It’s all about choices because when the property you’re dealing with an SUV weighing twice as much as a family hatch, you can’t design a chassis that will do it all, providing excellent ride and handling characteristics while also proving capable in the off-road environment.
Audi’s choices with the Q7 are plain to see. Every one is equipped with front and rear air suspension and so long as you don’t get carried away with the selector button and summon up dynamic mode, it rides really rather well in most circumstances.
It’s true that if you drop one of its massive wheels into a particularly vicious pot-hole the car’s composure will be briefly dropped but by no more than you’d expect of any car with that much unsprung weight hanging off each of its corners. The rest of the time this is a smooth and comfortable car and one whose ride quality varies impressively little from empty to fully laden.
So no, this is not a car with an instinctive appetite for the open, twisting road. There are actually no flaws in the car’s handling save those inherent in a car this high and heavy, but attempts to drive it fast are met with grim determination not to let the side down rather than any actual enthusiasm for the job.
Roll rates are quite well controlled and the steering is more than adequately accurate, but there’s not much you’d mistake for feel in the helm and when it does run out of grip at a relatively modest level of adhesion, the understeer that results would be of the rather helpless variety were its excesses not so ably mitigated by the stability control systems.
As for offroad ability, if the size of the wheels and paucity of tyre profile don’t dissuade you from anything more than parking on the school playing field, then its limited ground clearance, approach and departure angles should, and long before you realise the underside of the car is nothing like as well protected as you’d expect any car with a genuine off-road brief to be.
This is an off-roader in name only and much the same can be said of most rivals other than a Mercedes GL and, of course the Discovery and Range Rover Sport. It will tow up to 3200kg, impressive but not as good as these closest rivals, all of which are right on the 3500kg legal limit.