The long-awaited second-generation Audi Q7 is rather different to the original. Ryan Bubear tests the 3.0 TDI quattro tiptronic model...
It's a bright Sunday morning, and we're taking the scenic route to our favourite waffle establishment. As one does on bright Sunday mornings.
We're wafting along in the new Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro tiptronic, sun glinting off the Glacier White paintwork, when we suddenly find ourselves alongside one of the 4700-odd first-generation units sold in South Africa.
Finished in what appears to be Orca Black Metallic, the original Q7 looks barely related to the model you see in the images above and below. The differences really are pronounced: the new model is sleeker, more compact, and generally, well, just a different shape.
Indeed, the Q7 has been transformed from a hulking, high-riding SUV to something more akin to an oversized wagon, and sits some 50mm closer to the ground than before. It's a look that we think works well, particularly from the front- and rear-three-quarter angles.
But, as we pointed out in our launch report, it's the changes under this new, tauter skin that make all the difference. Yes, since it's based on the Volkswagen Group's latest modular platform, the second-generation Audi Q7 is substantially lighter than its predecessor.
And it's this smart weight redistribution and general loss of lard that helps to render the Q7 a far better drive (along with the help of the permanent all-wheel drive system and clever centre differential), allowing it to scythe through bends with the sort of control unbecoming of a 5052mm-long SUV.
Our five-seater test model was furthermore equipped with the R30k optional adaptive air suspension, which adjusts the ride height depending on the driving mode and vehicle speed (it did hit us with a brief 'contact workshop" fault, but this was cleared by a restart). There is an off-road mode, too, although it's unlikely to see much action when in the hands of a typical Q7 owner.
Despite this newfound body control on the tarmac, the Q7 still serves up a thoroughly comfortable ride (enhanced, no doubt, by that air suspension system), even when rolling on optional 20-inch rubber. And there's an overall air of refinement to match, just as one would expect from a vehicle with a near-on-seven-figure price-tag.
A new 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine has been added to the range since the launch, but we again tested the only other powertrain on offer. Thankfully, this revised 3.0-litre turbo-diesel mill is an absolute corker, serving up a meaty 600Nm between 1500rpm and 3000rpm. That translates into effortless oomph through a pleasingly unobtrusive eight-speed automatic torque-converter transmission.
The 183kW forced induction V6 politely persuades rather than catapults the big Q7 from standstill to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds, while sipping at a claimed combined 6.3 litres per 100km (interestingly, both slightly less impressive figures than those provided at the launch). Still, our final return of 9.1 litres per 100km isn't bad, considering the size of the vehicle and the fact that we weren't exactly light-footed over the course of the week.
The Audi Q7's super-spacious cabin, of course, is another of its key strengths, as is its 890-litre luggage compartment. We've come to expect top-class interiors from the Ingolstadt-based automaker, and the flagship premium SUV unsurprisingly delivers on all fronts: quality of materials, fit-and-finish, technology, and ergonomics.
And at R8950, the optional Audi Virtual Cockpit — which we first experienced in the TT Coupe — is well worth the outlay. The standard MMI navigation plus system (which incorporates a DVD drive, two card-readers, flash memory, a music interface, two USB ports, Bluetooth, and an 8.3-inch high-resolution monitor) is a decent piece of kit, but the configurable 12.3-inch virtual cockpit screen positioned directly in front of the driver is simply on another level.
Of course, if you're watching your pennies, not all optional extras merit inclusion. Our test model, for instance, was kitted out with more than R220k worth of options, ranging from the admittedly attractive Matrix LED headlights (R38 500) to a panoramic glass sunroof (R26 100) and pricey front sports-seats (R23 850).
But, if you're judicious with your options box-ticking, the new Audi Q7 is competitively priced against the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Porsche Cayenne. The Volkswagen Touareg still arguably provides better value and the Volvo XC90 is certainly tempting, but the latest Q7 is smartly positioned in the segment.
And the classy new model is such an improvement over the old that it's barely recognisable — just as we discovered when we found ourselves parked alongside a first-generation model that Sunday.
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See page two for specs and pricing.