Indians love SUVs and it doesn’t come as a surprise that Audi got recognised as a premium brand thanks to the first generation Q7. When launched a decade ago, apart from being famous for being the favourite of a few Bollywood A-listers, this car had so much going for it.
The butch looks had loads of presence and, despite its size, it was easy to drive. It had strong engine options and the cabin was big on space and comfort. But over time the Q7 got long in the tooth and now finally we have the second generation of this renowned SUV.
When I saw the Q7 in pictures it looked as small as the Q5 but the good news starts as soon as you see it in flesh. It is a bit smaller compared to its predecessor (15mm narrower, 37mm shorter and 3mm lower to be precise) but the more chiselled and curved design makes it modern and more contemporary.
Sure it has lost some of the in-your-face character of the old car, yet it looks quite good on its own. Up front, the new Q7 gets Audi’s new family look with the large hexagonal grille surrounded by chrome lining. The chrome surround extends towards the head lamps which are powered by Audi’s high-tech Matrix LED system.
The chiselled bumper blends in well with the rest of the front and Audi has skipped fog lamps all-together. In profile, the strong shoulder line and flared wheel arches lends the much needed muscle to this SUV and the silver finish door sills and the attractive 5-spoke alloy wheels complete the side look of the car. The rear though looks a bit too simple with the signature LED lit tail lamps and twin exhaust. In fact, when the suspension is set to its lowest height the Q7 looks more like an estate than an SUV.
How is it on the inside?
If the new Q7’s exterior seems a bit too plain to you, don’t leave the showroom just yet! Stunningly designed and beautifully executed, the new Audi Q7’s cabin is the car’s real highlight. The large air-con vents running across the dashboard look unique and the silver and wood finish underneath is tastefully done.
The air-con controls and knobs are finished in matt chrome and the knurled finish to the touch points feel top drawer. The dash design is based on Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit theme first seen on the Audi TT. While you get a conventional high-res MMI screen on top of the dash the one that sits in place of the conventional instruments looks really high-tech and futuristic.
The 12.3-inch TFT display can be switched between two different user interfaces. In “Infotainment” mode, a central window dominates the view, providing a large stage for the navigation map or for lists in the phone, radio and audio areas. The tachometer and speedometer are displayed as small dial instruments on the right and left. In the normal mode, the ancillary display space is smaller, and conventional speedometer and tachometer takes centre stage.
You sit high up in the new Q7 and the low dash and slim pillars give you a clear view of your surroundings. The seat itself is well bolstered and there is loads of space up front. But it’s at the rear that the Q7 is a marked improvement over its predecessor. Apart from having more space, the bench is well shaped and the seatback can be reclined according to your comfort.
You also get a third row (if you are confident enough, not to take the spare tyre along) which feels better executed than before. But thanks to the knees-up seating it is best for children or for adults you don’t like. Boot space is again hampered by the vertically mounted spare and with all three rows up there is decent space to carry two soft bags.
In terms of equipment the Q7 comes well loaded. In the base Premium Plus variant you get panoramic sunroof, electric leather seats, electric steering adjust, parking assist with rear camera, four-zone climate control, an electric folding third row, 8 airbags and, LED headlamps. The Technology pack (the car featured here) adds larger 19-inch alloys, Matrix Beam headlamps, auto park assist, 360-degree camera, a fantastic sounding Bose audio and the Virtual cockpit instrumentation.
How does it drive?
The first question that arises as soon as you look at the specification sheet is, why no 4.2-litre V8 diesel option? The simple answer is that Audi can do without it in this car. Where the old car needed the extra grunt of the bigger diesel to extract good performance, the new one is more than 300kg lighter and delivers similar levels of performance despite the displacement deficit.
As soon as you start the 3.0-litre diesel motor it settles into a very smooth idle with minimum clatter and vibrations seeping through. The motor produces 245bhp but more importantly it makes 600Nm of torque from as low as 1500rpm. This means there is a huge amount of pulling power right from the word go and the Q7 feels effortless in town.
On an open road, once past 2000rpm, the motor comes into its own and the push in the back stays very firm all the way to 4000rpm. As a result zero to 100kph takes just 6.8 seconds, making this much faster than the old 3.0-litre Q7 and just 0.1 second slower than the 4.2-litre V8 TDI.
Also well mated and well up to the task is the 8-speed torque converter gearbox. It feels laidback and extremely smooth in normal D-mode and turns to a quick swapping box as soon as you shift to sport mode. Upshifts are a quick flick of the paddle-shift away and the gearbox shifts really well in manual mode too, increasing driving pleasure considerably. However, it does become a touch slow to downshift when cruising, especially in Comfort setting.
The loss of mass has not only helped the Q7’s performance, but it has transformed its dynamic abilities too. Gone is the fidgety ride of the old car and now it feels much suppler and bump absorption at low speeds is really good. In comfort mode the air suspension glides over the worst of surfaces without much fuss and gives it the all-important luxury ride it always deserved. On the highway though there is too much body movement, especially over rippled or undulating surfaces. It’s best to switch to dynamic and in this mode the Q7 displays a much flatter poise and a more comfortable ride.
Despite its size the Q7 is a fairly decent thing to punt around corners. The steering is typically Audi — light and effortless but devoid of feel. The Quattro set-up is biased towards road driving, which gives the Q7 a nice handling balance in brisk driving. In dynamic mode it will surprise you with its agility as body movements are well controlled, and it grips willingly and steers accurately too. You also get an off-road mode which increases the ground clearance by a good 60mm. Although the Q7 is not a potent off-roader it does get hill-start and hill-descent control when the going gets tough and slippery.