Published on January 23rd, 2016 | by Subhash Nair0
Audi Q7 Review: Quattro, in all its Great Glory
Audi Malaysia has been on a roll since setting up, bringing in great models directly from Germany and giving the competition something to watch out for. The latest vehicle to grace the showrooms is the all-new Q7, which replaces the first-generation SUV and brings with it new technology and looks with the same familiar build quality and drivability.
For those who don’t remember, the last Q7 was a very slightly curvy affair. But things have changed for the brand with the four rings. Audi’s latest design language graces the new Q7, so it’s out with the curves and in with the straight lines. Overall, it’s not a very polarizing look – there’s no ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ question here, it’s undeniably easy on the eyes. It embodies what one expects from a German made vehicle, inside and out. But let’s talk about the ‘out’ first.
Like we said, the Q7 has a classic handsomeness about it. The new Singleframe grille brings some hexagonal pizzazz to the front end and the LED headlamps with its redesigned DRLs are the real reason it has looks on its side.
But the new design is not without flaws. For one, when the suspension is at its lowest point, it looks like a station wagon from certain angles. Yes, despite sitting on 20” rims and 285mm wide tyres, the Q7 has some strange proportions to it when it’s parked or at its sportiest. Of course, this could be a deliberate move by Audi. Wagon lovers are everywhere, and there’s no denying that lowering the vehicle does make it look a little sportier than its competitors.
But if you demand the looks of an SUV, then just switch the driver profile to off-road mode and the air suspension lifts the vehicle up by 6cm and suddenly all the work the Ingolstadt designers put in comes alive.
With this high riding stance, the design effectively conveys a sense of power and sportiness by playing on some of Audi’s classic themes of obtuse angles and hard lines. Adding a two-toned paint scheme or more extensive use of plastic under carriage cladding a-la-Land Rover wouldn’t have hurt and could help further accentuate the boxy design language the Q7 now sports.
On the inside things are also typical Audi. Nothing but protractor-perfect angles and sharp lines finished off in Brushed Aluminium and with anodised inlays. Material choices are great, except for some design elements and plastics that are clearly being shared between sister brands of Audi.
This does take some of ‘exclusivity’ out of the in-cabin experience. Nonetheless, there’s not a single trim piece here that feels inexpensive, and the leather-on-Alcantara finish is something more manufacturers should consider now that even sub RM50,000 cars come with pleather seats.
But just like Ikea, the Swedish XC90 we tested earlier is cheaper AND has a more elegant solution to interior design. The Audi Q7 does look and feel great, but it’s just difficult to defend at this price point.
Let’s talk about how this thing is on the road.
Producing 333hp and 440Nm of torque, this 3-litre V6 TFSI seems perfectly matched to the Q7 and its 8-speed Tiptronic. This ZF-sourced auto isn’t your typical slushbox. It’s lightning fast, and feels great in both traffic and overtaking manoeuvres. And despite shedding 200kg, the Q7 still has 2030kg to lug around. So you can imagine just how surprised we were to find that you feel none of that weight on most roads. The quattro system never felt more at home than on the Q7, and makes it more confidence-inspiring than other SUVs this segment.
The air suspension system that we touched on earlier is also a welcome addition. Switching between driver profiles gives you immediate and obvious feedback, changing the suspension height in the process. Frankly, the difference between ‘Comfort’ and ‘Dynamic’ makes the Q7 drive like 2 very different vehicles. Thankfully there’s an ‘Auto’ setting that takes care of everything and gives you the best of both worlds.
We didn’t have the opportunity to put the off-roading capabilities through its paces, but we did take it off tarmac briefly for a photoshoot. The Q7 proved to be extremely easy to manouever with its 360-degree camera providing the driver with a bird’s eye view of the vehicle and providing auditory feedback through its 19 speakers whenever objects got close. The sophisticated suspension and 4 wheel drive system are definitely up to the task of putting smiles on the faces of timber tycoons from what we could tell.
In short, it’s an Audi with a quattro system – it drives superb no matter what you throw at it. Let’s move on to the Q7’s features.
As you’d expect, the Q7 comes with a power boot with controls to higher or lower suspension to improve access. What you probably didn’t expect is that the rear seats can be folded flat. Oh, you did expect that?
Well how about this – they’re folded using electric motors. That’s right, just hold down a button and they go up or down as needed. Pretty neat.
Speaking of automation, the car has very limited self-driving capabilities. As in, it can self-park. Nice to have but in reality it’s still to cumbersome to use when there’s a line of cars behind you. This isn’t an Audi-specific defect. Self-driving still feels too user-bound, and often involves more steps than actual driving.
Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) and its related functionalities though are absolute show stealers. The Q7 does not come standard with the nVidia Tegra 4 tablet computers, and we’ve yet to receive a response from Audi Malaysia as to whether these will be available as options. Yet despite the absence of rear-seat entertainment, the MMI is still by far the BEST and easiest to use system in any German car we’ve driven.
- the flat and wide gear selector doubles as a perforated leather wrist support. (as pictured below)
- You can input letters just by drawing them out on the touchpad with your finger
- Buttons and controls are clearly labelled, well-positioned (even on the steering) and provide tactile feedback
- 558 watt, 19 speaker BOSE 3D sound system complete with 15-channel amplifier
- The Audi Virtual Cockpit comes as standard
Oh yes, the Virtual Cockpit makes its way into the new Q7. Instead of an instrument cluster, you get a large, high-resolution display with fluid animations. So while the main retractable 8.3” can be set to display is distracted by the incoming call from your mother-in-law, you can accept the call and still have full-screen navigation right behind your steering wheel.
The GPS lady will still blare out directions over the sound of your mother-in-law’s voice. That could be a pro or con depending on whether or not the two of you get along.
The BOSE sound system also deserves a lot of praise. It has pretty amazing sound quality and enough customisability to keep things interesting for years and years. Paired to the Audi Music Interface and taking into account the fact that the Q7 has support for a wide variety of audio/visual inputs, you have a media experience that matches the way the car drives. One thing that appeared to be lacking was internet-based services, which BMW seems to have the upper hand on.
All-in-all, the Q7 is a formidable luxury SUV. It’s built like a tank, full of great features, including one of the best infotainment packages ever. Plus it has a powerful yet easy to manage drivetrain for any situation you get yourself into. It’s a bit difficult to recommend over the XC90, but it’s definitely got a better-looking exterior, more focused infotainment, sheer girth and slightly lower maintenance costs on its side.
Audi Q7 3.0 V6 TFSI Specifications
Engine: V6 petrol engine with demand-controlled direct injection
Transmission: 8-Speed tiptronic
Max power: 333hp @ 5500-6500RPM
Max torque: 440Nm @ 2900-5300RPM
Top Speed: 250km/h (electronically limited)
0-100km/h: 6.3 secs