Take an Audi Q7 off-roading? Drive it over unpredictable terrain and in torrential rain? Those were my first and rather surprised reactions when Ninad and Santosh assigned me the Q7 for our CarWale Off-Road day 2019.
At first, I wasn’t convinced that this big hunk of German metal you see in the pictures, was capable of going where no car usually wants to go. It, after all, screams all things luxury and is more at home in the density of a city standing tall in the crowd rather than on the path less taken.
However, once the initial surprise /apprehension had worn off, I sat and thought about it and it suddenly seemed like this would work. Audi, after all, is one of the O.Gs when it comes to AWD technology. Their explosive exploits in the high-octane world of Group B rallying sealed and cemented the legend of the ur-Quattro rally car. Now, well over 35 years later, Audi is known the world over for its AWD technology, also called Quattro (but with a smaller q in obeisance to the group B rally car).
This 35 years of development has changed things quite a bit. In a normal off-road experience, you have to deal with locking differentials, a low-range gearbox and knowing what is beside and under you, which more or less involves a spotter and craning your neck out of the window. But, the Q7 makes this entire process a breeze. Everything is electronically controlled, you get a 360-degree camera setup and best of all, an air suspension that lets you raise and lower the ride height on the fly. It is as simple as a step in, raise the suspension, choose the mode and get going.
That is not to say that we weren’t still apprehensive about pushing the Q7. Its road-biased nature meant it had to skip the trail test as well as the hill climb in a bid to prevent any kind of damage to the underbody.
In the off-road acceleration test, the Q7 topped the sheets with a time of 2.12 seconds to go from 0-30kmph. This is an impressive figure considering the heft and 2.33-tonne weight of the car. This is down to the rather quick DSG gearbox and Quattro technology both of which made the task of putting down the 3.0-litre diesel V6’s 600Nm to the wheels quite easy.
The Audi Q7’s impressive time in the acceleration test was a complete contrast to its performance in the off-road braking test. Here it took 21 feet (6.4-meters) to grind to a halt from the 30kmph mark. There’s a whole host of electronics as well as massive disc brakes at play in the equation and they did a good job of helping the SUV mask its size. However, our testers felt that the Q7 would have done a better job if there was more feedback from the brake pedal.
This was one of the trickier tests as were multiple elements involved to examine, consider and play with, all at the same time. This becomes quite obvious when you consider the mammoth nature of the Q7. It was obvious that the car was never going to make an impressive time but its performance was quite a surprise nonetheless.
During the off-road slalom, our testers discovered that the responsive steering and superior torque distribution made it quite easy to drive the car. However, thanks to the large size, agility was never going to be one of the strong points of the car and it was a tight fit around the cones especially when the going got slushier after the rains.
All things considered, the Q7 is still at its heart a soft-roader with a large list of luxury trappings that deserve to be nowhere near a slushy trail or a rocky hill climb. Then there is also the fact that the car we drove costs a crore of rupees (on-road, Navi Mumbai) which should put the element of doubt even in the deepest of pockets when it comes to the road not taken.
That being said, the Audi Q7 was impressive in every test we put it through. If the car could speak, it would just keep repeating “You underestimate my skills” every time we hesitated to push it. Perhaps a “lightweight” version with off-road biased tyres and extra high ground clearance would make the Q7 an even more impressive SUV. Audi, do you hear us?
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi.
Click on the links below to find out how these SUVs fared in our tests.