Sunday, 18 March 2018

Audi Q7 has all the right answers for SUV sceptic

OF all the big beasts that dominate the car jungle, they do not come much bigger than the Audi Q7.

OF all the big beasts that dominate the car jungle, they do not come much bigger than the Audi Q7.

Its sheer mass seems to dominate any road space it happens to inhabit. By any standards this is a big family car — a luxury crossover SUV (sports utility vehicle) that demands attention.

The Q7 was launched in 2005 at the Frankfurt Motor Show and when, a while later, I first saw one on the road, I thought: “You have got to be joking.”

This was taking the motorist’s ego trip too far. The Q7’s Jurassic head jutted out of its muscular, uncompromising body: it looked as if it would brook no backchat from any other road user.

I thought the excellent Audi Q3 — the German carmaker’s small crossover SUV — was an ideal size. Then I tried the Audi Q5 and was smitten. But the Q7?

I do not like arrogance in any form and truth to tell the first generation Q7 struck me as arrogance personified. And from Audi as well, king of great understatement in classy cars.

And yet, having spent time with this week’s drive, the Audi Q7 SE 3.0 TDI quattro 272 PS tiptronic, I have come close to changing my mind about just about every aspect of this car — including its size.

Whichever way you look at it, the Q7 is a very good car. I may not have liked its archly dominant attitude to road space — though this second generation is sleeker by a mile.

The truth is that once behind the wheel you feel safe and secure in what can often be the hostile world of everyday motoring.

The Q7’s luxurious interior envelops you and far from being conscious of imposing your motorist’s ego on the outside world you find yourself enjoying life inside a bountiful bubble of comfort.

No wonder the Q7 is among the type of huge, luxury SUVs that sell like hot cakes to the Manhattan rich in New York.

To be seen in these types of vehicles basically outdoes Americans at what used to be their forte: to be driving the biggest cars on the planet. Those days of the beautiful, fin-tailed Cadillac have long gone, but cars such as the Audi Q7 are good to go in 2016 because they are sophisticated, well-constructed machines with up-to-the-minute technology on board.

The test car was smartly turned out in metallic graphite grey livery and rock grey leather/alcantara sport seats.

In a good way, the greyness restored my belief in something I have always admired about Audis: that famed understated intent.

So it may be that as a driver of the Q7 you are aware of a perception of the kind of people these large SUVs attract.

But once inside you are so taken with this car that the honest response is that you are oblivious to any criticism.

Owning a car has always had a lot to do with ego — that is why we so admire the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of this world.

I suspect that carmakers are more interested in seeing off the competition. So if larger than ever luxury SUVs are the order of the day, then so be it. Ultimately, they are in business to sell cars, after all.

When you get to the detail on the Q7 you see where it scores heavily on luxury and equipment. There are seven seats over three rows, child seats can be fitted to six of them and the rear three can be folded to create more luggage space. You can lose your ski gear, golf bags or simply copious bags of shopping in the 770-litre boot.

If you are the least bit tech-minded you can access emails and Google Earth Navigation by speaking your commands out loud, if you go for the optional Audi Connect. And just to put the icing on the cake of your luxury Q7 world, there is the ambient lighting pack where “the three different colour profiles beautifully highlight the front interior of the Q7”.

With those twinkling lights, a night drive, and your favourite tracks on the Bang and Olufsen sound system with 23 speakers, this is a car you might never want to get out of.

Audi Q7 factfile

Test car: Audi Q7 SE 3.0 TDI quattro 272 PS tiptronic

Price of test car on the road (with options): £59,145

New 218PS version of all-new Q7 joins 272PS model – available with SE and S line

3.0 TDI 218PS: 0-62mph in 7.3 secs, top speed 134mph, combined MPG 49.6 (18-inch wheel), CO2 148g/km (18-inch wheel)

Standard specification includes MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch, Audi connect, Audi drive select, keyless go, parking system plus, powered tailgate

S line versions fitted with all-weather LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and S line styling enhancements

Options include Audi Virtual Cockpit, adaptive air suspension and all-wheel-steering

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