SUVs seldom get bigger than this one. A winner right from the time it was introduced, the Q7 has been selling in extremely good numbers for its size and price. The biggest machine from the Audi stable received a mid-life facelift some time back, and is indeed due for a thorough overhaul in the form of a model replacement. Even so, the Q7 remains one of the most practical, spacious and ambidextrous SUVs around, and is as relevant to our market today as it always was. Here’s a bunch of our thoughts on this extremely large and capable Audi
Design and aesthetics
The Q7 has been designed to communicate power and presence. That enormous size itself is enough to tower above almost any other cars on the road. Taut, chiseled surfaces all across the body work towards making the Q7 look tight and athletic even with its gargantuan size.
The Q7 looks best when viewed front on or from the front three quarters. The big Audi grille, along with those angular lamps surrounded on the outside by a string of great looking LED flashers gives the Q7 a daunting face. Another set of LEDs (DRLs) flanking the radiator grille embellishes the face further. Fog lamps are placed low and wide to emphasize on the width. The big, muscular bonnet along with the flared wheel arches gives this big SUV a face which is one of the brawniest across segments.
In profile the enormous length of the Q7 is attempted to be camouflaged with a dropping roofline. At 5.09 meters of length, it takes a third set of windows and a slight rear overhang to make the Q7’s profile complete. Taut, straight creases and loads of meat around the wheel arches tries its bit to visually neutralize the overwhelming length of the Q7, and somewhat succeeds, but not completely.
The Standard LEDs in the rear lights create a distinctive lighting pattern. A recess above the license plate, wide reflector glasses in the bumper and a black under cladding below the bumper with two exhausts complete the design at the rear. The Q7 looks the most simplistic from behind, with the cabin structure tapering towards the top. From the rear, the car doesn’t look as intimidating as it does from the front.
At 5.09 meters (16.70 ft) long, 1.98 meters (6.50 ft) wide and 1.74 meters (5.71 ft) high and with a wheelbase of 3 meters (9.84 ft) the Q7 is a big, big machine. It’s relatively simple to encapsulate so much volume within a boxy structure, but Audi have tried to lend the Q7 a sporty character, and have succeeded to a fair extent, which is quite a feat for such a leviathan. The vehicle of the Q7’s size is capable of drawing attention by virtue of its size alone. However, with its added visual flair and attention to detail the Q7 is a sure-shot head turner
Engine and performance
Under the bonnet of our test Q7 we had the monstrous 4.2 liter TDi diesel engine. We had sampled this engine earlier on the Audi A8L and knew what a noiseless mountain mover it was. Even with the heavier weight of the Q7, there was hardly any perceptible difference in performance. With 340 bhp of power and more importantly 800Nm of logic defying torque, the weight of the car simply doesn’t matter.
What’s more, that 4.2 liter diesel engine doesn’t make a noise even as it propels the massive piece of metal towards the horizon with menacing pace. Pop the bonnet open when the engine’s idling and you’ll realize that this power plant is uncannily quiet for a diesel, even more so for such a big diesel. All that polish translates into great refinement and a tranquil, comfortable cabin.
Another great aspect of the 4.2 liter TDi mill is the low 1750-2750 rpm range where all of that 800Nm of tornado like torque is produced. What that means is, you never have to bother looking at the tacho, or worry about shifting gears. Just press the pedal down and all of those near 2500kg will be pushed ahead instantly, and with a vengeance. Don’t let your eyes pop if you see the Q7 doing a 50km/h in fifth gear, it doesn’t even have to make aneffort doing that.
Even with so much refinement and composure, the performance from that big power plant is annihilating. 0-100 is taken care of in 6.5 seconds, and the restricted top speed of 240km/h takes just that slightest of effort to be achieved. Other engine options include the 3.0 TFSI with 333 hp and 440 Nm. There is a 3.0 TDI diesel burner too with 240 hp and 550 Nm of torque
What’s baffling is that the 4.2 TDI, even with all that physics bending performance is capable to deliver a real world efficiency of about 10 kmpl if you drive with a light foot. And trust us, you’d be making a lot of time even with lightest of the right feet on this one.
All the engines on the Q7 are mated to the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission which has been tuned to reduce fuel consumption by about five percent. It is based on the six-speed unit, but with another friction-clutch shift element added. Being able to shift between eight ratios keeps the jumps in engine speed low and the engine always runs close to its ideal operating point.
While not as lightening quick as the S-Tronic dual clutch tranny, the 8-speed Tiptronic is intelligent and quick enough to suit all kinds of driving styles. Drivers can choose between the D and S programs – or shift gears manually at the transmission selector lever or the optional steering-wheel paddles.
The eight-speed tiptronic transmission transfers engine power to the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive train. This splits the power in a sporty manner, with 40 percent going to the front and 60 percent to the rear wheels, but in certain on- or off-road situations, the mechanical-action center differential can direct up to 65 percent of the power to the front or up to 85 percent to the rear.
