I was glad I had Audi’s Q7 4.2 TDi Quattro S-line this weekend. Its voluminous carrying capacity was put to good use transporting our band’s equipment to a daytime gig in the Waitakeres. I wouldn’t usually use a $150,000+ car to do something as mundane as act as a workhorse for my musical obligations, but it made sense because it will carry a lot, and it gave me a chance to drive it on narrow, twisting roads. In everyday guise, the Q7 will seat seven people, five of them in absolute comfort, and the two right at the back in moderate comfort, as long as their legs aren’t too long. Fold the seats flat and it’s large enough to haul a lot of gear, though the boot aperture itself is not large because of the high floor.
A neat trick that the Q7 has up its ample sleeve is adaptive air suspension. Using a button in the boot you can make the car squat by 55mm to make loading easier. There are five suspension levels, and the car is able to be raised considerably to enable quite severe off-roading to be attempted. In fact, the suspension has 95mm of variation, though other than the loading mode, the lowest ones are only activated at sustained high speed (120+ and 160+kph).
Another great function for loading is the automatic tailgate — it will raise and lower at the push of a button.
With a mammoth 760Nm of torque and 240kW the 2450kg Q7 has a startling turn of speed, achieving 100kph in just 6.4 seconds. This goes some way towards hiding its large dimensions, but you’re still aware you are driving a car almost two metres wide and 5.1m long.
Our test car was fitted with the optional 21-inch alloys with 295/35 tyres. Push the Q7 hard and it understeers like you’d expect a large SUV to. But the Q7 is a car that is most pleasant to cruise in. It is supremely comfortable to drive or be a passenger. Leather seats all around have six-setting heaters and electric position and lumbar settings at the front. The second row of seats reclines. Dual climate control with sun and humidity sensors and multiple vents in the rear keep the cabin temperature just right, and there is a plethora of bottle and cup holders for all seats.
Audi has done a great job of ergonomically designing the controls for the Q7. While there are over 60 dials and switches within the driver’s reach, many of the more intricate functions are carried out using Audi’s MMI display in the dashboard, which warrants a manual of its own. A dial and buttons placed just in front of the central binnacle allow easy scrolling and selecting of options for audio and car settings visible on the screen.
The audio system itself has a fabulous sound. My usual test CD (Gladiator soundtrack) filled the cabin with the full range of deep ominous double bass through to sparkling and delicate dulcimers and windchimes. The test car’s optional Bose eight-speaker system will accept an iPod input and display track listings and other information on the MMI’s screen. This screen also can function as a TV display with the optional TV reception kit, it will integrate with your mobile if it’s Bluetooth-enabled, and it is the centre of Audi’s parking assistant.
A relatively distortion-free reversing camera displays what is behind you with two animated lines that react to steering inputs showing the driver where the Q7 is turning. There are proximity sensors both front and rear and a superimposed diagram of the Q7 shows whether you are getting close to obstacles. Individual sound boxes positioned around the car beep more and more frenetically to give you a spatial awareness of which corner’s pristine paint finish is in jeopardy. The system is good enough to manoeuvre in tight spaces without even looking outside of the car.
The screen allows you to see if children are standing behind you
The optional Lane Change Assistant is welcome on a long car like this. The system incorporates a small light on the inside of the wing mirrors. If a car is moving into your blind spot, the light illuminates softly. If you indicate to move into the lane it flashes brightly as a warning.
As well as that very obvious safety feature the Q7 features ESP (with an additional towing stabilisation mode that will attempt to correct an out-of-control trailer), the usual ABS, EBD and EBA, and a swag of airbags including a full length curtain airbag right to the back of the car.
So that covers just a small slice of what the Q7 does. The two manuals are an inch thick between them, and the options list is extensive. A new owner could be immersed in menus and settings for hours, fine tuning the parameters.
There really isn’t anything much to complain about with the Q7, as you would expect for a car in this price bracket. It has everything you would expect in terms of safety and performance and if you’re in the market for a large, plush SUV which will pull a heavy load (well over three tonnes if the trailer is braked), this ticks all the boxes.
Price: Q7 range from $122,900. Base for this model: $151,900. As tested $158,100
What we like
- Parking/reversing assistant (it’s essential with a car this size)
- Lane change assistant (optional)
- Towing ability
What we don’t like
- Small boot aperture (if loading matters to you)
- Lose something down the side of the front seats and it’s almost impossible to extricate (minor, I know)
Words and photos Darren Cottingham