Last minute change of plans mostly lead to disappointment, however, for a change, we experienced something contrasting. Five of us, from the office, which included Amit, Ayan, Rohan, Saeed and me were about to pack ourselves in Amit’s hatchback and head to the pristine beaches of Western Maharashtra in search of some brief solitude. As Ayan and me we were making our way to the meeting point, cracking Brokeback jokes, wondering who’d be sharing whose lap in a dinky little car, a large surprise awaited in the boss man’s driveway.
Almost 17 feet long, 6 feet wide, with a butch, aggressive face that could terrorize someone who finds one in his rear view mirror, the Audi Q7 sure made every other car appear dinky in that parking lot. While we were loading the lord sized four ringed SUV with our weekend luggage, a barbeque kit and three grown men, our minds took a diversion from corny humor. We tried to figure, what could we possibly do with so much square feet area? Ayan, who is as light as the wind, was shuffling between the last two rows in excitement, trying to get a feel of some open space. Being new to Bombay, that much seemed too much to him.
Escaping city limits in the wee hours, leaving a smog filled island in our rear view mirrors, some sudden realization dawned on us. On our way to a rendezvous point where we were to pick two of our colleagues, Rohan and Saeed from Pune, we realized that this would be more of a last hurrah, not because some of us were to come back and find ourselves in the final list of the Mars One mission (We did apply, thinking we’d review a space shuttle for a change, but then they told us it’s a one way ticket), but more so because the car we were travelling in is about to transform and adorn a new set of clothes, maybe even a new character, whenever the new 2016 Audi Q7 arrives.
This review will not just focus on the car in question here, but will also contain glimpses of our experience with a family sized, premium vehicle, as we traveled along with it to some quaint, sleepy locales, dotted across coastal Maharashtra. Travelling like a bunch of friends or a family as we call it, we spent three crazy days and even crazier nights under starry skies, among crashing waves and even atop a tree. The pictures you’d browse through, most of which have been shot through the lens of a cell phone camera, for a change, will reflect our relaxed side. But then, that’s what the Audi Q7 does to you. Towering at almost 5.7 feet in height, being a premium product, it sure attracts attention, but not in a way that gives you the jitters for the fear of someone messing with it. For some reason, the Q7 announces its presence in a powerful way that sends a strangely strong message about its occupants being people who are high up there in the societal food chain. Good thing? Sure it is.
So then, harping some more on the looks of the Audi Q7, the design template has been around for over a decade now! Long in the tooth for sure, however, it still manages to look menacing, especially the front. The largish proportions dominate the road in a manner, only a few other vehicles on sale right now can manage. The Q7 looks like an imposing barge (The only time we’re gonna call it that) that in a baffling manner embodies the athleticism of a Jet-ski in its gargantuan proportions. It even manages to drive like the latter, well, more on that later.
For those who buy such vehicles for their sheer road presence, the Q7 still emanates loads of character while on the move and even at standstill. People gawked in awe and admiration, as we were heading towards our meeting point to pick our two lost colleagues, who had gotten off at the wrong meeting point, maybe reeling under depression that they would have to endure three days in a hatchback packed with five grown men. While we were scouting for Rohan and Saeed, who were walking somewhere on the Expressway, expecting to see us in a white little hatchback, we surprised them by pulling over in style.
With the crew in place, we exited the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and rolled our wheels onto a patch of dual-carriage tarmac that stretches from Khopoli till Nagothane to meet a fairly long neck of a bottle, the NH-17. After stretching its legs briefly on the cemented surface of the expressway, the Q7 felt equally at home and composed, even on B-roads. Our destination for the day being the sleepy, beach town of Dapoli, also famous for being close to the infamous Enron Power Plant, the Q7 was getting us there at electric speeds, blurring power lines, trees, fields and everything besides the road, being propelled by a 3.0-liter, 241 bhp engine. On the contrary, everything inside the cabin seemed like a lazy Sunday afternoon being spent at the coziest place on earth with friends. The big Audi creating a big buffer between the happenings outside and fooling its occupants to believe into thinking that the Sun must be a yellow ball of cheese.
Exiting the NH-17, as we headed towards the sea, taking another B-road that cuts through valleys, runs by the river and twists and turns like someone manually doing the laundry, the Q7 just glided through all the rough patches it encountered and dismissed all undulations with aplomb, allowing the Sunday social meet inside to continue unhindered.As the Sun started to show its ferocity outside, each passenger, except Saeed on the last bench (who still had vents), had the luxury to set the temperature to their desired level and soak-in the views outside.
