When one thinks of a modern luxurious crossover SUV, what are the important parameters that determine how good it is?
One is space. True luxury means space to lounge, as well as to possess power to cover great distances.
It should also be packed with the latest infotainment and safety technologies.
Lastly, its driving dynamics. Throw in the all-important fuel efficiency/economy factor in this environmentally conscious world we live in, since big, lumbering SUVs tend to be gas guzzlers.
Audi’s latest second generation Q7 (codenamed 4M) presents itself to be the best in its segment, precisely because it meets and exceeds all these aforementioned criteria perfectly.
First is the space: Audi’s Q7 has a useful 295 liters of cargo space with all three rows of seats up. Drop the third row, and this grows to 770 liters.
Drop both second and third row seats, and cargo space grows to an enormous 1,990 liters, beating rivals from BMW, Range Rover and Volvo.
Five six-foot-plus adults can sit inside comfortably for long drives, and they’ll all stay friends.
Power for this particular variant comes from the Audi’s much vaunted 2.0-liter TFSI gasoline engine, which has powered everything from sedans, hatchbacks, performance cars, and—a first—a large 7-seat SUV.
All told, it delivers a surprisingly good 252 hp and 370 Newton-meters of torque, while still being able to achieve a very impressive 10.8 kilometers per liter on my combined city and highway drive, covering a distance of roughly 270 kilometers.
With a gentler foot, and better driving conditions, 12 to 13 kilometers per liter is achievable.
Thank the massive 330 kg weight loss from the previous generation Q7, and an additional 20-plus kilograms saved from switching from a 3.0 TDI V6 to the smaller 2.0 inline 4-cylinder engine.
Thank also that over 70 percent of torque available from a low 1,600 rpm that makes low-speed driving feel effortless.
You can still tow a maximum of 2,800 kg with the standard steel suspension, with a 750-kg tongue weight for the hitch. That’s power!
To drive the Q7 is to be amazed: how can such a small engine power such a huge vehicle with ease?
You’d easily be mistaken that the engine is double its cylinders and displacement. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, almost delivering CVT-like stepless up-changes, yet also shifts crisply and positively when engaged in Dynamic Mode, along with heftier steering feel, a more responsive throttle/engine, and a higher rpm shift-points to boot.
Thank Audi’s Drive Select, which alters steering, transmission and engine maps to deliver your desired driving mode. You can leave it in comfort mode, or automatic as well, when the vehicle’s G-sensors sense increased speeds and movement.
The turning radius is 6.2 meters for a U-turn, slightly better than its other European rivals, making it handy in tight car ports, such as in malls and hotels.
On winding roads, Audi has perfectly judged the standard steel suspension to deliver excellent body control, as well as resisting chassis pitching, squatting and yawing on tighter, more technical and dynamic transitions. And it still delivers a cosseting, luxurious ride in the process, swallowing the bumps and surface imperfections with its decently sized 19-inch alloy-wheels and 255/55R19 Goodyear Eagle F1 All-Weather HT Touring tires.
Brakes are a bit soft in pedal feel but deliver progressive and consistent performance, while the throttle is easily metered, a long travel affair that helps give precise input, thus helping you achieve excellent fuel efficiency.
Steering is light but feelsome, ensuring that just because you drive a large SUV doesn’t mean life should be boring behind the wheel.
The Audi Q7 is also ground-breaking somehow being one of the very first vehicles to utilize FlexRay Optical Fiber Data Bus technology to seamlessly integrate all aspects of the car’s various electrical systems, getting them to communicate with each other to make the Q7 more efficient and safer.
It also comes with Audi’s multi-matrix LED headlamps, which utilize 25 individual LED bulbs to deliver penetrating night time visibility in the darkest of conditions, piercing through sleet, fog and rain, and crucially does not blind or cause glare for incoming vehicles as the bulbs can shut off automatically to avoid blinding other motorists.
ABS-EBD brakes with emergency brake assist, traction and stability control, as well as the Quattro All-Wheel Drive ensure the Q7’s surefootedness on all road and weather conditions.
Though the 2.0 TFSi lacks adaptive air suspension with height adjustment, a switch to more aggressive tires from the current highway-terrain models will vastly improve the Quattro’s mud-plugging and rock-crawling abilities, thus addressing ride height and ground clearance concerns too.
Inside, the Q7’s expansive dashboard is class at its finest. The dash shows minimal buttons, houses a large 12.3-inch LCD display that can pop into and out of view, and is overlaid with machined aluminum inserts to give it a stark and sophisticated ambiance.
The 3-spoke steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, and houses buttons for Audi’s excellent and very intuitive MMI multi-media interface, and—for the first time—GPS navigation.
The 2.0 TFSI doesn’t come with Audi’s LCD display-based virtual cockpit which is configurable, as well as the aforementioned air suspension to help bring down cost, but it doesn’t feel low-rent or down-market.
You still get eight airbags as standard for safety. The air-conditioning system is multi-zone so you can have separate temperature settings front to back, and left to right.
So there you have it. Audi’s latest 7-seat premium SUV, the Q7, has the space, the engineering prowess, power and efficiency to be called the best in its class.
It’s not fair to call it a base model, and you don’t feel like you cheaped out when buying this, as it is still a real technological tour de force, as with any Audi.
It feels just as luxurious, just as capable and just as prestigious as its more upscale 3.0 TDI V6 brethren. This isn’t downsizing or downgrading, but rather, right-sizing.
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