Motors: Audi Q7

Twice British Rally champion and owner of KNE (Karting North East) Guy Wilks takes his family on a Northumbrian holiday in the all-new Audi Q7

What could be a better way for testing the new Audi Q7 than heading up the Northumberland coast with the family for an October half term holiday.
The versatile interior of the Q7 can be configured for seven or five passengers, thanks to electronic folding back-row seats.
Being part of a family of four, I initially formatted the Q7 to five seats. But our luggage (which was considerable given the stuff needed for a five and a two-and-a-half year old) looked lost in the gargantuan boot, so I reverted back to seven seats. This provided more than ample boot space as well as more flexible seating – which came in handy for advancing our five-year old to the back row for singing Christmas carols too loudly – sure to test the patience of any devoted parents in October!
As you would expect in a vehicle of this size, space isn’t a compromise for driving position. And, let’s be fair, that’s all that matters. Right? Unless you want to be chauffeured!
Even at 6 ft 4 inches, my driving position wasn’t a problem in the Q7. I also tested the seat directly behind and found I could sit comfortably with the second row having the capability to slide forward and back and recline (features its predecessor didn’t have) and presents a welcome adjustment for rear passengers.

The new Audi Q7 on its last approval drive in Namibia

 

Fully loaded
As for gadgets and general comfort, the Audi S Line seems to provide enough equipment and features to give you the feeling that, as the customer, you are getting ‘bang for your buck’. But the Q7 I tested really was fully loaded with almost £17,000 of extras (the full list would take up most of this review!); as with a Swiss Army knife, you were left wondering what some things did and how clever others were.
An alternative would be to choose the standard S Line Q7 and you would still have plenty of cash for an additional city run-around.

 

Interior

Style over substance?
With its 21-inch wheels (£1100) and adapted air suspension (£2000) options, the Q7 gains in looks, side on, compared to its predecessor. Front-on, though, its new edgier grill may take time to appeal.
The girls also really liked the panoramic sun roof (£1700) and it even helped to minimise the Christmas carol singing.
Travelling at night had an enhanced feel. In fact, I felt I should be rolling down the runway at Newcastle International Airport. The head-up display showing speed and speed limit on the windscreen also means your eyes don’t have to lose focus from the road, which is a great safety feature.
The Virtual Cockpit option can be configured in a number of ways and includes a sat nav across an impressive 12.3-inch (the normal dash area) LCD display. Although, at £1950, it is rather expensive and kind of ‘techy’ for me.@GuyWilks

 

Audi Q7

The drive
The size of the Q7 will always be a concern for some drivers but my partner, Sarah – who fits into this category – did comment that the new Q7 looked more manageable from the outside than the previous model. Plus, the new version has almost every conceivable option to help drivers manage its size – my favourite being the warning system for objects in your blind spot side mirrors.
The 3.0 TDI Quattro Tiptronic version that I tested felt more like a car than an SUV to drive. It can accelerate from 0-60mph in six-and-a-half seconds (yes, I did try it … more than once) and with an almost seamless eight-speed automatic transmission giving low down torque, you can feel confident of making a gap from a standing start, in town (albeit a big one to fit the Q7’s hefty frame), or overtaking comfortably on the open road.
The Air Suspension can also be raised or lowered to soften or stiffen the ride, as required.
For me, though, buying a seven-seater vehicle like this is not about putting it in dynamic mode and rattling passengers’ heads around like pin balls – but having the ability to move with refinement, comfort, versatility and acceleration when you need it.
Refinement and comfort? I’m realising the finer aspects of life, at last.
Travelling around B roads and wynds was no challenge for the Air Suspension while we floated along in comfort. Although with the 21-inch wheels and lowest profile tyres, you still needed to respect the odd pothole. Many people forget how much absorption and noise reduction can be given away when opting for bigger wheels with low profile tyres.
While on holiday, I was desperate to drive on Beadnell sand dunes (for research reasons) to test the off-road ability. But then again, is the Q7 really bought for this?
The Q7 is a fine SUV– even for urban driving, if you have a large family or you want the luxury of fitting your whole family, including the grandparents, for a ride out to the country for Sunday lunch. I don’t really expect many new Q7s will be used to tow cattle to the local market.

Verdict
A fine seven-seat SUV that, in S-line trim, pitches itself as a vehicle that ‘can do’ and ‘does’.
It’s also worth remembering that if you’re not sure between a Q7 and the Q5, Audi’s all-new Q5 is coming out summer 2016.

 

Audi Q7
Guy Wilks tested the all-new Q7 from Wearside Audi, Stadium Way, Sunderland, SR5 1AT  
www.drivebenfield.com/audi

KNE is located at Warden Law Motorsport Centre, Sunderland, SR3 2PR
www.kartingnortheast.com
Follow Guy @GuyWilks

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