While you would hardly call the current second-generation Audi Q7 old, in automotive terms it’s post-middle age having first arrived in 2015. The updated 2020 model, set back slightly as Europe overhauled its emissions and consumption standard, has finally set foot in Australia to head off newer competitors.
The 2020 Audi Q7 45TDI steps in as the entry model to the range, equipped rather competitively with a V6 turbo diesel engine even in its most basic configuration. Dig beneath the surface, though, and there’s more to it.
As before, Audi positions the Q7 as something of an in-betweener. On price and segment it aligns with competitors like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, but its dimensions and passenger capacity bridge the gap to bigger models like the X7 and GLS.
Priced from $101,900 before options and on-road costs, the Q7 45TDI sneaks in just $1000 under a BMW X5 xDrive25d and its matching power/lower torque four-cylinder diesel engine, or $3800 less than the four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz GLE300d that claims more power and matches for torque.
In Audi’s case that 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel 45TDI engine is rated at 170kW and 500Nm, and pairs up with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission and constant all-wheel drive. That’s pretty sharp against the $11K more expensive Q7 50TDI and its 210kW/600Nm outputs, plus other goodies.
Audi’s newest ‘mild hybrid’ tech is also along for the ride, but unlike the kind of partial electric power you might get in a Lexus hybrid, the Audi system is smaller in scale. A starter/generator can recoup energy as the car slows and contributes when the engine is under load, but engine-off running tends only to occur while coasting.
The standard equipment list is a decent one, the highlight being a seven-seat layout that price-match competitors from Benz and BMW ask extra for, $3900 and $3200 respectively.
Other inclusions cover things like three-zone climate control, leather-appointed seats with power adjustment and seat heating up front, Virtual Cockpit digital instruments, keyless entry with gesture-control tailgate and push-button start, wireless phone charger, and Matrix LED headlights with auto lights and wipers.
You don't get things like electric adjustment for the steering column, a head-up display or a panoramic sunroof without stepping up to the 50TDI (plus different wheels and a different grade of leather trim), so you're not missing much. And there's always the options list, or the Premium Plus package for a combination of 21-inch wheels, Bose 3D audio, multi-colour LED ambient lighting, privacy tint and four-zone climate control for an extra $5000.
Included in the most recent update is Audi's new infotainment platform, along with the dashboard design from the Audi Q8. Dual screens (10.1-inch up top, 8.6-inch below) allow touch, pinch and swipe inputs and haptic click feedback to make the experience like a cross between a tablet screen and physical buttons.
The system includes inbuilt navigation with Google Maps 3D satellite overlays, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, online access to weather, traffic, parking, fuel prices, remote lock and unlock, and the ability to give commands with natural voice recognition – though 'natural' is a stretch, commands have to be somewhat robo-voiced for the system to understand.
The dual-screen system makes for a flexible operating environment, and while the old rotary control had benefits on the go, the new system is simpler to use and a bit more natural when stopped. A pair of screens, plus the huge gloss-black monolith of dash in front of the passenger, are absolute dust and fingerprint magnets, though.
Interior space is generous in every direction up front, and the driver gets a nice balance of up-high visibility and comfortable passenger car seated stance. The cabin is high enough to be easy to slide in and out of without needing to haul in and jump out.
Second-row seats can be slid fore and aft, which allows a comfort mix-and-match if the third row is occupied, or can be handy for bringing the littlest members of the family closer to the front if need be.
All the way back there’s an overabundance of leg room, and even halfway forward there’s enough space for adults without complaint. Unfortunately, Audi doesn’t go full-comfort with power-reclining backrests – there’s manual adjustment and what’s there works.
Where Audi really stamps its authority is row three. Third-row seats are easier to use and access than the X5 or GLE. Where competitors offer occasional-use seats in the rear, the Q7 is less compromised, though there are still some limitations.
Of course, the slightly smaller Q7 can't match the space of the gargantuan X7 or GLS. Knee room is still tight, and folding the middle row for access is a touch finicky (there's no one-touch or assisted slide where there really should be), but while foot space is still in short supply, there’s enough knee (with a small sacrifice from row two) and head room to make it more accommodating.
Boot space is a useful 295L with the third row of seats up, and the distance from tailgate to seatbacks is quite generous. Fold the rearmost seats out of the way (with power-fold buttons in the boot wall) and available space grows to 740L with the third row flat.
Take to the road and the Q7 45TDI has long-range tourer written all over it.
There’s a lovely suppleness to the ride, and on the standard 19-inch wheels (which don’t sound small, but are the smallest available on the Q7) there’s no crashing or thumping from rough surfaces underneath.
The standard air suspension is easily able to cope with up-and-over speed humps and can flatten out most of the surface changes on rural roads. In an urban setting it’s a little less settled. Air systems don’t always cope with small high-frequency bumps, and the Q7 quivers around town as a result.
At cruising speeds, there’s little to upset occupants. Noise suppression of wind and tyre noise is excellent.
In town, the Q7 comes slightly unravelled. Engine response is very, very relaxed, and often it takes a hearty shove of the accelerator to get an appropriate response. The transmission’s default mode is rather sleepy, exaggerating the issue.
As revs rise, so does noise. There’s a strong rolling midrange, and it’s here the Q7 45TDI feels quite muscular and noise settles. On the way up, the trademark diesel chatter floods the cabin, making the engine feel generations behind newer, sharper, quieter competitors under load.
Audi suggests you should be able to slingshot the Q7 45TDI from standstill to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, but there's little chance you'd ever do so by accident. The Q7 range also carries a 3500kg maximum tow rating, with a rather un-Euro-like 10 per cent ball capacity or 350kg.
Fuel consumption is listed at 7.0 litres per 100km, and despite its sheer size, figures in the low nines were easy to obtain over a mix of city and country driving. Sticking to urban-only pushed just past the 10.0L/100km mark, though most of that time was spent unladen.
The 48V mild hybrid system obviously isn’t making a large-scale contribution to refinement, then, (not even the kind of subtle engine restart like similarly equipped petrol models) but by taking the load off the diesel around town, there are fuel savings to be had.
On the safety front, the Q7 features eight airbags, including side airbags for rows one and two, and full-length curtain airbags. Second-row ISOFIX child seat mounts and second- and third-row top-tether mounts are also supplied.
Adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, driver-attention monitoring, autonomous emergency braking including pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera, intersection crossing assist, rear-impact preparation and active lane assist are also included.
The Q7 holds onto its original ANCAP crash rating of five stars, as awarded in 2015.
Owners are able to pre-purchase a genuine service plan covering the first three years of scheduled maintenance for $2310 or five years for $3190. Services are every 12 months or 15,000km, and Audi’s standard warranty covers three years/unlimited kilometres – short compared to modern mainstream standards.
Size and standard specification are on the Q7’s side. With the most flexible third row and still useful boot space behind, Audi’s three-row attempt ticks more boxes than the 5+2 Benz GLE and BMW X5 – without even needing to option in the third row.
As the entry to the range, the 45TDI engine, although delivering on paper, isn’t always the Q7’s happiest companion. A lack of grunt around town and agricultural levels of engine noise become the price to pay for a luxed-up family SUV that’s otherwise hard to fault.
As a long-distance tourer, with supple ride comfort at the fore and frugal running not far behind, the Q7 45TDI could be the ideal companion to the great Aussie road trip. For the regular Aussie short trip, though, the entry-level Q7 doesn't always hit the right notes.