Audi Q7 review
All-new Audi Q7 is packed with technology - but still has all the features you need every day
The second-generation seven-seater Audi Q7 SUV weighs an amazing 325kg less than the original, and is cheaper to run and better to drive as a result. It’s the most technologically advanced Audi ever, and is able to brake, accelerate and steer itself at speeds of up to 37mph.
Yet it still does the basics brilliantly. Despite being slightly narrower and shorter than the old Q7, the interior still has room for seven people, along with all their luggage. An optional four-wheel steering system makes it more manoeuvrable at low speeds and more stable when you up the pace, while adaptive air-suspension is another extra worth specifying for the cushioned ride and exceptional refinement it provides.
The Audi Q7 was first revealed back in 2005, when the original car debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s been a huge success for the brand – so much so that it has since spawned smaller Q5 and Q3 variants – and this second-generation model arrived in dealers in 2015.
Marketed to rival the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover, plus the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, the Q7 is a seven-seat SUV based on the VW Group’s new MLB Evo platform. This also underpins the new Audi A4 compact executive car, and is also set to form the basis of the next Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne SUVs.
The big Audi is built at the VW Group’s Bratislava plant in Slovakia – a facility that not only makes the Touareg and Cayenne, but also produces the MLB Evo-based body structure for the prestigious Bentley Bentayga. However, unlike its platform-sharing siblings, the Bentley SUV will be shipped over to the Crewe HQ in Cheshire for final assembly.
Audi revealed this latest Q7 at the 2015 Detroit Motor Show, and its styling – including the broad trapezoidal grille – is expected to filter down across other models in the range.
While the original Q7 was notable for the performance of its 335bhp 4.2-litre V8 diesel, at the launch of the new car there was only one engine option: a downsized 3.0-litre V6 TDI. But it still delivered 268bhp.
A lower-powered 215bhp version of the same model has since been introduced, for around £2,500 less, and a plug-in hybrid diesel Q7 is also on the way. While the shift from a V8 to a V6 has seen power drop a little, the big Audi’s weight has tumbled, too, so it still delivers strong performance.
There are currently only two trim levels available in the regular line-up: the SE and the higher-spec S line. Both are very well equipped, however, and the Q7 remains a technology flagship for the Audi brand.
At the top of the range there's the SQ7, which brings a V8 twin-turbodiesel engine that's packed with innovative features, not to mention enough torque and power to take the 2.3-tonne SUV from 0-62mph in under five seconds.
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Innovations on the regular Q7 include Traffic Jam Assistant which – on clearly-defined carriageways – complements the adaptive cruise control by taking charge of steering duties as speeds below 37mph. You can also specify four-wheel steering, while the infotainment options include tablet-style devices for passengers.
Engines, performance and drive
Specify the optional adaptive air-suspension (which is designed to keep the body level at all times), and the car sails smoothly over even the bumpiest surfaces; this set-up would prove beneficial to anyone dodging potholes and speed humps on the school run. It used to be standard on the old car, but annoyingly is now only available as part of an option bundle which also includes a wide range of largely unnecessary driver aids.
Scroll up through the Audi Drive Select modes (or set your own individual parameters for the steering, throttle and suspension in ‘Individual’ mode), and the latest Q7 is certainly more agile than the original, and you can feel more of what is going on through the seat than before. That’s largely thanks to its new MLB Evo chassis, which uses 71 per cent aluminium, combined with high-strength steels, and helps to cut 325kg from its predecessor’s kerbweight.
In Comfort mode, the steering is still light and short on feedback, but the car is far more willing to change direction and stability is rock solid at high speeds. That’s helped by a new four-wheel steering system, again optional, that turns the rear wheels by two degrees in parallel with the front wheels at high speeds.
At lower speeds they turn by up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts, cutting the turning circle by a metre – and beating the current Audi A4 in this respect.
This is a 4x4 you can drive incredibly quickly, too. Ramp things up to Dynamic mode and the Q7 immediately feels more alert – it’s never harsh, but the body control is tauter, which gives you more confidence to push the car harder. Permanent quattro four-wheel drive gives excellent traction, too.
The steering isn’t full of life, but there is some feel, and by flicking the smooth eight-speed auto box up and down with the steering wheel paddles, you can have a surprising amount of fun hustling this big SUV around.
Although the Q7 isn’t designed to match a Range Rover off-road, the quattro system is more than capable of hauling the car through a muddy field or up a slippery track. In normal operation it splits the torque 40:60 front to rear, but can send up to 85 per cent of the torque to the rear axle if required.
In reality, few Q7s will ever leave the road, and overall the car is very pleasing and relaxing to drive either in town or on the motorway. It helps that the seats are comfortable and that very little outside noise enters the cabin; all you really notice is a little wind whistle around the windscreen pillars at higher speed.