Ride and handling
As we started off for our test drive, we found the steering wheel of the Q7 to be heavier than some other Audi cars we have driven. Even in the relatively lighter Comfort mode, the steering was on the heavier side – something we prefer here at Motoroids. At slow speeds, through the city, the Q7 took almost every type of surface in its stride without us even having to be cautious. The ride quality in the Comfort mode at slow to medium speeds is fabulous and tackles our road conditions exceptionally well – one of the reasons why the Q7 has done so well in our market.
As the speed builds up and you steer sharply to change direction, the heavy weight of the Q7 makes itself evident. Prominent directional changes aren’t rewarded too well with some wallowy-ness and body roll clearly evident. The Q7 is a goliath, and to make it change directions hard does make things a little wavy when you have the softer Comfort mode engaged.
However, the Q7 comes equipped with the Adaptive Air Supension trickery which changes the suspension behaviour drastically at the mere touch of a button. Shifting into the Dynamic mode, we were amazed by the transition in the handling character of the Q7. The heavy steering became heavier, and the suspension firmed up substantially to make even a weighty machine like the Q7 an extremely reassuring handler. The body roll reduced drastically, the shift points went up in the rev range and the Q7, even with its size and weight turned into a fairly involving machine.
Some laws of physics cannot be entirely bent though, and the Q7, even in the Dynamic mode feels a little heavy and the steering somewhat lacks natural feel. However, the way the big machine it wraps itself around you, the way the body roll is contained when its flung around windy roads is worth an applause. Even with its comfort oriented brief, the Q7 handles amazingly well for its size.
While there is absolutely nothing to complain about the Q7’s ride and handling, we believe that the steering feel and sharpness during turn-ins can be further enhanced. A way to do it could be with bigger wheels and lower profile tyres. Not that the Q7 is a car meant to be hurtled around bends, but for the fanatics who wouldn’t mind compromising comfort for some more fun-to-drive feel, have the option of replacing the standard 18 inch wheels with monstrous 21 inchers and low-pro rubber.
You get to choose between the regular Dynamic, Comfort and Auto modes. In addition, the Q7 features an off-road mode, which is meant to tackle tough terrain with optimum traction and engine speed control. The off-road mode sees the adaptive air suspension raise the body of the car to clear even bigger obstructions with ease.You can raise the ride height separately also via MMI without necessarily having to employ the off-road mode. In addition, the ESP allows some slip on sandy and gravely surfaces. On steep and low traction gradients the system maintains a steady 20 kmph speed by applying brakes individually on each wheel. This helps the driver concentrate better on the road ahead by controlling only the steering wheel. Having said that one should understand that the Q7 isn’t a hardcore off-roader and is suitable only for the occasional trip off the road.
Cabin comfort and features
The Audi Q7 cabin was designed for flexibility. Inside the cabin, the Q7 offers as many as 27 seat configurations. The second-row 40/20/40 sliding split seat allows cargo and passenger flexibility. The seven-seater SUV has ample space for the front five passengers. The third row may not be very comfortable, but it still offers more space than on most other SUVs. According to Audi, the third row is suitable for occupants up to 1.60 meters (5.2 feet) tall. Even with all the seats upright, there is enough space to load a couple of big suitcases and a few medium sized bags.
Styling and ambiance is typical Audi – functional without being sedate and attractive, not flashy. The clearly marked instruments are very easy to read. The workmanship is typical of Audi – with no compromises, though the newer Audis look a tad more flamboyant. The central screen, for example is smaller and less detailed when compared with the one on the Audi A6.
Optional extras include but are not limited to a four-zone automatic air conditioning, panoramic roof and a cooled glove box. You can also order an electrically operated tailgate mechanism. For entertainment, Audi offers an integrated hard disk drive, a color monitor, a DVD player and voice control. The optional Advanced Sound System from Bang & Olufsen with 1,000 watts of power and 14 speakers is absolutely astounding. That system is arguably the best sound producing kit you can equip your car with.
The Parking System incorporates a camera in the tail gate is an extremely useful feature for a car which appears almost never ending when you look back towards the rear window from the driver’s position.
There are quite a few cubby holes in the cabin. The cooled glove box is rather small. You have additional storage under the front armrest and in pockets in the doors. There are 10 cup holders, including those in door panels.
The Q7 features a big tailgate that reveals a very wide opening. The load assist feature of the optional air suspension lowers the loading lip by about three inches at the touch of a button in the cargo area, handy when loading heavy stuff.
The Q7 is the kind of vehicle that suits the Indian market just right in the uppermost premium SUV segment. The biggest virtues of the Q7 are its space and comfort, and the big behemoth builds around these two core features by offering smart, contemporary aesthetics, feature laden interior, a choice of engines, advantages of Quattro, and a fair degree of off-road capability.
There are other options in the segment, but the Q7 comes across as the most practical, appealing and sensible. It’s closer to the sophistication of a proper car, even after being an SUV. It’s priced well, and there’s hardly anything on this car you can point a finger at. If you want a big, spacious SUV for seven with the comfort and luxuries of a premium sedan, it would be extremely difficult for you to look away from the Q7.