Audi’s Q7 has always been the subtler option in the luxury SUV class. But, with recent tweaks aimed at refreshing its appearance and updating its tech, the new model aims to move up the rankings on buyers’ shortlists. Terence drove the Q7 at the launch that was held in Cape Town this week. Has Audi done enough to stave off the challenge from the newer BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE (not to mention its in-house rival, the Volkswagen Touareg)?
A CLASSY NEW SUIT
Design-wise, the updated Q7 features a new grille with vertical strakes in place of horizontal elements, larger dual air intakes, revised LED headlamps all-round (matrix tech is optional) and a chrome strip linking the taillights. It certainly looks more upmarket and less like a hiked-up station wagon.
Inside, there’s a completely new dashboard adopting styling cues from the Q8’s. That means Audi’s done away with the pre-facelift Q7’s physical climate controls in favour of a dual-touchscreen arrangement that you’ll either love or loathe (I remain undecided – the screens take away the pleasing tactility afforded by the previous controls and you’ll likely spent more time with your eyes diverted from the road to make simple adjustments). Still, it’s a better system than most and, because the screens are large, well placed and offer haptic and acoustic feedback, their operation is relatively simple to master. Audi’s virtual cockpit Plus is standard on the Q7, but relegated to the options sheet is an adjustable ambient-light package (R4 000).
Also offered for the first time on the Q7 is Audi connect, which offers Car2X services (effectively a safety feature which calls Audi in the event of an accident/breakdown) plus control via the myAudi smartphone app for various functions such as remote locking/unlocking, vehicle status updates and theft alerts. There will be a video on this soon so keep your eyes on this site 😉
ALL’S FAMILIAR UNDER THE BONNET
Audi’s wisely done little work on the Q7 under the skin; it hasn’t needed to. The previous Q7 was one of the segment’s most comfortable and refined SUVs, and that hasn’t changed. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel (the only engine option for now; an SQ7 joins the range early next year) offers 183 kW and a stout 600 Nm, and is connected to a brilliantly smooth eight-speed torque-converter auto ‘box. Audi claims a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 6.9 seconds, which feels a tad optimistic but there’s certainly no lack of punch. More importantly, the engine is superbly refined at all speeds and sufficiently torquey in the mid-range to comfortably tow a boat or caravan. Combined with low road- and wind-noise levels, the Q7 is an accomplished long-distance conveyance.
AND HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
I piloted the S line model, which is R60 000 more expensive than the entry-level variant and, besides a host of styling addenda – including 20-inch alloys instead of 19s – adds adaptive air suspension (otherwise a R27 900 option). Experience with a previous Q7 on supple steel springs indicated air isn’t necessary, but the S line addition is decent value and the air suspension imbues the Q7 with a lovely, loping ride on the highway and impressive cushioning at city speeds. Audi must be commended for not attempting to make the Q7 ‘sporty’. Thanks to rear-wheel steering aiding manoeuvrability, this is an easy-to-drive, easy-to-place SUV.
Audi’s been very clever in tweaking the Q7 without losing sight of what made the original, second-generation model such an appealing everyday SUV. Now more luxurious and premium-looking, the new Q7 has the measure of its (more expensive) rivals and makes a compelling alternative to the more expensive Q8. Job very well done!
All Audi models boast a two-year/unlimited km warranty and a five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.
Audi Q7 45 TDI quattro tiptronic: R1 328 500
Audi Q7 45 TDI quattro S line tiptronic: R1 388 500
Words: Terence Steenkamp