the Q7 (complete with its permanent, 40/60 rear-biased four-wheel drive) feel implacable in every situation.
What is impressive is the ride comfort. We haven’t tried a car on standard steel springs yet, but given that the air springs make it feel composed and settled even over high-frequency undulations, unless you hit a really sizeable mid-corner bump, it’s an option that could well be worth adding. The air springs also have the added benefit of improving ground clearance, and increasing towing capacity from 2800kg up to 3500kg.
Between a silky powertrain, excellent refinement (but for a quite noticeable burr of road noise over coarse surfaces) and cushy ride, the Q7 proves a really relaxing steer.
Then there’s the cabin. If Audi designed hotel rooms, you’d never have to call reception to ask how to turn the wardrobe’s mood lighting effects off, and there would be a plug point right next to the bedside table. They know just where you want everything, and it all feels reassuringly expensive. It’s subdued, sure, some might say boring, but it really does work well and every shape of driver will be catered for by the electrically-adjustable seat.
There’s loads of room in the middle row of three seats, too, the outer two of which slide as well as recline. Flipping them forwards for access to the third row is a bit tricky, but could be done one-handed whilst clinging to a recalcitrant toddler. The rearmost seats fold up and down electronically, which is great, although there’s nowhere to stow the tonneau cover that you’ll have to wrestle from the boot first.
A shorter adult will be okay for brief journeys in these rearmost seats, but they’re better reserved for kids, who won’t have their knees pressed up against the seat backs.
A huge 770-litre boot (albeit one without a space saver tyre, unless you pay £250 and opt to lose the third row of seats), and stacks of standard equipment including sat-nav, LED headlights, keyless go and four-zone climate control completes the Audi’s arsenal of temptations and practicalities.
Should I buy one?
Yes, although there are some caveats. A Range Rover Sport, while more expensive by some margin, is also more adept at offering both a rewarding drive as well as a comfortable ride. At the other end of the class, a Volvo XC90 is cheaper and has a style element that many would consider enough to make up for its less vigorous performance.
For all that, the Audi is bigger inside than most rivals, is comparably efficient yet actually faster, is really well equipped, a joy to sit in and stress-free to drive. That’ll tick more boxes than anything else in the class for many buyers. And you thought the last one sold well…
Location Hampshire; On sale August; Price £53,835; Engine V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power 268bhp at 3250-4250rpm; Torque 443lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2135kg; Top speed 145mph; Economy 47.9mpg; 0-62mph 6.5sec; CO2 emissions and tax band 153g/km, 28%
What is it?