First drive: Updated Audi Q7 continues to prove its worth in the premium SUV segment

What is it?

Look at Audi’s SUV model range today and the choices seem endless. The current line-up includes eight SUVs, and that’s before the rugged Allroad and sportier ‘S’ models are even considered.

Cast your eyes back 14 years, and the only ‘Q’ model on sale was the Q7. As more Audi SUVs have filtered into the market, there was always one aspect of continuity – that the Q7 remained the German manufacturer’s flagship SUV.

However, as of last year that is no longer the case, as the range-topping gong goes to the flagship ‘coupe-like’ Q8. Time for a game of catch up, then, for the Q7?

What’s new?

If you’ve looked at what was new about the Q8 when it reached showrooms last year, it really is a case of control-C, control-V with the Q7.

The highlight of this update is undoubtedly the cabin, with its prominent, stylish, twin-touchscreen set-up.

Mild-hybrid technology has also been rolled out across the range – by fitting a 48-volt electric motor, small fuel savings are made throughout the line-up. The engine choice itself has been cut back, though, because of strict new WLTP emissions testing regulations.

As for styling changes, the light facelift brings in a raft of features to help the model fit in with the rest of the ‘Q’ range, which has been overhauled in recent years. This grants it the Q8’s fancy LED lights, a larger octangular grille and two-tone exterior styling.

What’s under the bonnet?

At launch the engine choice is limited to three 3.0-litre V6 units – two diesel, and one petrol.

Despite the constant decline in sales of new diesel cars, oil burners remain popular in large SUVs like this. Hence an astonishing 90 per cent of new Q7s will still be diesel.

It certainly seems the best option, if our 50 TDI test car is anything to go by. Producing 282bhp and an impressive 600Nm of torque, it allows for a 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 150mph. Not bad for a 2.2-tonne SUV. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed S tronic automatic transmission.

This gearbox lets the side down, though. While it’s far from being unresponsive, it is noticeably hesitant under hard acceleration. That said, this refined, smooth and torquey engine is a delight.

The only petrol option currently is a 335bhp, 3.0-litre unit that’s incredibly smooth and holds the performance edge over the diesel. A cheaper 241bhp 3.0-litre diesel is also available, along with the mighty SQ7 with its 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel.

What’s it like to drive?

What initially strikes you about the Q7 is how it feels relatively small to drive even though it dwarfs other large SUVs. Despite that, it’s easy to manouevre – more so for cars fitted with the all-wheel-steering. Minimal input is needed around town, which also aids the Q7’s usability factor – important given how many cars like this reside in cities.

However, what is most impressive about the Q7 is its refinement. Hushed engines help initially, but with sound-proofing to rival the best luxury saloons, very little road noise makes its way into the cabin. Also, once a pricey option, adaptive air suspension is now fitted as standard. This is a superb feature, which does a great job of soaking up bumps and lumps in the road.

There’s a surprising lack of roll in the corners for such a hefty SUV, although a BMW X5 will prove more involving behind the wheel.

How does it look?

Taking on Audi’s latest ‘family face’, the updated Q7 gains all the styling cues found in the latest raft of Q models. Most notable is the new octagonal single frame grille, which brings new chrome vertical slats to give the model more presence on the road.

Matrix LED headlights are also included as standard, which come with a lighting signature mirroring that of its Q8 sibling. They’re a bit over-complicated – one simple LED bar gives a far more effective look in our opinion.

The lower areas of the car now come in a two-tone painted finish, which Audi says is to draw attention to the ground clearance. It’s certainly an improvement over cheap unpainted plastic cladding, but it looks like a fussy addition that the Q7 didn’t really need.

What’s it like inside?

The fit and finish throughout is superb throughout the Q7 – you don’t even get a sniff of cheap plastic. It feels every bit as premium as a £60,000 SUV should.

But it’s the new twin touchscreen system that feels like the biggest step forward in the cabin. Replacing one 8.3-inch system is a 10.1-inch screen looking after the sat nav and phone pairing etc, and a lower 8.6-inch screen taking care of the climate control.

It’s the same layout seen in the Q8 and it looks and feels far more modern than before. That said, you can’t help but feel that a traditional button is far more effective at doing some of these tasks, and involves less time looking away from the road.

Unlike other markets, UK Q7s come as standard with seven seats, though you can choose to have it as a five-seater as an option. Space in the second row is plentiful, with acres of headroom and legroom. The third row is best reserved for children, though, as there isn’t a great deal of room back there.

What’s the spec like?

The Q7 range kicks off at £56,500, which pays for a Sport trim with the 45 TDI engine. You could write short stories with the list of standard equipment the Q7 comes with – highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension and electrically-operated and heated leather seats.

Next up is the best-selling S line, which will start from £61,500. This adds the desirable sports styling, 20-inch alloy wheels, Valcona leather upholstery and sports seats. The stealthy Black Edition (from £66,000) brings a full gloss black styling kit, along with a sportier adaptive air suspension setup and 21-inch Audi Sport wheels.

Sitting at the top of the Q7 range is Vorsprung, which comes with more kit than most will ever need. It adds clever all-wheel-steering to reduce the turning circle, laser LED headlights to double the standard headlights’ vision, ventilated seats, a Bose sound system and a vast number of safety features. Just a few highlights here include turn assist, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera that can detect an accident all around the vehicle.

But there’s a big catch – the price. Vorsprung will set you back a ludicrous £82,500 as a minimum. At that price, the Q7 looks remarkably expensive.

Verdict

Even before this facelift, the Q7 was one of the best luxury SUVs on sale today. It’s pretty hard to take a backwards step from that, so unsurprisingly this facelift has only improved on a winning formula.

It’s no understatement to call this one of the most comfortable cars on the market, and when combined with a luxurious interior and some fantastic engines, the Q7 really is a superb all-rounder.

The hesitant eight-speed automatic gearbox can prove annoying at first, but it seems to be a trait of modern Audis, and one that would quickly be adjusted to. The price could also be a point of contention, but given the levels of luxury and practicality on offer, it feels as if it’s worth every penny.

  • Model: Audi Q7 50 TDI Sport
  • Price: £62,500 (estimate)
  • Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
  • Power: 282bhp
  • Torque: 600Nm
  • Max speed: 150mph
  • 0-60mph: 6.3 seconds
  • MPG: N/A
  • Emissions (g/km): N/A
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