Only one engine and gearbox combination was available in the UK to begin with – a 3.0-litre TDI diesel with 268bhp and 600Nm of torque hooked up to an eight-speed automatic. That’s enough to propel the two-tonne Q7 from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, but such is the smoothness of the power delivery that accelerating hard is still a relaxing experience.
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There's a lower-powered version of this engine with 215bhp and 500Nm that can still do 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. However, in reality it feels a lot less punchy and is also slightly louder, emitting a distinctive diesel rattle under load.
These problems certainly aren't worth the £2,300-plus saving on the list price and slightly superior fuel economy, so we'd go for the higher-powered option. And besides, buyers chasing ultimate efficiency from their Q7 should wait for the imminent diesel-electric e-tron plug-in hybrid model, which promises 166mpg economy and 50g/km CO2 emissions.
Those customers who are more focused on performance have a readily available option, though, in the form of the SQ7. It's a genuine high-performance SUV, with a 4.0-litre twin-turbodiesel motor and a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds. The chassis is retuned too, with a firmer set-up designed to keep the SQ7's body roll in check. But in truth, it's more accomplished as a fast motorway cruiser than something you'd want to hustle along a B-road; in twistier stuff, the car's bulk still shines through, and the steering is pretty unsatisfying.
The regular diesels feature an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. On the whole it responds quickly to inputs and is very smooth, although on occasion it can clunk down into first when pulling up at a junction.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Running a large, premium, seven-seat SUV is never going to be cheap, but the latest Q7 shouldn’t break the bank thanks to efficient diesel engines and the weight-saving regime Audi put the car through during development. Critical kilograms have been shaved from the bodyshell, and with the use of all-aluminium doors and lighter suspension components.
The only engine option from launch was a 268bhp 3.0-litre TDI. Other markets get a 3.0-litre TFSI petrol, too, but the diesel claims 47.9mpg fuel economy and 153g/km CO2 emissions.
These figures are slightly better than the 47.1mpg and 158g/km promised by the BMW X5 30d M Sport, even though the Audi offers an extra pair of seats and has 14bhp more power. That 153g/km figure puts the Q7 in road tax band G, so private buyers will pay £180 a year in VED, and means the car attracts a 29 per cent Benefit in Kind rating for company car users.
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The imminent plug-in hybrid Q7 e-tron combines a 254bhp 3.0 TDI engine with a 124bhp electric motor integrated into the gearbox, As a result, it produces a total of 368bhp and 700Nm of torque, but Audi claims it returns impressive 166mpg economy and emits a tax-busting 50g/km of CO2.
The SQ7 is not exactly cheap to run, although its figures are still impressive for something this heavy and powerful. It manages combined fuel economy of 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 190g/km; that's not quite as clean as BMW's hot X5 diesel, but comfortably clear of the likes of the Range Rover Sport SDV8 and Porsche's Cayenne S.
While you won’t pay over the odds at the pumps by SUV standards, insurance bills will be steep. The higher-powered diesel Q7 falls into group 40 or 41 depending on the trim level, while the equivalent 218bhp models sit in group 35 or 36.
The entry-level Range Rover 3.0 TDV6 Vogue starts from group 45 and the BMW X5 xDrive25d from group 37, although the Volvo XC90 with its downsized 2.0-litre diesel engine kicks off in insurance group 33.
Experts put the original Audi Q7 into the top bracket of ‘good’ depreciators, as the model retained up to 56 per cent of its showroom value after three years. The only two SUVs to do better were the Audi Q5 with an impressive 72.5 per cent and the Skoda Yeti at 65.4 per cent. We’ll have to wait and see whether the new Q7 holds on to its price as well, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
Interior, design and technology
The Q7 showcases a whole new design direction for Audi’s ‘Q’ family of SUVs, so expect future replacements for the Q5 and Q3, as well as the new Q1, to follow along similar lines. The most striking element is the huge three-dimensional grille that announces the Q7’s arrival; there are also LED lights as standard on S line models, which also feature 20-inch wheels.
With a strong beltline running back from the headlamps along the side of the car, there are hints of the old Audi Quattro’s boxy wheelarches, while the more flowing roofline and silver roof bars give a modern look.
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At the front, the gigantic trapezoidal grille with its silver edging is a new Audi SUV trademark – it’s flanked by the headlamp clusters, while their interesting running light design gives the Q7 a crisp, clean stance from the front. In profile, the car is a bit bland, as it’s only when viewed from an angle that you get a sense of the creased and curved surfaces.
The design is more understated at the rear, with big tail-lamps that mimic the shape of the headlights. The low rear bumper not only looks great thanks to the integrated rectangular twin tailpipes, but aids practicality, as there’s no lip.
Specify the £2,000 optional air-suspension, and you also get a button to raise and lower the car to help when loading heavy items. And as the designers have mounted the rear lights on the powered bootlid, there’s a wide opening for luggage.
