What is it?
The entry-level version of the Audi Q7, the second generation of which was introduced to the UK market late last year. With 53bhp and 74lb ft less than its sister model, it’s just under a second slower to 62mph from rest than the 268bhp version – although it’s still a bluff two-tonne SUV capable of topping 130mph itself, and pretty plainly a long way from being underpowered.
Offered in the same SE and S line trim levels and with all of the same equipment and available options, the lower-end Q7 isn’t a car with any less technological sophistication or breadth of ability than its more powerful sibling. And so, given that its gruntier equivalent isn’t exactly a driver’s car either, could this Q7 be the pick of the range?
What's it like?
An outstanding old-school Audi in so many ways, in terms of perceived quality, refinement, comfort, occupant space, on-board technology and remarkable ease of use. Almost all of the ways in which we praised the full-house diesel version last year, then. That said, this is perhaps not the canny buy you might expect it to be.
Even though the car doesn’t have quite the same imperious, immaculately smooth kind of performance as its rangemate, few could complain about how forcefully it gets up the road. The engine feels potent enough when accelerating the car’s mass from town speeds, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox selects its ratios cleverly when overtaking, keeping the tacho’s needle at, or close to, peak torque.
Wind the motor up to 3500rpm and the car’s mask of invincibility slips a bit, the V6 beginning to get breathless in the higher gears. But that’s only ever likely to be a factor when doing the kind of outside-lane motorway speeds for which Audi drivers are becoming notorious. Frankly, they’re speeds that any right-thinking Q7 owner would seldom even approach, such is the readily apparent maturity and refinement of the car’s character and the sweetness of its gait at a relaxed pace.
Equip the Q7 with adaptive air suspension, as came fitted to our test car, and you’ll find its ride indulgently supple in Comfort mode and its cabin isolation top-drawer at all times. Steering is averagely light and isn’t troubled by anything as potentially wearing as contact patch feel, but it’s fluent enough. Body control is respectable, and the car steers faithfully and securely - although it wavers vertically on its springs at higher speeds at times, potentially disturbing passengers if you hurry.
Cycle through the Q7’s more dialled-up drive modes and you’ll realise the folly of your actions quickly enough. The steering’s fluency becomes replaced by unhelpful weight and apparent stickiness and the buoyancy of that ride by a more fidgeting compromise which, while it boosts handling response and heave control a bit, isn’t worth the trade-off. At no time is the Audi actually uncomfortable, nor anything like it, but its dynamic calling card is undoubtedly less compelling while it’s pretending to be ‘sporty’.
The car’s supremely well-constructed interior exudes an aura of integrity and class that can be matched by no other large SUV. Its infotainment and convenience functions are second-to-none, too, and there’s room for even large adults to stretch out in both the first and second rows, with average-sized ones relatively comfortable in row three.
Should I buy one?
Large SUVs don’t get any more suave or luxurious. Assuming comfort, class and impressive 4x4 capability are the ideals to which you want to devote your new SUV, you’re shopping in exactly the right place here.
Well, almost exactly. The fact is, Audi’s lesser Q7 delivers only a very marginal improvement in fuel economy over the higher-powered equivalent, no advantage at all on benefit in kind company car tax and would only be worth a £35 per year saving on road tax to the private buyer.
Given that the difference on showroom price between the lesser and greater diesels is less than £3000 (much of which can likely be offset against stronger residual values for the more in-demand higher-output model), we’d advise that the 268bhp Q7 is the smarter buy. Audi’s customers will likely dress up their cars with several thousand pounds of options, after all. And attempting to offset any of that discretionary spend by scrimping on what’s under the bonnet wouldn’t be advisable.
Location Middlesex; On sale now; Price £51,250; Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel; Power 215bhp; Torque 369lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2060kg; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed 134mph; Economy 48.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 150g/km, 28%