If anyone had told me three years ago that Audi would have a fully-fledged SUV in their line-up that was capable of trekking hardcore Aussie terrain while catering for passenger comfort – I would have laughed in their face.
With Audi’s current success in the Australian market, it was no surprise that we were high on Audi’s list of export markets for the Q7 range. Audi also had no intention of making the Q7’s entrance quiet either. The Q7 launch saw 15 Audi Q7s travel from Sydney to Broome…yes, that’s Sydneyto Broome…all 7000km of it. Seldom does a car company host such an extravagant launch program unless they truly think their new model is worthy.
Throughout the entire trip, all Q7 models arrived safely to their destination with only two broken fog lights (due to stones flicked up from other vehicles) and some flat tyres. Some of the terrain between Sydney and Broome is quite challenging, so it was quite surprising that the vehicles fared so well.
The inner –
It’s quite surreal. From afar the Audi Q7 doesn’t look all that big. But, on closer inspection, the Q7 is damn big. Take the interior for example. The driver sits in a commanding position, with a well defined divider between them and the front passenger. The entire dashboard and centre console is slightly angled toward the driver, further personalising the driving experience.
The volume control has been shifted from its regular dashboard mounted position to the centre console. It’s a far better position and allows direct access to the volume control without needing to flail arms about the interior and worry about turning the wrong knob.
The V8 Q7 gets a sports steering wheel as standard equipment. Although it’s not RS4-sporty, it’s sporty enough to assist with slightly more aggressive driving. The sports steering wheel includes the addition of paddle shifters that give the driver a chance to change gears manually on-the-fly without needing to shift the gear lever to the manual position.
The 6-disc in-dash CD player and BOSE audio system is operated via the central i-Drive style controller. One of the best features of the system is its relative ease of use. The central control unit allows access to all the vehicles settings – including tyre pressure monitoring, satellite navigation and height adjustment. Next to the in-dash LCD display are several buttons, one of which controls the opening of the glove-box compartment. This is no longer a manual task. Hitting the glove-box switch de-latches the glove-box from its electronic hold and releases it to a spring-loaded freefall.
V8 owners also get the comfort front centre armrest. This luxurious delicacy has cubby holes and compartments in all directions but doesn’t allow for overall storage of larger items. The subdivision leaves little room to actually effectively use it as a centre compartment.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is quite impressive. The driving position is quite elevated, whilst the side mirrors are gigantic and offer vast amounts of visibility through both sides. There are no real major blind spots to speak of, making the Q7 quite a viable alternative for city driving with a car load of people. There is a reverse camera fitted to all Q7 models to aid in reverse parking.
Front and rear leg room is very generous, accommodating even the largest of folk. Aside from the rear middle seat, the seats are quite comfortable and well appointed. All Q7 models can also be optioned with six or seven seats (the latter being the most expensive option). It was disappointing to see no mention of standard heated front seats – especially considering the V8 is the most expensive model.
The BOSE sound system is very well equipped and returns very deep levels of bass with exceptional treble quality and clarity. Aside from a few rattles at high volumes, the sound system held up quite well through all sorts of music tested.
Opening the tailgate is assisted via a hydraulic lifting system. Closing the tailgate is also assisted via an electric motor that is enabled when the boot close button is pushed. Whilst the tailgate is open, there is also a switch that can lower the rear of the vehicle to its lowest setting to aid in getting things in and out of the boot, especially considering the boot lip sits so high up.
Our test vehicle was one of the very vehicles used to trek across Australia. With over 10,000 hard kays on the clock the interior was still in remarkable condition. The only anomalies spotted were a scuffed door panel and a chip out of an interior door frame.
The outer –
The alloy wheels fitted to our test vehicle were not standard issue. In fact, if you look closely enough, they are the same wheels that are fitted to the base, turbo-Diesel model. Audi explained that the V8 I drove was used in the cross-Australia launch program and as such, some vehicles didn’t have their standard alloy wheels re-attached.
Either way you look at it though, the Q7 is a big piece of machinery. In terms of measurements, the Q7 is longer and wider than a Toyota Prado. That fact took my by total surprise.
On the road –
As much as it would have been cosy and typical to putter around the city in the Q7 and comment on how subtle the ride is and how nice it is to park – I ventured out into the middle of nowhere and punted the Q7 through some rough and harsh terrain to see if it was really built as well as Audi claim it was.
Prior to that though, let’s dabble slightly in the Q7’s on-road manners. The adaptive air suspension can be adjusted via four different settings – automatic, dynamic, offroad and comfort. There is certainly a noticeable difference between each setting. The comfort mode soaks up almost any bump and provides a subtle and caring ride quality but lacks when it comes to handling. Due to the cosy comfort setting, the Q7 doesn’t react as efficiently and there is a noticeable amount of body roll that is added to the equation.
The automatic mode simply varies ride height and dampening with respect to your driving style. The dynamic mode provides the harshest ride quality but best cornering ability. The dynamic mode generally drops the car to its lowest setting to decrease its centre of gravity. The offroad setting caters for…you guessed it, offroading. This setting brings the Q7 up to one of its highest settings. From there, the vehicle can be lifted even higher via the manual lift control.
Driving the Q7 through the city is a mixed kettle of fish. On one hand, the ride height and seating position asserts a level of command over other drivers, but on the other hand the size of the thing makes manoeuvring in and out of gaps slightly challenging. Parking is assisted via front and rear parking sensors that emit audible and visual signs.
