What is it?
Why I would buy it:
Petrol engine refinement, spacious and thoroughly modern cabin, light controls and commanding view makes driving this large SUV easy, decent boot space, superb Bose music player
Why I would avoid it:
More low-end torque would have been welcome, engine gets noisy when revved, more steering feedback could have made it more involving to drive, cramped third row seats
When Audi rolled out a ‘40 TFSI’ in its mammoth Q7 back in September 2017, everyone thought it would get a large capacity powertrain with a shattering power output. On the contrary, Audi slapped on a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol motor that made 252bhp and 370Nm of torque (230Nm less than the diesel). Come to think of it, this is what the brand did with its latest A4 too. Although it was introduced with a 1.4-litre petrol motor, it sported a 30TFSI badge! Sure, Audi may have pulled it off with the A4, the question is, will large SUV buyers warm up to similar tactics where inherent expectations include more grunt from the powertrain? We will soon find out.
As for the looks, there’s nothing new here. And we don’t really mind since the Q7 has great presence anyway. The nose especially, has a well chiselled look with that huge grille and silver accents which complement those sleek Matrix LED headlamps. While the design flair catches your undivided attention, you will also notice that Audi has dumped the use of fog lamps! The strong design sense doesn’t end here. The profile section shows off the SUV’s butch stance with silver window sills and the large five-spoke alloys. The rear is characterised by a pair of attractive tail lamps with modern graphics, a bumper with lots of creases and the twin exhausts that pop out from underneath.
How is it on the inside?
The ambience within the Q7’s cabin makes for a spacious and pleasurable experience. The dual-tone shade with brushed silver accents and wood inserts lift your spirits, and the slim long vents make the interiors feel wider than it really is. There’s a high-resolution screen that sits atop the dash which can be accessed via Audi’s MMI for vehicle and infotainment functions. Music lovers will find much pleasure in the sweet sounding Bose music player to bring Nirvana to their souls. Now, all the controls fall easily to hand and there’s acres of space for storage on the centre console, door pads and arm rest.
Quality along with fit and finish is pristine, and the Virtual Cockpit instrumentation with all of its intense graphics offers a ton of drive information at a glance. Here, the dials can also split to either ends of the screen to make space for enlarged navigation on the centre of the Virtual Cockpit for superb visibility. This brings us to the front seats that have contours with firm cushioning, offer adequate thigh support and lateral support, along with lots of legroom and headroom. When it comes to the second-row flat-folding seats, one can find lots of legroom, headroom and there’s enough contours for a comfortable seating position along with an adjustable backrest.
Seating for the middle passenger is also decent, thanks to a centre tunnel that isn't very intrusive. Plus, we thoroughly liked the cooling from the four-zone climate control system with vents on the centre console and pillars. But having said that, our only grouse was that this row could have sported better thigh support. This leaves us with the third twin-seat row which can also be folded flat. There’s adequate headroom and shoulder-room for two medium sized adults. But what doesn’t work here is that the knee-room is cramped and there’s absolutely no thigh support. Apparently, the squatting position makes this section more appropriate for toddlers.
When it comes to the boot, you’ll be surprised to find decent boot space for a few soft bags even with the last row up. But it isn’t confidence inspiring to know that you have to choose between using all the seat options or the spare wheel. When it comes to equipment, the Q7 in the base Premium Plus variant offers LED headlamps, parking assist with rear camera, a panoramic sunroof, electric steering adjust, four-zone climate control, electric leather seats and eight airbags. The top-end Technology pack version gets Matrix Beam headlamps, auto-park assist with 360-degree camera, Bose audio system and larger alloy wheels.
How does it drive?
Twist the ignition, and as expected of a petrol powertrain, you will be welcomed by a relatively quiet and refined motor that dishes out 252bhp and 370Nm. This engine uses an eight-speed tiptronic transmission to lay down all that power through the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive. There’s a hint of reluctance in this petrol Q7 to get going from standstill. But that’s basically due to the effort involved for this smaller 2.0-litre motor in lugging 2240kgs of SUV into motion.
However, that’s only until the turbo spools up by about 1900rpm, after which there’s a nice linear surge that lasts all the way to the 6700rpm redline. Although this small petrol motor gets most of the jobs done without a sweat, it isn’t in the league of the 600Nm diesel Q7 in terms of outright performance. And this was expected considering the 270Nm torque difference.
Nevertheless, the smooth performance makes driving within the city in D-mode a fairly easy affair. For anything more, just slot the lever into S-mode where the transmission quickly downshifts in anticipation for instant response. You can also the shuffle through the gears via the paddle-shift which makes driving this SUV even more delightful.
For more action behind the wheel, just slot it into Dynamic mode. Sure, the engine becomes more audible in this mode, but the transmission clings on to the lower gears to give you the additional power demanded of it. The drive gets peppier, and you eventually notice that the system chooses its eight gears efficiently to spin out the torque to the wheels to keep you going.
Also, there are pre-set drive modes that change the manners in which the throttle, gearbox, steering and suspension respond. There’s ‘Comfort’, which has the most relaxed power output since the gearbox swiftly upshifts as soon as you go easy on the throttle. ‘Auto’ mode detects your driving style and sets the engine, gearbox, suspension and steering to suit. ‘Individual’, on the other hand, allows one to manually toggle between Comfort/Auto/Dynamic for a tailor-made experience.
When it comes to the Q7’s steering, it felt light and effortless which in-turn made it easy to drive this large SUV especially within the city. Although we would have preferred better feedback, switching to Dynamic gave it some heft and left us more-or-less satisfied overall. Furthermore, the Q7 hasn’t really changed in terms of ride and handling. It is equipped with an air suspension that allows it to glide over most surfaces.
At slow speeds, the bump absorption is very good, but you will be able to hear the suspension working away in the background over harsh bumps. Up the pace, and although there is some up and down movement in Comfort-mode over rippled surfaces, one can easily tackle it by switching to Dynamic-mode, which lends it a flatter ride. There’s even an All-road/Off-road mode which raises the air-suspension automatically by 60mm.
Should I buy one?
All in all, we feel that the petrol Q7 could have benefitted from more torque, since the engine tends to get noisy when you ask more of it. That said, better feedback from the steering would have made it more involving to drive. We also felt that thigh support in the second row could have been better. Plus, the third row is just too cramped for adults. Also, Audi could have done better to package both the spare wheel and the rear single seat without throwing the need for an option.
What works in its favour is the refinement from the petrol motor and the adequate performance on tap. This, coupled with the desirable looks, spacious and attractive cabin with decent boot space (all rows up), and unique bits such as the Virtual Cockpit with the brilliant Bose music player gives it that edge that buyers in the segment really appreciate. It ticks most of the boxes for those customers who drive less and would prefer a petrol over a diesel.
Where does it fit in?
The Audi Q7 40TFSI locks horns with the Mercedes Benz GLS 400 4MATIC. Although the latter proposes a more adrenaline-pumped experience from its 329bhp and 480Nm on tap (at least on paper), we feel that the petrol Q7’s 252bhp and 370Nm of torque will earn it a better balance of power and efficiency.
Pictures: Kapil Angane