Audi Q7 review: 2015 first drive

It’s as big as it ever was, but the new Audi Q7 appears less humungous, packs in the vital Q7 USP that owners love, and is now a car of its time.

Peter Burgess | May 2015

It was too big, the Audi Q7. We all said so when it was launched back in 2005. Cars this size simply don’t work on the home continent of Europe, where many streets are narrow and parking spaces in supermarkets are more suited to a Fiat 500 than a gigantic slug.

Also running against it was the styling, which had all the subtlety of a comic-book fist, ready to wipe aside anything that got it its way. There’s nothing charming about being bullied aside by an Audi, let alone one as big as a bus.

And yet. Over half a million have been sold, not just in the US where it makes most sense, but also in those congested cities of Europe and elsewhere. The Q7 obviously has its place, and now there is a brand new one. With tighter lines it’s still far from a looker, but it’s roomier, lighter and much, much cleverer.

What’s the Audi Q7 like to drive?

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Audi is drip-feeding the new Q7 into the market, so early adopters have just one diesel choice, the 3.0-litre TDI. That’s been upgraded from 245hp to 272hp, at the same time achieving wondrous things with the fuel economy and CO2. Naturally quattro four-wheel-drive is part of the package.

The sheer thumping performance of this new engine is impressive, and with a few hundred kilos knocked off the weight by incorporating lots more aluminium and stronger, thinner steel, the new Q7 is decidedly agile too.

It does, naturally, incorporate some pretty sophisticated design elements, and if you pay more money (there are always was to pay more money when you buy an Audi) there’s the sublime air suspension package. That gives the ride comfort you’d expect from a luxury car and the ability to change settings to suit your mood. You know, those days when there’s no family and you want to emulate the Audi Le Mans drivers.

The new Q7 looks more compact than before, even if it’s only the height that’s reduced by any degree. That should open up a few more multi-story car parks to drivers of this large Audi, and there are a raft of self-parking possibilities on offer. Specify rear-wheel-steering and you can turn like a London cabbie. With Traffic Jam Assist you are well on the way to having a car that will drive itself.

Should I buy an Audi Q7?

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That depends which way you look at it. If ‘premium’ is an essential part of the equation, plus seven seats and four-wheel-drive, your choice quickly narrows. And the new Audi Q7 really does measure up.

Despite the undoubtedly long option list, the Q7 is well equipped if you choose not to spend more than the £50,340 for the SE or £53,835 for the S line. Every model comes with eight-speed automatic transmission, with stop start and a coasting mode when you lift off the accelerator. The engine is EU6 compliant, which means all those horror stories about diesels being penalised won’t apply here. Probably.

Then there are Xenon headlights, a decent satnav, electric seats and a 10-speaker 180-watt sound system. Each of these features can be upgraded several times over, and you really should look at the top-line virtual cockpit navigation screen that sits behind the steering wheel. It’s superb.

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The clever technology far from ends there. Apple Car Play and Google Android Auto brings much of your phone functionality to the Q7’s large screen. Rear seat passengers can play with large demountable tablets.

There are other neat features that will tease money from your pocket. The tow bar electrically folds away under the bumper. The ambient interior lighting includes a fine blue pencil line of light around the dashboard and doors that’s to die for.

But more importantly, the Q7 has more shoulder room inside. There are now six Isofix child seating points. The new seat folding mechanism on the second row makes it much easier to access the rearmost two seats. And both the tailgate and those two rear seats power open and closed as part of the standard package.

Verdict: Audi Q7 (2015)

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It’s no longer a slug, the Audi Q7, but it still won’t win any beauty contests. But maybe eschewing a knockout style is simply a clever move that shows Audi Q7 owners are really above that sort of thing.

The competition, while not broad, is formidable, ranging from the BMW X5 to the Mercedes ML, through Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC90. Audi argues that the Q7 beats its German rivals on interior space, while the Range Rover Sport is in a different segment.

Good points, though not all buyers of these premium models are simply interested in getting the roomiest vehicle. The brand new Volvo XC90 is the unknown for Audi. It has the right credentials, is stylish and, importantly, brings some freshness to this whole arena. Not many German will buy the Volvo, but the rest of the world may well do so.

It is extremely satisfying that we have such a fine selection of cars to choose from here. Against them, the new Q7 measures up very well indeed.

Rivals: Audi Q7 (2015)

  1. BMW X5
  2. Mercedes-Benz ML
  3. Land Rover Discovery
  4. Range Rover Sport
  5. Volvo XC90

When it comes to road presence, the BMW X5 pips the Audi Q7. But the Audi now offers a serious case for those wanting a premium, German SUV. The Mercedes-Benz ML is showing its age, while British competitors from Land Rover should be taken very seriously by those considering a Q7. The Volvo XC90 is a wild card, but one that bowled us over when we tested it earlier this year.

Specification: Audi Q7 3.0TDI S line

Engine turbocharged, six-cylinder 3.0-litre

Gearbox Eight-speed automatic

Price from £53,835

Power 272hp

Torque 443lb/ft

0-62mph 6.5 seconds

Top speed 145mph

MPG 47.9mpg

CO2 153g/km