First Drive: Audi Q7

Is big really beautiful?

Buyers of large SUVs are spoiled for choice. There’s the excellent BMW X5, the powerful Porsche Cayenne or the supreme Volvo XC90, which means that a manufacturer needs to come up with something rather special if they’re to compete in this premium 4×4 market.

Enter then, the new Audi Q7. The German firm promises to bring lots of advanced technology with their latest generation SUV, as well as combining new lightweight design with a more powerful diesel engine. Will that offer enough all-round performance to tempt buyers away from its more than capable competition?

Eventually there’ll be a sensible 215bhp diesel option and a plug-in hybrid arriving in the UK, but for now there’s the choice of a 3.0-litre V6 diesel and, er, that’s it.

The engine, paired with Audi’s eight-speed automatic transmission, produces 268bhp so it’s not short of power. There’s also an impressive 443lb ft of torque on offer which allows the behemoth to be dragged from zero to sixty in just 6.5 seconds.

At over five metres long, behemoth is an apt description, especially as it looks so imposing thanks to that bold front end. Fortunately it doesn’t feel quite so large on the road. There is plenty of grip available thanks to the Quattro all-wheel drive system and, despite the car being taller than the outgoing model, body roll is kept under control.

It’s not sportscar though, something that should be immediately obvious. Instead, the Q7 focuses on comfort. It makes a pretty good fist of things in the city, especially when fitted with all-wheel steering system which reduces the Q7’s turning circle by a metre or so, making it much easier to manoeuvre around tight streets, but it comes in to its own on the motorway.

Dare to take it off-road and it’ll tackle tricky inclines and muddy slopes with aplomb. The all-wheel drive system is unique to the Q7, helping it along the worst bits, plus there’s a Hill Descent system on hand to help the car get down slopes.

Some 300kg has been shed from the old Q7 too, which also helps keep things under control on those steep descents, but it also means that running costs have been improved with a combined fuel economy of 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions down to 153g/km.

This particular test car, in ‘S line’ trim, will set buyers back £53,385 but comes with a wide variety of kit as standard. That includes 20-inch alloy wheels, leather and Alcantara seats, a new eight-inch multimedia screen, heated seats, sat-nav, LED headlights with highbeam assist, a four-zone climate control system and privacy glass.

There’s also a wide range of options on offer too, including the high-tech Audi Virtual Cockpit that we’ve seen put to such good use in the new TT, and an adaptive suspension system that automatically regulates ride height and damping depending on the driving mode chosen. The Audi Drive Select system gives five options, although few will ever switch it out of normal.

As is the case with Audi in recent years, the interior quality is excellent throughout. It’s also spacious (as it should be, considering its size!) with increased headroom and shoulder room. Adults may struggle to get comfortable in the third row of seats, but there’s plenty of space for children and young teenagers.

A total of 770-litres of luggage space is available with all seven seats in place, or up to 1,955-litres if only the front seats are occupied, making the Q7 one of the biggest load luggers available in the segment. If something bigger is needed, it’s time to rent a van.

The Q7 is everything expected from a car with a £50k plus price tag; the amount of kit on offer is vast and the luxurious interior is sophisticated, spacious and supremely comfortable. Whether on or off-road, drivers will be suitably impressed, while running costs aren’t as frightening as they could be thanks to that lightweight construction. It’s still two tonnes, though.

The only real issue with the Q7 is that, despite the luxurious quality, it’s actually quite bland. There’s little in the way of design flair, either inside or out, and that could count against it when buyers start looking at the XC90 or the forthcoming Jaguar F-Pace.

But if space is all that’s needed, wrapped up in a high-quality package, the Q7 will do very nicely.

Model Tested: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line
Price: £53,385
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 145 mph
0-62 mph: 6.5 seconds
Power: 272 PS (268 bhp)
Torque: 600 Nm (443 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 47.9 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 153 g/km
VED Band: G / £180 per year
Car insurance group: 41E
Kerb weight: 2,060 kg

Sam Baines

Sam is an automotive writer with experience of virtually every make, model and specification of car in the UK. If it's got wheels, Sam's got it covered.

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