The Audi Q7 was3 the German brand's first foray into luxury SUVs and an all-new replacement for a model launched in 2006 isn't due until 2014.
The Q7 has since been joined by the mid-sized Q5 and even smaller Q3.
Since its launch, the Audi Q7 has played a pivotal part in Audi’s surpassed goal of reaching one million car sales worldwide.
Initially offered with a single 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine and a 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine, the Q7 has now evolved into a post GFC fuel-miser with the introduction of a ‘clean’ burning revision of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine.
The new diesel takes advantage of stop/start technology and an advanced selective catalytic reduction system, which aims to reduce the nitrogen oxide levels emitted by up to 70%, using an additive system in the catalytic converter. More on this later.
Buyers are spoilt for choice with a range of diesel and petrol engines, ranging from eco-friendly, right through to licence-unfriendly with the 1000Nm V12 TDI sports version of the Q7.
From the outside, the Q7 has changed only slightly since its launch in 2005. A recent facelift saw daytime running lights added to the range, in addition to a revised grille and front bumper bar. The changes followed through to the rear with minor changes to the tail lights and rear assembly.
Audi’s third generation of Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is now easier to use thanks to a higher-resolution seven-inch screen, eight-way joystick and hard disk storage for music.
The interior ambience is relaxing and empowering. The view through the front and rear is exceptional, with a tall field of view offering a 4WD-esque view over other cars. A reversing camera is also welcomed as standard fitment.
While some may scoff at the fact the Q7 is built in Slovakia, build quality and fit and finish is exceptional throughout the cabin.
Surprisingly though, if you opt for the six-disc CD-player – as optioned on our test vehicle – you lose most of the glove box, making it redundant and extremely small when compared with the size of the vehicle. This is in contrast to most other marques that fit an in-dash style six-disc CD-player that doesn’t rob available space from the glove box.
Interior leg and head room is very impressive. Front and second row passengers have plenty of room to work with. The Q7 range is also fitted with a third row of seats that accommodates two extra people, increasing total seating capacity to seven passengers.
As a true test, I attempted to load seven adults into the car. The third row of seats came retracted when I collected the vehicle, so I had to go through the process of removing the cargo blind barrier and erecting the seats.
After five or so minutes of erecting seats, I discovered that the metal strut used as the cargo blind couldn’t safely fit in the boot space behind the third row of seats. This meant that the cargo blind would need to sit on the floor at somebody’s feet, or be left behind outside the car.
With floating cargo blind aside, the end result is seating for two children or two adults for short distances in the third row of seats. It's also a tricky task climbing in and out of the third row, as the second row doesn't fold out of the way to allow easy entry.
Despite being the entry-level Q7 variant, the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel provides plenty of added punch. The engine produces 177kW and 550Nm of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that is the crux of the Q7’s stop/start technology.
Prior to Audi engineering the automatic gearbox for stop/start compatibility, the only stop/start capable vehicles on the market used manual transmissions, which are far easier to stop and start when the engine is disconnected from the drivetrain.
As opposed to an automatic gearbox, which uses a continuous coupling when the vehicle is in a forward or rearward gear, and requires too much time to disengage a gear and re-engage a gear before switching off and switching on respectively.
The developers of this system, Bosch, engineered a powerful electric motor that works in unison with the vehicle’s injection system and transmission to make the process seamless to the driver – well, almost.
When you approach a stop and have your foot on the brake pedal, the car will switch off until you release the brake pedal again. While the system is technically seamless, you can feel the car shudder slightly as it switches off and likewise when it switches on again.
You certainly get used to the sensation though and it reaps the benefits with up to an eight percent reduction in fuel use.
The end result is a staggering combined fuel use figure of 7.8L/100km. That’s not a misprint, 7.8L/100km. It’s absolutely unbelievable when you consider the vehicle’s fairly portly 2.3-tonne mass. The system is also extremely quick, allowing for fast take off in the event of an emergency or sudden need for acceleration.
While the engine is switched off when stationary, the headlights, windscreen wipers and a temporary reserve of air-conditioning remain operational, meaning the switch between on and off is seamless in the sense the driver won’t notice any difference between the two states, aside from the minor shudder. The automated stop/start system can be switched off using a button on the dashboard.
In addition to the stop/start system, the revised 3.0-litre V6 diesel features an advanced selective catalytic reduction system. As the exhaust gases pass through the exhaust, an additive is added to the stream and absorbed by the catalyst. This helps reduce noxious gases by up to 70%. This results in the Q7’s carbon emissions per km being reduced from 282g/km when the car was launched in 2006, to an impressive 205g/km with the latest revision.
Behind the wheel, the Q7 feels large, but nimble at the same time. The steering feels very direct and offers ample feedback through the wheel. The fairly low centre of gravity means that the Q7 can hold its own during cornering without feeling overly large and cumbersome. Throttle response and brake feel is on par with the best in this segment, with the torque-laden V6 diesel offering plenty of punch throughout the rev range.
To prove how capable the Q7 is off-road, Audi performed a trek across Australia after the car was launched in 2006. It’s a show of force and certainly one that boasts the Q7’s strong points in comparison with its competitors, which are mainly tailored for on-road driving.
A braked towing capacity of 3.5-tonne also means towing almost anything is done with a great deal of ease.
Starting at $88,614, the Audi Q7 3.0TDI represents excellent value for money. With the added surety of off-road ability, seven seats for passenger hauling and a heap of grunt for towing and overtaking, it’s hard to imagine any other choice.
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