The 2017 Audi Q7 is one of the better choices for buyers looking at a proper seven-seater SUV in the luxury segment and with the entry model now starting at around $100,000, it’s also more accessible than before.
Realistically, the only worthwhile choices for a proper seven-seat SUV in this category are the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, while other options include the ageing Land Rover Discovery 4 as well as semi-useless third row seats in the BMW X5.
With Audi having brought in a less powerful 160kW (500Nm) version of the Q7 at $96,300 (plus on-roads), shaving $7600 from the price of the 200kW (600Nm) version, we thought we’d take the new entry point Q7 for a family weekend away.
From the outside the new Q7 certainly isn’t the most inspired Audi design. It’s sharp and modern, yet very conservative in how it looks – inoffensive would be the best way to describe it. Even so, it’s a better looking car than the one it replaces and that proved to be a rather successful model for the German brand.
Jump inside and it becomes obvious why Audi does so well in this segment. The Q7 has perhaps the best interior of any car in its class. The cabin ambience is top notch and every control or switchgear that you interact with feels well put together. Even in this base spec with very few options, our Q7 felt better to be inside than its European rivals.
The second row is spacious and an ideal place for two large child seats which bolt in very conveniently thanks to Audi’s removable ISOFIX covers that allow a deeper connection from chassis to the seat without damaging the upholstery.
My wife easily managed to fit between the two seats to keep the little guys entertained. A further row back and the six and seventh seats are usable for kids or smaller adults, so long as you don’t intend to drive long distances. Certainly, it’s an ideal compromise for families of five or six that have kids aged between 8-12 that will be happy to sit in the third row comfortably.
Our biggest gripe with the interior was actually the driver and passenger seats, which, for our long drive from Brisbane to Warwick and further on to Killarney’s Jumpers and Jazz festival, proved to be a tad uncomfortable with limited back support. You wouldn’t notice anything for the first hour or so, but after a while my wife and I both noted that the seats could do with more back support.
The base model misses out on Audi’s virtual cockpit, making do with traditional dials instead. Considering the base model is only $7600 less than the more powerfully-engined version that also gets the virtual cockpit standard, it starts to make the 200kW Q7 seem like a better deal. Perhaps that’s its main purpose.
Ignoring that though, the 160kW unit is actually rather gutsy and though you can’t discount the extra grunt of the more powerful model, not once did we feel the detuned engine lacked the required motivation to get our family going, both around town and on the highway when overtaking slower cars.
What we did notice, however, was the steel suspension of the Q7 suffering over the country roads we traversed. While it will probably be fine for most buyers that intend to use their car on standard suburban roads, the optional air suspension for $4950 makes a world of difference if you can afford it. It’s worth every cent as it transforms the car’s ride and comfort level from average to extraordinary. While it’s the only option no one else will notice you’ve ticked, it will be the one you’ll appreciate the most.
In terms of powertrain, the only negative for us was the stop-start system, which takes an awfully long time to restart the engine after it has been switched off to save fuel. It's by far the slowest stop-start system in any car we've encountered so far and can get a little irritating after a while. Thankfully you can turn it off (though it does turn itself back on after a restart cycle).
The drive from Brisbane to Warwick was a breeze. We set the smart cruise control to the speed limit with the shortest distance to the car in front and for the entire two hour trip, didn’t touch the brake or the accelerator pedal, allowing for a smooth driving experience which also helped with any momentary distractions the kids provided.
It’s part of the ‘Assistance Package’ ($4075) which gets you Audi active lane assist, adaptive cruise control with Audi pre-sense front, traffic jam assist, collision assist and turn assist. Certainly, if you plan to do long distance driving, it’s worth a tick.
Once we got to Warwick, we turned Audi’s driving mode to off-road and headed to the old Condamine road to visit the parents' in-law-land. There were some raised eyebrows from the typical Prado owners who watched us cross the half-metre deep water crossings that saw the Q7 get a bit more submerged than we probably would’ve liked. Even so, it came out the other side with its dignity more than intact.
From there it headed up a very steep climb to get to our intended destination, which saw the Q7 pushing hard for grip from all four wheels, but never struggling. To be fair, this isn’t an off-roader, and what we did it with probably doesn’t constitute off-roading in the sense that we climbed a mountain, but it was a fair representation of what a typical family may do with a car of this calibre once or twice a year. The Q7 did its job without hesitation.
From there we headed to Killarney and attended the Jumpers and Jazz festival, which was a great family night out. Once that was done, we put the kids back in the car, turned the heater on, put some soft music on, engaged the active cruise control system and drove back for 2.5 hours to Brisbane without again touching the pedals.
The entire drive there and back, including plenty of overtaking on the highway and climbing up the Cunningham gap as well as the off-road component, resulted in a fuel economy figure of 9.1L/100km, which is noticeably higher than the manufacturer claimed 5.8L/100km, but in the real world our figure is actually very competitive.
Overall, the Audi Q7 is a fantastic choice for large families seeking a proper seven-seater SUV. It presents the best interior package and ambience of any car in its class, and if you can stretch for a few vital options you’ll be a happy owner for years to come.
In saying that, our advice is to actually go for the more powerful 200kW version of the Q7, which we reviewed here. For an extra $7600, the additional power and the inclusion of virtual cockpit makes it worthwhile for a relatively small increase in price, not to mention that come resale time, having the better engine will likely net you back half that additional cost.