Inside, the Q7 benefits from a luxurious and attractive layout. The dashboard has a modern, almost minimalist design and is constructed using the kind of classy materials typical of Audi. Features like the optional panoramic glass roof add a further touch of luxury, plus you can personalise the interior with a wide range of colours and finishes.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Q7 has lots of premium kit. LED headlights, cruise and four-zone climate control come as standard, as do heated electric sports seats, Bluetooth, keyless go and sat-nav. However, Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, which adds a screen in front of the driver, is an option for around £600 – it’s a hi-tech extra we’d recommend, as it allows you to see the sat-nav map in widescreen. It's standard on the SQ7, fortunately.
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There’s a second display that emerges from the top of the dashboard, and although the Q7 system has its command wheel and touchpad on the centre console, the steering wheel controls can do most of the work. Audi Connect provides access to E-mails, and there’s a choice of two Bang & Olufsen sound systems with up to 23 speakers.
Rear passengers can enjoy a pair of detachable, tablet-style touchscreens on the seatbacks, which will stream content from smartphones via Bluetooth.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The latest version of the Q7 retains the sleek SUV/crossover outline that’s now familiar across the Audi ‘Q’ line-up, but with more compact exterior dimensions than its predecessor, the company has done well to improve interior packaging.
There’s a spacious, airy feel inside, with more leg and headroom than before in every one of the seven seats. The premium feel is enhanced by comfortable front seats with a full range of electric movement, high-quality materials throughout the cabin and luxury options like soft-close doors.
The driving position is excellent, with plenty of scope to adjust the seat and steering wheel, and visibility is great from the commanding driving positon. If the car’s sheer bulk will be intimidating to some drivers, then the parking assistance system will be welcomed.
The high-riding Audi Q7 has lost none of its road presence in spite of its slightly smaller dimensions. At 5,052mm long, 1,968mm wide and 1,741mm high, it’s still one of the largest cars on the road – the old Q7 measured 5,089mm by 1,983mm by 1,772mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Even though it’s shorter, narrower and no taller than the old Q7, the new car actually offers more head and legroom in all three rows – achieved through clever packaging and thinner seats – and the seven-seat layout is fully configurable to allow owners to get the most out of it.
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The third row is designed primarily for children, but smaller adults can squeeze in there for shorter journeys, so long as the second row slides to its forwardmost position. To make access to the third row easier, the second row seats fold and tip forwards. When you don’t need the third row, simply push a button on the inside of the boot and these seats fold flush into the load floor. Every passenger seat inside the Q7 features Isofix mounting points as standard.
With all seven seats in place, the big Audi offers 295 litres of boot space – about the same as a Ford Fiesta – accessed via a standard powered tailgate. But that expands to 770 litres when you collapse the third row. Fold the second row forward as well, and there’s a massive 1,955 litres to play with – nearly 100 litres more than in the new Volvo XC90.
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If you tow a caravan, you’re in for a treat. An electrically deployable trailer hitch is on the options list and allows you to tow up to 3.5 tonnes, although you do need to order the adaptive air-suspension as well. Other useful options include a powered luggage compartment cover, soft-close doors and a heated windscreen.
Reliability and Safety
Audi is famed for the quality and reliability of its components, and the Q7 should live up to this. The engine and gearbox are developments of existing technology, so are proven in the real world, while the interior feels solid enough to stand up to the knocks and scrapes of family life.
The Q7’s electrical systems are incredibly complicated, though, with an arsenal of cameras, sensors and high-power computer processors all built into the car. Only time will tell whether they can remain glitch-free. What we do know is that the Q7 is packed with cutting-edge technology that should help to take some of the stress out of driving, but also keep you out of harm’s way.
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Standard equipment on both SE and S line models includes rear parking sensors, cruise control, an adjustable speed limiter and a low-speed auto braking function.
Buyers can also specify options such as an autonomous park assist function and active lane keep assist. One step up from that, and new for the class, is something called Traffic Jam Assist. A development of adaptive cruise control, it can take over the steering (as well as the braking and acceleration) on well marked roads at speeds of up to 37mph.
The Q7 achieved the maximum five stars when subjected to the stringent Euro NCAP crash test, although interestingly, its performance in most areas was narrowly shaded by the new Volvo XC90. The Audi achieved scores of 94 per cent for driver protection, 88 per cent for child protection and 70 per cent for pedestrian safety, as well as 76 per cent for on-board safety systems. In contrast, the Volvo was awarded ratings of 97 per cent, 87 per cent, 72 per cent and the maximum 100 per cent respectively.
The Audi Q7 comes with a standard 36-month/60,000-mile warranty, but you can pay around £600 to increase the cover up for an extra year or 75,000 miles. If you want a five-year/90,000-mile warranty, the premium rises to over £1,300. The Volvo XC90 has a similar standard warranty offer, although there’s no mileage cap on the three-year cover on the BMW X5.
Audi offers a range of servicing and maintenance packages for the Q7 through its dealers, at a cost that varies according to the level of cover required. Rates should be broadly competitive with competitors like BMW and Volvo.