What amplified the solitude on that lonely stretch of road were some crisp sounding melodies that reached our ears, courtesy the Bose music system that would put many home theatres to shame and some cool H2O which remained that way in the chilled, illuminated glovebox. We also figured that the middle row captain seat’s backrest can only be pushed back till a certain degree, keeping in mind the occupants on the rear bench.
With the 100-liter tank only 40% empty after covering almost 250 odd kms, we finally reached our destination, not even beginning to get tired. However, what tested our worldly skills and will was the hunt for a place we could retire at by the beach. With almost all places packed over the long weekend, we found touts who were ready to charge us a kidney’s worth for a room that had a mattress which belonged to the Roman era and was round in shape. As Brokeback humor made a comeback, we finally managed to find a bare-bones setup which was cozy enough. Much to the surprise of a tout who even tried to make us feel bad, as he felt the vehicle which we were travelling in was in stark contrast to the place we decided to park ourselves at.
After sampling some invigorating local fare and satiating our bellies, the boys headed to a local butcher, bought some 18+ liquids (Or is it 21+, 24 maybe, not sure) and headed to the beach for some supper that extended into an experience which lasted well past midnight. With the big Audi stowed away at a safe parking spot, we found a lone tree by the beach, which everyone wanted to take home once our thoughts started to appear curved. Prior to that, donning his chef’s hat, the Editor, who just knew the right recipe to marinate the meat, made sure all of us had the perfectly grilled chicken to accompany the nippy late evening breeze and the funny colored liquid we were holding in our palms.
As the night unfolded itself, we found ourselves sharing other worldly experiences, talking about Science, Gods, outer space, Airplanes, finally deciding it was time for a 100 meter sprint on a secluded beach, well past midnight. Rohan and Ayan chickened out, but Amit, Saeed and me lined up at the start line, Amit taking the lead, shooting off into the distance like a man possessed, while I tried to keep up, Saeed running like he knew what was about to happen next.
Digging his feet too deep in the sand, trying to experience Quattro while still being bi-pedal, the Editor managed to tumble into my lane. Although I tried to leap over him, trying to change the event from a sprint to a hurdle, my ankle managed to hit Asafa Powell as I somersaulted many feet in the air, finally landing some distance away. Laughing profusely post the silly antics, my mind then diverted towards that pretty tree. Walking towards it, I suddenly decided to announce my claim on the vertical log by the beach and climbed it in high spirits. The others let me stake my claim, but as they started walking away, I realized while being there that it was rather easy to climb up, than it was coming back to terra firma. Managing to climb down somehow, post some karate lessons by Saeed and an argument over will and skills later, we walked towards our pad.
With the entire hullabaloo happening around Ayan, being a mere spectator, his high metabolism not helping his case, he suddenly felt the need to eat something. With not a soul around, I walked with him to a hotel nearby and knocked at their door. The person who answered our call, scared the living daylights out of our souls. This was the same tout we met during our search for a place to stay, we then saw him at a restaurant we were eating our lunch at, which apparently was owned by him. We even spotted him in the market, at the butcher, by the beach when we were admiring the tree, and here he was, a man so omnipresent, he could replace oxygen. So he calmed our nerves when was asked him if he could arrange for any food, we then figured, he was the owner of that Hotel too, but still couldn’t manage to find a pack of chips for my starving colleague. With a fitting reply to his earlier attempt at making us feel bad for travelling in a fancy car and staying in a hut, we walked away with some stupid pride, trying to control our laughter, or maybe we laughed facing towards him, can’t remember.
As we walked back to our pad, the Q7 parked a couple feet away from our single floored habitat, which even had a large balcony, little did we realize that it was just the beginning of a crazy night. Now, music makes us feel a gamut of different emotions and we all know that. However, Rohan is still unable to figure till this day, what happened around him that night. As he opened the car, lending his ears to some Mozart from Punjab, he got out a minute later, with the windows rolled down, wanting everyone else to surrender to the sound of music. Realizing that he wasn’t walking straight, one of us went back to the car, locked it and quietly came back smiling. Not amused that the party had gone bust, Rohan started to figure where did Mozart disappear. We then made him believe that he left the key in the car and it had now locked itself, with no way to get in, except that he goes back to Bombay the next day in a bus and gets a spare key. He was so sober; he bought the story and started feeling bad for what he did. With the 8-speed DSG in his mind slotted in ‘Sports’ mode, he even started asking if there was a way to crawl inside the car through the bonnet.
