Audi Q7 review
All-new Audi Q7 is packed with technology - but still has all the features you need every day
The Audi Q7 was first conceived back in 2005, when the first generation 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 – as well as a second-generation model from 2015.
Designed to rival the Land Rover Discovery, Volvo XC90 and BMW X5, the Q7 is a seven-seat SUV based on the new MLB Evo platform that will later underpin the next VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne models – as well as other front-engined Audis like the new A4 saloon.
Weighing an astonishing 325kg less than its predecessor, the Q7 is cheaper to run and better to drive than ever before. It’s the most technologically advanced Audi ever, and is able to brake, accelerate and steer itself at speeds of up to 37mph.
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It still does the basics brilliantly though. Despite being slightly narrower and shorter than the old Q7, there’s still room for seven inside, along with all their associated luggage.
An optional four-wheel steering system makes it more manoeuvrable at low speeds and more stable when you up the pace, while optional adaptive air suspension is well worth having for the cushioned ride and exceptional refinement.
Only one engine is available from launch – a quiet and powerful 268bhp 3.0-litre TDI, returning 47.9mpg and emitting 153g/km of CO2. A few months later a lower powered version with 215bhp will be available (returning 52.3mpg and 144g/km) for around £2,500 less.
Our choice: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI S line
Engines, performance and drive
With the optional adaptive air suspension fitted (designed to keep the body level at all times), the Q7 sails smoothly over even the bumpiest surfaces and would prove massively beneficial to anyone dodging potholes and speed humps on the school run. Annoyingly it used to be standard on the old car but 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 you own individual parameters for steering, throttle and suspension in ‘Individual’ mode) and the Q7 is certainly more agile than its predecessor, and you can feel more of what is going on through the seat than ever before.
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That’s largely thanks to its new MLB evo chassis that uses 71 per cent aluminium, combined with high-strength steels, and helps to cut 325kg from its predecessor’s kerb weight.
In Comfort mode the steering is still light and lacks feedback, but it’s 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.
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, it’s a surprising amount of fun to hustle this big SUV around.
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Only one engine gearbox combination is available in the UK to begin with – a 268bhp 3.0 TDI with 600Nm of torque combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 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.
There's a lower power version of this engine with 215bhp and 500Nm that can still do 0-62mph in 7.4 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 £2,350 saving on the list price and slighty superior 52.3mpg so we'd go for the higher power option. Anyway, those after outright economy should wait for the diesel-electric Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid with quoted economy and emissions figures of 166mpg and 50g/km.
The normal diesels each get an eight speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. On the whole it responds quickly to inputs and is very smooth - though on occasion it can cluck down into first when pulling up at a junction.
Although it’s not designed to match a Range Rover off-road, the Q7’s quattro system is more than capable of hauling it through a muddy field or up a slippery path. In normal operation it splits the torque 40/60 front/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 round the windscreen pillars at higher speed.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Running a large, premium, seven-seat SUV is never going to be cheap, but the Q7 shouldn’t break the bank either. The only option from launch is a 268bhp 3.0 TDI engine (although other markets get a 3.0 TFSI petrol, too), which returns claimed economy and CO2 emissions of 47.9mpg and 153g/km.
That’s slightly better than the BMW X5 30d M Sport (47.1mpg and 158g/km) despite the Audi carrying and extra pair of seats and producing 14bhp more. That 153g/km figure puts the Q7 in tax band G which costs £180 a year, and attracts a 29 per cent BIK rate for company car users.
The more efficient 215bhp version of the 3.0 TDI engine provides 52.3mpg and 144g/km so will be slightly cheaper to run. It will be available later in 2015, around the same time as the plug-in hybrid Q7 e-tron goes on sale. Combining a 254bhp 3.0 TDI engine with a 124bhp electric motor integrated into the gearbox, the Q7 e-tron produces a total of 368bhp and 700Nm, but returns a tax-busting 166mpg and 50g/km.
Interior, design and technology
The Q7 showcases a whole new design direction for Audi’s ‘Q’ family, so expect future replacements for the Q5 and Q3, as well as the new Q1 due next year, to follow suit. The most striking element is the huge three-dimensional grille that announces the Q7’s arrival, flanked by LED lights, which are standard on S line models, as are 20-inch wheels.
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With a strong beltline running back from the LED headlights along the side of the car, there are hints of the old Audi Quattro’s boxy wheelarches, while the more flowing roofline and silver roofbars give a modern look. 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.
At the rear, the design is more understated, 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 with no lip it helps practicality. There’s also a button to raise and lower the £2,000 optional air-suspension to help when loading heavy items, while mounting the rear lights on the powered bootlid means you get a wide opening for luggage.
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The Q7 has lots of premium kit. LED headlights, cruise and four-zone climate control, heated electric sports seats, Bluetooth, keyless go and sat-nav all come as standard. However, Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, which adds a screen in front of the driver, is a £600 option – with the ability to see the sat-nav map in widescreen, it’s a hi-tech extra we’d recommend.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Despite being shorter, narrower and no taller than the old Q7, there’s actually more head and legroom in all three rows in the new Q7 – achieved through clever packaging and thinner seats – and the seven-seat layout is fully configurable so you can make the most of it.
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The third row is designed primarily for children, but smaller adults can squeeze in there too for shorter journeys, so long as the second row slides to its forward-most position. To make access to the third row easier the second row can fold and tip forwards to let you through. When you don’t need the third row, simply push a button on the side of the boot and they fold flush into the boot floor.
With all seven seats in place there’s 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 too and there’s a massive 1,955 litres to play with – nearly 100 litres more than 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 be no different. 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 fiendishly 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.
Two trim levels are available – SE and S line – and standard equipment includes rear parking sensors, cruise control, adjustable speed limiter and an auto braking function at low speeds. Optional systems include 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 accelerating) on well-marked roads up to speeds of 37mph.