Audi Q7 review
The Audi Q7 offers tons of space, powerful engines and a quality interior, to rival the BMW X5
The Audi Q7 was launched back in 2006 as the manufacturer’s answer to big 4x4s like the BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery 4. It combines masses of space, comfort and quality with genuine driver appeal. It drives surprisingly well for a car of its size, with crisp handling and accurate steering, as well as almost a complete lack of body roll. But its biggest strengths are its seven-seat layout and enormous boot. All versions come with Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system, but while the car is a capable off-roader, its sporty chassis is far better suited to the tarmac. The range was updated in 2011, with the addition o a new range-topping S line Plus model and a new entry-level 201bhp 2.0 TDI V6 diesel, which is the same engine found in the A6. An all-new Q7 will arrive in 2014 and is set to be the first Audi to feature the brand’s new design language. It’s also expected to weigh as much as 350kg less than the current car, to help keep it competitive with the latest Range Rover.
Our choice: Q7 3.0 TDI quattro
There's no doubt that the Audi Q7 looks like a premium car. It's not the prettiest car in the German maker's line-up, with its heavy flanks and bulbous nose, but it does have a beautiful interior and lots of stylish touches. There are just three specifications to choose from: SE, S line and S line Plus. Entry-level SE cars are our pick of the bunch, though, as they come with softer suspension and smaller wheels, which makes the Q7 a much more comfortable car to be in. Standard kit is also generous and includes 19-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control, as well as a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen with DAB radio and Bluetooth. S line models add 20-inch alloys, sport seats and Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, while S line Plus comes with 21-inch alloys, tinted windows, Verano leather trim, an advanced sat-nav system, Google Earth access, in-car Wi-Fi and a reversing camera.
Considering its size, the Audi Q7 feels surprisingly sporty to drive. There's very little body roll through corners, and the steering is responsive and accurate. It even feels stable through tight bends and over undulating roads. The only fly in the ointment is the very firm suspension, which picks up even the smallest bumps in the tarmac. The engine range is limited to just three diesel engines, but it’s the entry-level 3.0-litre V6 diesel that is our pick of the range, as it combines power and economy in equal measure. In fact, it can sprint from 0-62mph in only 9.1 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 127mph. The Q7 also gets an eight-speed automatic box and Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive.
Audi has a reputation for building cars that are very well engineered, and the Q7 is no exception. The brand finished 10th overall in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey - a whole five places ahead of arch-rival BMW – and although the Q7 is still a bit too niche to have made it into our Top 100, there’s no reason to expect it wouldn’t perform just as well as the A6, which came 27th. Although the Q7 has been the subject of a safety recalls, the problem was relatively minor – the recall was to fix the electric motor that works the optional powered bootlid. There have also been some reports of uneven tyre wear, but other than that, problems are few and far between. Things aren’t quite so impressive when it comes to safety, though, as the Q7 scored just four stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. The report says that “Poor welding resulted in rupture of the footwell area”, which sounds serious – however it also says that Audi has since “improved control over this part of production”. Safety kit includes electronic stability control, a trailer stabilisation system, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution, as well as driver, passenger, knee, side and curtain airbags.
The Q7 has a massive boot – so much so that not even the Land Rover Discovery 4 can match the Audi's 2,040mm maximum load length. With all seven seats in place, there’s 330 litres of space - or about the same as the average family hatchback – but if you fold the seats flat into the floor, that figure rises to a huge 775 litres. A one-piece tailgate makes stowing bulky items easy, although even with this car's air-suspension on its lowest setting, the boot floor is still 830mm off the ground. The only disappointment is that the rearmost row of seats is a bit cramped, but no more than in rivals like the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90.
Given its dimensions, the Q7 is never going to be particularly cheap to run. That said, even the most efficient model in the range will prove expensive. The lower powered 3.0 TDI quattro has an official fuel consumption figure of 39.0mpg and emits a considerable 189g/km of CO2. Audi no longer offers the Q7 with a petrol engine, so the least efficient option of the 4.2 TDI model, which manages 31.0mpg and emissions of 242g/km. Insurance will be costly too, as will the road tax bill. Thankfully, residual values are good and the make also offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals, which should help keep maintenance costs in check.