New Audi Q7 review, test drive
20th Jul 2015 11:40 am
The second-gen Q7 is among Audi India’s big launches for this year. Nikhil Bhatia gives you an early drive impression.
Just as Switzerland has long been the locale of choice for our film makers, the Audi Q7 has long been the vehicle of choice for our country’s film stars. Call it a filmy cross connection but Audi chose to give us our first good look at the all-new Q7 in verdant Switzerland. Unlike the Q7 we featured last month that was on its last validation test in the extremes of Namibia, this one is the final product. What you see is what you’ll get come Diwali this year.
When you do see it, you’ll notice that the second-gen Q7 looks smaller than its predecessor. It is. To be precise, it’s a full 370mm shorter in length and 15mm narrower too, though height is still the same. But it’s not the dimensions alone. The new Q7 also has less visual mass than before. Sure, skinning is tight, the pronounced fenders add muscle and there are crisp clean lines everywhere, but that imposing presence of the old Q7 is missing here. Viewed from the rear, especially, it looks more jacked-up station wagon than big, burly SUV. To the image-conscious who were drawn to the original Q7, this could be a downer.
To be honest, it’s not the looks but what lies beneath that really defines this generation of the Q7. While this may be the first product to be built on the VW Group’s new MLB or longitudinal platform, what’s of interest to buyers is that this generation of the Q7 weighs a full 300kg less than its predecessor, bringing with it improvements in performance, efficiency and driving dynamics. Equally remarkable is that despite the smaller size, the new Q7 is actually more spacious too. The rear-most row benefits with better access and offers more headroom though it’s still not a space suited for adults. Not that too many Q7 buyers make use of the third row anyway. Middle-row occupants have it better than before with even more head- and legroom and better seat comfort. But to me, the new Q7’s front seats are the best in the house.
Not only do they offer great comfort but also give a clean view of the sleek new dashboard. The dash is low set (great for outside visibility), and looks very high tech. While passengers have an 8.3-inch retractable screen to keep an eye on functions and settings, drivers have the optional digital instrument display to rely on. It’s something we’ve seen on the TT too and displays everything from speedometer and tachometer, to navigation maps and audio player settings in brilliant clarity. In fact, the entire multimedia interface has been completely reworked to offer more functionality than before. Technology aside, Audi has upped the game in quality too. There’s high quality leather, metal and soft-touch plastics throughout the cabin. This is an SUV that can rival the very best luxury sedans in this department.
There’s quite a lot to talk about in the mechanicals as well. As before, the Q7s for India will come powered by Audi’s 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel. However, power is now up to 268bhp and torque is a healthy 61kgm. An eight-speed gearbox will be standard fit on all Q7s and paddles will be standard too. Of course, power is channeled to the wheels via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Also, the double wishbones of the previous Q7 have made way for five-link units at each end. And India-bound Q7s should get air suspension as standard as we had on our test vehicles. On the road, it comes together very well.
Within the first few minutes of driving, I could tell this is a very different Q7. It felt light, more responsive to throttle inputs and generally more of a ‘sport’ utility vehicle now. Audi claims this version of the Q7 will do the 0-100kph sprint in just 6.5 seconds, which is seriously quick. That it can do so much with little noise from the diesel engine entering the cabin is a highlight.
Even around the twists and turns of our route, the Q7 felt more willing and quicker to change direction. This is still no Cayenne in steering feel or body control, but with the steering and suspension set to their sportiest, it will be involving enough for the rare hard drive. Speaking of rare outings, we didn’t have a chance to venture off-road, but if the new Q7 is comparable to the old one on that front, it should be sufficient for the bulk of its Indian clientele. These buyers are sure to be more interested in the Q7’s easy to drive demeanour and generally absorbent ride.
So, in brief, that’s the new Audi Q7 for you. Likely to go on sale from about Rs 68 lakh (estimated ex-showroom) onwards, the new Q7 has more in substance than the outgoing one. What will be interesting to see though is how Indian buyers will take to the new style.