The previous-generation Audi Q7 looked like, and drove with the grace of, an armoured truck. It was every bit as ungainly as it looked, and its monstrous size made it less than practical around town.
A new Q7 was released not too long ago and, other than the model’s practicality, imposing stature and nameplate, nothing has been carried over.
Not a moment too soon, because its predecessor really did feel its age, given it was in production for a decade, an eternity in modern automotive terms.
At any rate, the new Q7 looks more compact than it did before, shrinking by 37mm in overall length and 17mm in width. Maybe compact is a wrong word, considering the Q7 still cuts an imposing figure, measuring around five metres long, two metres wide and 1.7m tall. A more accurate descriptor would be taut, with its taut, angular styling replacing the bulbous lines of its predecessor.
Taut would also be a good way of describing the way the new Q7 drives. It has shed around 200kg over its forebear, mainly through the use of a lighter aluminium-intensive chassis and significantly, the ditching of the burly all-wheel-drive system for one largely restricted to on-road use.
The SUV’s bulk only really makes its presence felt when negotiating smaller multi-storey carparks or when pulling up next to a bus and realising you’re nearly eye level with its occupants. Its refinement, too, has taken a big step up with the new model. Drivetrain noise is barely audible at cruising speed, and considering how gamely the Q7 tackles corners, its suspension is remarkably pliant, with superb individual wheel control.
In addition to the launch model that’s equipped with a three-litre V6, the Q7 family now has an entry-level model equipped with a two-litre, four-cylinder engine. As one would expect, this Q7 is less powerful than its larger stablemate, with 252bhp (the Q7 3.0 has 333bhp). Still, a 0-100km/hr time of 7.1 seconds is hardly slow for a vehicle of its bulk and should you decide to bury the throttle to the carpet, this Q7 will display an impressive turn of speed.
This, though, shouldn’t be all too surprising because modern turbocharged engines (thanks to a glut of low-end torque) have a way of seeming like a far larger engine than their actual displacements would have you believe.
It’s on the equipment front that the entry-level Q7 loses out to its upmarket sibling. It does without the extra-fancy adaptive Matrix LED headlights (that can block off portions of its beam depending on traffic conditions) and adaptive dampers, among other things. That said, there’s little risk of feeling shortchanged even in what is the base model in the Q7 range. The level of interior quality on offer is a tribute to Audi’s fabulous attention to detail, such as the way there’s a different tactile/audible feedback for the different steering wheel buttons.
And on the topic of the adaptive dampers, the fixed steel items in the Q7 2.0 don’t have the ability to firm up or soften depending on the driving mode, or offer ride height adjustment.
In all honesty, the adaptive items are very nice to have, but that said, the Q7 2.0 doesn’t at all feel under-gunned in the damping department, which speaks volumes about how resolved the chassis is. That’s because some manufacturers resort to adaptive dampers and other forms of suspension trickery to disguise a wobbly chassis.
This makes the Q7 2.0 look like a fantastic value proposition in the range, costing a shade under S$300,000, and a fair bit less than the S$350,000 Audi wants for the range-topping Q7 3.0.
This might have been unusual to say just three years ago, but the new Q7 is, in my opinion, the leader of the full-sized SUV pack at the moment – sharp looks, limo-like levels of refinement, practicality (seven-seater variants are standard in Singapore) and a generous standard equipment list. You couldn’t ask for more, really.