The Audi Q7 arrived somewhat late to the SUV party back in 2006, entering a world of established SUVs such as the BMW X5, Mercedes M-Class and Range Rover. However, the newcomer hit the ground running, becoming an instantly credible rival and a popular alternative to its adversaries from the moment it was launched.
Styling wise, the all-new Audi Q7 showcases the company’s latest design language, with razor sharp lines and a ‘3D’ grille so large that the flying lady on a Rolls-Royce Phantom’s would surely dive for cover so imposing is the front of this new SUV.
The rest of the car’s exterior styling is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and while this handsome SUV perhaps isn’t as attractive as the latest Volvo XC90 on the outside, it’s on the inside that the Q7 steals the show. It is of course no surprise that Audi currently leads the way in the premium sector in terms of interior quality, yet nevertheless, each new model seems to raise the bar even further.
The attention to detail inside the Q7 is incredible, the precision cut of its finely brushed aluminium trim, the damping of every button, knob and control engineered to provide exactly the anticipated level of resistance, the depth of shine of the wooden inlays, the manner in which a simple stroke of one’s finger across the metal strip of air-conditioning buttons causes the corresponding symbols on the digital display to enlarge and shrink as you move along…very Apple MacBook indeed.
The level of technology on offer is certainly not lacking either. Like the new TT and many of the latest models in the Audi range, the Q7 features a 12.3″ TFT display inside the instrument binnacle which displays a raft of customisable graphics and information, from conventional looking dials to its party trick, a full-screen sat-nav.
The voice command system is particularly impressive, learning the driver’s accent and exhibiting a degree of intelligence often lacking in such systems. The car’s driving modes and adjustable damping, response and performance settings can all be tailored to the operator’s mood and driving style.
There are numerous more off-road orientated features too, such as hill descent control, and remarkably, a system that will automatically complete the task which differentiates the men from the boys at country fairs and race meetings – the ability to reverse a trailer or horse box.
There are the little things too, such as a neat holder in the centre console for the key, something often forgotten in keyless-go cars. The rear seats can be electronically folded by the simple pressing of a button from the boot, while the rear of the Q7 can also be lowered in the same manner for convenience when loading.
I tested the 272 bhp 3.0L TDI S-Line model which starts at €79,875 (representing a reasonable €6,900 premium over the entry-level SE at the time of writing) and is anticipated to be the volume seller of the range. A 333 bhp 3.0L petrol will also be on offer should you wish to conduct any Galileo type experiments with depreciation.
On the move, the 3.0L TDI Q7 is particularly impressive. Its 0-60 mph pace (6.3 seconds) is only outshone by the remarkable ability of this large SUV to shrink around you to the point where it feels much more car-like to drive than its rivals, so much so that before long you are in sport mode on the paddles, changing gear and taking bends as you would in one of the company’s more sport orientated models.
The new Q7 is a remarkable 325kg lighter than its predecessor, smaller on the outside yet larger on the inside, and for the first time is now available with four-wheel steering to tighten those racing lines and hit every apex on the school run.
The premium SUV sector is currently at its most competitive, with cars such as the new Volvo XC90 and Range Rover Sport presenting a greater challenge than ever before, new arrivals such as the dynamic, sporty and prestigious Porsche Macan, and established competition in the form of the BMW X5, Mercedes M-Class and Porsche Cayenne.
However, the current SUVs on offer will have their work cut out for them with the arrival of the new Q7, a beautifully finished technological tour-de-force, and an extremely impressive drive to boot.