The madness didn’t just stop there, his brain fuzzy, reeling under the after effects of a malted drink, Saeed was amused at being filmed on a cell phone camera, not because he felt it was incorrect, but because the flash light from the phone hurt his vision so much, he wanted someone to call the ambulance. After laughing our guts, kidneys, hearts and everything else out, the Ambulance boy and creepy crawler Rohan wanted to retire to their rooms. Locking his room from the inside, Rohan came out through the French window, ensured it was shut from the outside, walked into the balcony which was adjoining to ours and jumped over to our side. This time, he managed to lock himself out of the room, leaving behind Saeed, who was dreaming about driving a NOS kitted ambulance.
After failed attempts to wake Saeed up from his medicated dream, Ayan and me tried our hands at breaking into the room with the help of barbeque skewers, trying to push the window latch inside, so it could slide. After almost 30 minutes of trying, I went for a walk, came back enlightened, lifted the window from the bottom while it was within its channel, and Voila! Creepy crawler Rohan and pocket rocket Saeed were soon heard snoring.
The morning after, shrinking guts cried for something edible and post a long hunt, we finally managed to find the most respected biscuits on earth, which command a ‘G’ suffix. Heading out for lunch, we reached the town of Dabhol, gobbled the most fantastically cooked fish we all had sampled in a long time, paid the equivalent of five bottles of packaged water for it and began to loiter, our visions encountering only serene sights, whichever way we focused them to be.
It was time to hit the beach then, where although we could’ve taken the Q7 to revel in the fun, put the Quattro system to good use, sadly, cars weren’t allowed to be taken on the sand. Drenching ourselves in some surf against the setting Sun, swimming against the tides, sometimes being swept away, sometimes taking them head-on, those moments made each one of us leave our engines to idle and soak ourselves in what is perhaps the simplest indulgence in life that doesn’t cost a dime, a penny or anything called money.
That night was spent in a rather gentlemanly manner, and with a late lunch that consisted of locally flavored fare from the Sea the day after, we decided to head back to base.
Taking a different route this time, we decided to travel till Khed, take the NH-17 and follow the snake like tarmac back home. As we hit the twisties, with the suspension set in ‘Dynamic’ mode, the Q7 transformed into a lithe sprinter which would dart into corners with surprising agility for a vehicle of its size. Just like one of us on the beach the other night, when some certain sports drink transformed us into becoming a rather rounded and heavy Usain Bolt.
Body roll, even with 5 occupants, luggage and more than 50 litres of fuel onboard wasn’t making its presence felt in a pronounced manner, even sudden directional changes not upsetting the chassis, neither the occupants. After piloting the big Audi to the bottom of the hill, we were cruising at decent speeds, the engine ticking away lazily, the 8-speed DSG working its magic, when we stopped for fuel, for the first and only time during the entire vacation. The Q7 amazed us, returning an efficiency of more than 10 kpl.
As we were making our way back, the projector setup on the Q7 illuminating the way ahead like daylight, a lot of starry sky visible through the two-staged moon roof, it started to become increasingly difficult to not start liking the Audi Q7. You may say the design is old, but has it lost its charm? Not entirely. Some may say the cabin and the center console looks drab, but does it lack features? Not really. It might be a giant to look at, but has a rather narrow profile which makes it look imposing and also pretty maneuverable at the same time. Even with the last row up, which is a pretty comfortable place to be, even for adults, there is enough space for luggage that will suffice for a weekend.
The Audi Q7 then, after spending 10 long imposing years on the road, has finally been transformed and will seek to carry forward the deceptive athleticism of this T-Rex of a car. Driving into the sunset, as we were getting back to the chaos, what the Q7 managed to do within those three days was bring to the fore, the joys of camaraderie, and just like us, the Q7 was coming back with a resolve, to transform, to evolve, to adapt, to lead and charge forward into the future. Last hurrah it might be, but taking a leaf out of the big Audi’s case, we too will come out on the other side, with a changed outlook, a new look and a new approach, stay tuned!
Center console design gives away the age
For losing the keys and locking himself out of the room that is how Rohan travelled back, 550 Nm of torque pulling him all the way
Used to be called a 3.0L TDI, new nomenclature confuses some
If only i could bring both these home..
One of those places where you feel like building a house and becoming a local
Up above or down below?
Even on a crowded extended weekend, we felt like the rulers of that area
We were only clicking pictures
Polishing our skills, you never know when you might need it
It may look scenic, but the river is notorious for illegal sand dredging and crocodiles
Enough space to fit all our luggage, even with the last row seat up
There was no air-hostess who could remind us to stow it back during take-off and landing
Rear seat armrest has plenty of space inside too
How most of us wished this was the route to office and back
Ayan just knows when to wear the wrong t-shirt
2-stage moonroof is best kept shut along with the sun visor during the day