The Q7 is, in Audi’s own words, “still a big car” – and relatively so, in a segment full of necessarily big cars. It has shrunk marginally compared with its predecessor, but by no more than a couple of inches in any of the major dimensions.
However, the biggest success of the car’s styling could be to make it appear as though a more significant amount of bulk has been dispensed with. An effective combination of reduced body volumes and strong horizontal bodywork creases makes this car look much lower and less hulking than the previous one.
In the broadest sense, most people probably wouldn’t pick this as the most visually striking or appealing car of its ilk. But its new-found sense of understatement seems much more becoming of an Audi, and it’s a change of which we heartily approve.
What’s more, although it hasn’t cut down on the Q7’s kerbside footprint much, the truth is that Audi didn’t need to. The company has done what it’s famous for: employed cutting-edge technology to deliver the gains that other car makers use more obvious means to achieve and often court compromise for the sake of.
The Q7 is 300kg lighter than the car it replaces. That’s an enormous saving, even on a two-tonne-something car, and it has been made on component parts as various as seats (19kg), doors (24kg), brakes (8.5kg), exhaust systems (19kg) and electrical wires (4kg).
As remarkable as it is, the car’s mixed-metal underbody ultimately amounts to just another item on that list of weight savings (71kg). Made up of just over 40% aluminium and 12% hot-formed ultra-high-strength steel, it features joining techniques new to Audi, as well as structural reinforcements, dubbed ‘torsion rings’, arranged both horizontally and vertically.
UK buyers will be offered a 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine in 268bhp and 215bhp states of tune, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, a proper centre differential (as opposed to a clutch-actuated power split) and a limited-slip differential between the rear wheels. The Q7 e-tron will be offered with a 3.0-litre V6 TDI and electric motor working in tandem to produce 254bhp, while those wanting a ballistic SUV should look no further than the SQ7, fitted with a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine forcing out 429bhp.
Steel springs are standard fit, but a height-adjustable adaptively damped air suspension system is on the options list and delivers ground clearance of up to 245mm. Our test car was a 268bhp diesel on air suspension.
Also on the options list is a four-wheel steering system capable of turning the rear wheels up to 5deg in the opposing direction to the fronts at low speeds, to reduce the car’s turning circle. At higher speeds, it can turn them up to 3.5deg in the same direction as the front wheels, to improve cornering stability and steering response.
It’s an unusual and welcome feature to find on such a large and potentially unwieldy SUV. More’s the pity, then, that it wasn’t fitted to our test car.