The 4.2-litre V8 unit under the bonnet is a bit of a menace when provoked. The engine revs out to 6500RPM and billows loudly every RPM of the way. This in turn gives the Q7 the ability to dash from naught-to-one-hundred in just 7.4-seconds. Not bad for a 2.2-tonne behemoth. The brakes are good but don’t fill you with too much confidence, which is something that you would certainly want in a big V8 SUV like the Q7.
A Torsen differential, coupled with the famous Audi quattro AWD unit can send up to 85% of power to the rear wheels, whilst running a regular 40:60 front-rear torque split. The 6-speed automatic gearbox is silky smooth and delivers power with great ease. It’s a very well tuned unit and worked quite well with the V8 engine under the bonnet.
Now, onto the good stuff. Heading off the beaten track in the Q7 was remarkably easy. The conditions were perfect for disaster. It was 40+ degrees outside, there were thing layers of dirt and dust all over the track and the air-conditioning was running full-blast the whole day. The first part of the track was a very steep decline that a turbo-Diesel Q7 didn’t manage to get through due to its limited approach angle.
The V8 Q7 had the same predicament. But, after raising the suspension to its highest level, the nose of the car was able to make it down the slope without scraping either the front or rear. Not a bad feat considering the grade of the hill and the extremes it places the vehicle under.
The next step was to see if the vehicle could reverse up the said incline from the bottom. It was slightly more labour intensive on the V8 to reverse back up the hill. The turbo-Diesel Q7 that we tested had far more torque available from low-RPMs, the V8 on the other hand needed a bit more right foot encouragement before it trekked back up the hill. At the end though, it made it back up without any dramas.
From there, the Q7 travelled through the rest of the track, including sections most recently completed by the Toyota Landcruiser 100 and Mitsubishi Pajero, not a bad effort if you ask me.
There were no problems throughout the day long offroading exercise. The Q7 V8 was driven through territory that most owners would never dream of trying, which is testament to the fact that the Q7 is capable offroad.
Under the hood –
The V8 Q7 is powered by a 4.2-litre V8 engine which produces 257kW at 6800RPM whilst outlaying 440Nm of torque at 3500RPM.
As fun as the Q7 is to drive, the 100-litre fuel tank depletes quite quickly with a heavy foot. As such, don’t expect to achieve a better fuel efficiency than 13.6-litres/100km. Power is sent through a 6-speed automatic gearbox which can be manually controlled via the gear stick or via paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel.
Price, options and features –
There are currently three grades of Q7 on offer. There’s the 3.6-litre FSI, 6-cylinder model at the bottom of the range; then there’s the 3.0-litre turbo-Diesel in the middle of the range, whilst the range topper is the 4.2-litre V8 (being test driven). The vehicles are priced at $84,900, $85,800 and $116,800 respectively.
The V8 Q7 comes standard with the following features: Adaptive air suspension; aluminium roof rails; front and rear parking sensors (including reversing camera); DataDot technology; heated, auto dimming and folding side mirrors; front and rear fog lights; cruise control; central locking; light and rain sensors; electric tailgate open and close; Xenon headlights with adaptive swivel technology; 6-disc in-dash CD player; climate controlled air-conditioning; auto-dimming interior mirror; leather seats; 11-speaker BOSE sound system with 7” LCD display; DVD based satellite navigation system; Bluetooth phone communication and electric front seats.
Safety features across the range include: 8-airbags, including two front airbags, front side airbags, rear side airbags and full length curtain airbags; safety steering column; Electronic Stability Program (ESP); ABS brakes; Brake Assist (BA); roll stability control; quattro permanent all-wheel-drive and speed sensitive power steering.
Options available across the Q7 range include: Adaptive cruise control; advanced key; anti-theft alarm with tow-away protection; Alcantra roof lining; BOSE surround sound system; 4-zone climate control; metallic paint; full length sunroof; storage package; heated front seats; heated rear outer seats; voice control; TV analogue and digital reception and 20” alloy wheels.
I was somewhat sceptical about another big, fuel-burning SUV hitting the market. Especially when you consider how poor most of the current flock perform off-road (Lexus RX350…anyone?). The Audi Q7 has well and truly bucked that trend. Audi proved that fact when they launched the Q7 through such a miraculous launch program.
It’s not out of the woods yet though. The model I drove would be a silly purchase in my mind. Unless you own an oil company, or a chain of petrol companies, the V8 is a bad decision in the long run. In the city, it simply goes through far too much fuel to be viable – and let’s be honest, the Q7 will most probably spent most of its time in the city. That leaves the 3.6-litre six and the 3.0-litre turbo-Diesel six. My money would lie with the turbo-Diesel mode. With a dirty big slab of torque it makes light offroading viable whilst also catering for fuel efficiency and longevity.
There is a lack of standard features across the Q7 range. Audi isn’t the only guilty party in this regard though, BMW and Mercedes Benz and known for ludicrous options pricing, so unfortunately, there’s no way of getting around it. With that in mind, if I was paying – the TV tuner, full length moon roof and adaptive air suspension would be on my options list – and maybe even 20” wheels if I was feeling a bit frisky.
At the end of the day, the new Audi Q7 is quite an accomplished vehicle. The Q7 covers all bases and gives owner’s the opportunity for a weekend away in the bush, whilst also being able to cart around the family and kids to soccer training. If you’re in the market for a premium SUV, check out the Q7 and make sure that the 3.0-litre turbo-Diesel is the first on your test drive list, it’s definitely sure to impress.
- Paul Maric
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