Audi Q7: First Drive Review

My driving impressions of the new Audi Q7

audi q7

Model driven: Audi Q7 3.0TDI 272 quattro Tiptronic S Line

It’s Tuesday morning and I’ve just arrived at Tankardstown House near Slane in Co. Meath for the Irish press launch of the new Audi Q7. I’m excited about this one. I’ve been reading the product guide to get some of the headline detail and now I’m keen to see for myself where Audi is taking the second generation of their flagship luxury SUV.

After a quick cup of tea and a brief chat with some of the Audi Ireland team, I’m ready for the road. I hop into the next available Q7 and get familiar with the switchgear and displays before I set off. I instinctively put my hand under the seat to move my seat forward. Nothing. Of course not! It’s electrically adjustable and operated from the buttons on the side of the seat. This is a luxury SUV after all.

audi q7 key
There’s a special place in the cabin of the Audi Q7 to place the key

It’s keyless start and on the console of the centre tunnel I notice a special little place to slot the key fob while driving. I like that attention to detail.

For a car with so much tech on board, the Q7 is still easy enough to just sit in, adjust your seat and mirrors, and drive off. The cabin is a lesson in minimalism with clean lines, discreet buttons and a top notch quality look and feel.

The MMI monitor pops up James Bond-style above the centre of the dash when I start the car. A quick look through the menus via a rotary dial and touchpad, with the addition of some useful shortcut buttons on the centre console, and I’m flicking through functions soon like this is my daily drive.

Audi Q7
MMI monitor displays information about the vehicle settings, multimedia and navigation

The Q7 comes in three trim levels on the Irish market: SE, SE Business and S Line. The Q7 I’m driving today is the top of the range S Line model, and has Audi’s virtual cockpit – a full LCD screen that replaces traditional instrument dials, and of course the piece of kit that blew the tech bods away when it was first shown in the TT at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2014.

The Q7 takes off smoothly and we’re gliding down the avenue of Tankardstown House to meet the first challenge for the Q7 – the narrow, gated entrance to the estate that was probably designed for a horse and carriage, rather than a twenty first century SUV. The Q7 is 5.05 metres in length and 1.97 metres wide, so a bit larger than your average family car. Still, there is good visibility to the front corners of the car so it’s no problem to position the Q7 appropriately to exit. The Q7 is also available with the option of four wheel steering for greater manoeuvrability.

Now we’re out in the middle of the Meath countryside, moving swiftly down narrow rural roads. The Q7 3.0TDI diesel put its 272bhp to the road via an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox and famous Audi quattro four wheel drive (standard across Q7 range). There’s a drive select system as standard and you can toggle between efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic, individual and offroad modes.

Audi Q7
Audi Q7: Just over 5 metres in length, 7 seats as standard

The power delivery is smooth, the automatic gearbox changes gear slickly and all is serene in the cabin of the Audi Q7, with engine noise well suppressed, even under heavy acceleration. There is also a 3.0TFSI petrol (333bhp) available for the Q7. The same 3.0 litre diesel engine driven here, with a lower 218bhp power output, is expected for January 2016 deliveries.

The test car is fitted with the optional adaptive air suspension (€3,274), which is designed to improve comfort while also delivering on tauter handling. The ride comfort seems excellent.

The big story with the new Q7 is the weight saving – Audi has shaved an amazing 325kg off the weight of the car, which reaps benefits in terms of overall agility and efficiency. Some of the biggest weight saving has been in the front and rear axle, and even the seats. The 3.0TDI (272bhp) has an official economy of just under 50mpg, and with CO2 emissions of 153g/km, this one is €390 to tax per year. The 21″ wheels added to my S Line model push the CO2 emissions into Band D, with motor tax of €570 per year and an official economy of about 46mpg.

The Audi Q7 shimmies around potholes for me, appearing to change direction neatly and predictably, and feels athletic on its springs going around a corner. It’s all that weight saving surely.

A few more kilometres of this and I reach the main road that will bring me back to Slane. It’s time to put the foot down. The official 0-100km/h figure is 6.5 seconds, and the Q7 feels every bit as fast as that, with a whopping 600Nm of torque available.

Back in Slane village, the Q7 negotiates the mid-morning traffic well. Stopped at the traffic lights, the kids from the third row of the MPV in front wave at me. I’m sure they’re thinking how they would love to be ensconced in the luxury of the third row of the Q7.

Audi Q7
Audi Q7: With the third row seats in place, there is still 295 litres of boot space

It’s time to check out that space. I find somewhere to pull in off the road and get out to inspect the passenger space in the Q7. The Q7 for the Irish market is a seven seater as standard.

The two seats in the third row are full size and when in place, there is still 295 litres of boot space, about the same as what you will find in a supermini. I’m really impressed with the buttons you can press from just inside the boot opening to electrically move the third row seats up or down. You can also do this from buttons just inside the rear doors. With those third row seats stowed away, there’s a massive 770 litres of space.

Audi Q7 interior
Audi Q7 has a spacious, luxurious interior

Second row space is very good and you can slide each of the seats forwards independent of one another to give the passengers in the third row a bit more leg room. I sit into the third row and as an average sized female I fit ok, but it’s not quite armchair comfort like in the rest of the car, being a bit tight on legroom.

Now back into the driver’s seat and I’m on the final stretch back to Tankardstown House. I have to bring the Q7 to a halt to allow a herd of cattle to cross the road. When they’re gone the farmer beckons me and I move forward, but then just as I’m about to drive by he puts up his hand. I stop and roll down the window, wondering what’s up.

For sure the Q7 is every inch the luxury barge in the metal so you kind of expect people to want to get a better look. With Audi’s trademark understated elegance, the four rings on the new grille announce to the world the Q7’s arrival. Quattro badging on the back and on the side of the car hint at the car’s four wheel drive prowess. And in S Line trim, the car looks particularly well with LED headlights as standard, 20” alloy wheels and special S Line bumpers.

Audi Q7
Audi Q7: Understated elegance

Well, I’m probably the seventh or eighth Q7 he’s seen this morning and all he wants to know, like any inquisitive person, is “what’s going on up at the House today”. So I tell him. And then I ask him what he thinks of the car. He loves it and would like to add it to his line-up of machinery. I’m stopped on the road, but otherwise I might have given him a demonstration of the trailer assist feature that takes all the hassle out of hitching a trailer, and manoeuvring it. I keep going, back through the gate again and up the drive to the house to deliver the Q7 back.

With the cars so neatly lined up it seems only right to reverse the Q7 back into a space in the fleet, and the rear camera view pops up on the MMI monitor to help. A quick look at the spec sheet for the car states that this model, with over €15,000 of extras, is €104,376. But the Q7 is every inch the luxury SUV.

The new Audi Q7 range starts at €72,125.

For more pictures of the interior and exterior of the new Q7, please watch my video:

Caroline Kidd

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