The Q7 is a rather obvious but effective symbol of the sudden, puffer-fish-style expansion of Audi’s model range.

Ten years ago, this car maker didn’t build SUVs. Although it had plenty of quattro-branded four-wheel-drive know-how, it had never taken that next big logical step. It had only recently started making a Sportback in the guise of the previous-generation five-door A3 and had yet to launch the R8 sports car. When Audi launched the original Q7, it was a different firm.

Now, as we welcome the second generation of Ingolstadt’s unashamedly full-sized luxury 4x4, it is one of three Q cars in the range. By the time the next Q7 comes along, its high-riding siblings could number as many as six. That would be an astonishing rate of expansion, but not necessarily a foolish one.

Audi SUVs have quickly become big business. From a standing start, the previous Q7 sold fairly strongly and consistently across Europe and North America throughout its lifecycle.

It didn’t trouble the volumes of the segment leaders, but since it’s larger and slightly pricier than the average large luxury 4x4, that was predictable. But the Q5 and Q3 have smashed every sales target that Audi has put in front of them. If this new bigger brother for them can replicate just a bit of that success, it’ll be a huge money-spinner for Audi.

As you’re about to read, Audi is evidently determined to deliver that greater success, having thrown the kitchen sink at the new Q7 in terms of new platform, powertrain, chassis and infotainment technology. This car is the first of many new Audis (and Porsches and Bentleys) based on the firm’s new MLB-Evo platform. It’s a bit of a strategic milestone.

Audi’s claim is that it’s also advanced, lightweight, aerodynamic and efficient – at the same time as being luxurious, refined, fine handling, capable and laden with sophistication. It sounds like a serious piece of work. But is it any more discreet than the previous Q7, or any easier to like? Let’s see.

Top 5 Large SUVs

  • Range Rover Sport
    The new Sport, from a keen driver’s point of view, might just be the best SUV in the world at the moment

    Range Rover Sport

  • The Porsche Cayenne is available as a hybrid for the first time

    Porsche Cayenne

  • BMW X5
    The X5 uses in effect the same platform as the previous generation, but it's been substantially revised

    BMW X5

  • Land Rover Discovery
    The Discovery really is the defining go-anywhere super-utility vehicle

    Land Rover Discovery

  • The Mk2 model, also based on the Porsche Cayenne, is lighter, roomier and more economical than the first

    Volkswagen Touareg


First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    1 December 2015
    Bentley's big seller has a facelift for 2015 and we've driven it on UK roads for the first time in twin-turbocharged 4.0 V8 form. Is it still the pick of the range?
  • First Drive
    27 November 2015
    We try the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol version of the Golf Bluemotion. If you're not doing mega miles, it's a better bet than the diesel
  • 2015 Mercedes-AMG A45
    First Drive
    27 November 2015
    Mercedes couldn't let the Audi RS3 get away with having more power than its AMG A45. As part of a wholesale A-Class facelift, it now has 376bhp and a host of other revisions
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?