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Audi’s seven-seat SUV is revitalised at last – but is very big still beautiful?

What is it?

The previous Audi Q7 was the first SUV Audi ever built and an unequivocal success story. It sold as the school run Panzer for a full decade, and despite feeling dated at least halfway through that period, Ingolstadt will keep shifting them until they’re all gone.

That’s because the way the Q7 drove had little to do with why people bought it. Many, if not most, liked the space, power and price primarily, not to mention the image - a millennial power suit of jostling, unapologetic intent.

Its replacement, utterly new from the inside out, is little different in that regard. Chiselling space for the brand’s huge grille has hardly enhanced the look, but the jutting posture is much the same, despite some dimension shrinkage.

Its previously colossal mass, however, is dramatically reduced. Audi’s 325kg headline claim is likely based on the petrol-engined, five-seat model that we won't be able to buy in the UK, but nonetheless, it’s clear that the lighter, second-generation MLB platform has inspired a remarkable slimming session, with the engineers extracting 67kg from the overhauled multi-link suspension set-up alone.

With this weight loss come the usual benefits, this Q7 being simultaneously quicker and more economical than its predecessor, despite coming far better equipped. By way of example, the 268bhp launch version we drove recently in Namibia would trounce a Fiesta ST away from the lights.

Audi expects that to be the more popular model, but the lower kerb weight has opened the door for the slightly less propulsive version we test here, ahead of its arrival in the summer. Developing 215bhp from the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine, the cheaper model still manages 0-62mph in 7.4sec and extends the claimed combined economy figure to 51.3mpg. 

What's it like?

Thriftiness is hardly the car’s pre-eminent vibe. Inside, the upgrade from its frayed predecessor - and a necessary advance upmarket were a given - is a near perfect synthesis of internet-age material, tech and style.

Audi has taken aim at the BMW X6 and landed a bullseye on the cockpit of a Hollywood-style Mars lander. One colleague boldly cited the cabin as superior to that of a Bentley. It isn’t, but as a specimen of supreme Audi-ness - that seamless integration of starch-sharp plastic, leather crease and LED ambience - it stands alone.

Once inside the techno-bubble, Audi is keen for you not to be disturbed. Isolation from the outside world is impressive. The rickety, anvil-heavy presence of the previous Q7 has been totally eradicated, replaced by the still air of loft-thick insulation and a highly polished, easy to manage drive experience.

The 215bhp variant comes on smaller 19in alloys, and with the adaptive air suspension fitted (part of a £2800 Dynamic Pack on top of the SE trim) it rides, in Comfort mode, with a more obliging long-wave wallow than its costlier sibling manages on 20in rims.

Just as unmistakable, though, is the power deficit. Predictably, it’s the 1500rpm introduction of 368lb ft of peak twist that the Q7‘s relative briskness relies upon, and the subtraction of 74lb ft means progress is business-like rather than commanding.

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That difference won’t niggle everyone. Elsewhere, the engine and conjoined eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox remain Teflon-smooth, but when satisfying straight-line speed is a car’s only consistent dynamic party trick, you do tend to miss it.

That the Q7 is not more interesting to pedal feels almost intentional, so immaculate is the job done by Audi to shield you from the normal sensations of driving. The steering is direct and decently hefty, but as a communicator of tyre contact, it is about as useful as a seance.

Switching into Dynamic mode neatly stems the body roll - without diminishing comfort levels, in fact - and you’ll eventually locate plenty of front end-focused grip from the quattro underpinnnings. But the kind of feelsome, energetic experience a Range Rover Sport serves up on air springs will be totally alien to the owner of a new Q7.

Should I buy one?

The distance to Land Rover’s class leader has been fundamentally shortened. Even in its lower-powered format, the Q7 reconfirms the fact that there is no better car maker in the world when it comes to honing a conservative product into high-end desirability. The 10-year run up to replacing its seven-seat SUV shows: this is a brochure-ready, tech-savvy marvel and tailor-made to gratify repeat customers.

Its deficiencies, not unfamiliar to the brand, are largely negligible in the guise of a proper seven-seater. Ultimately, it’s no more enjoyable to drive than it is to operate its electric windows. But, lordy, when the motorised whirr is this gooey, the action so slick and the segregation from world-weariness so emphatic, it very nearly has you convinced that this is how two tonnes of SUV is meant to be done. 

Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 218

Location Switzerland; On sale September; Price £47,000 (est); Engine V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power 215bhp at 3250rpm; Torque 368lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2060kg; Top speed 145mph; Economy 51.3mpg (combined, tbc); 0-62mph 7.4sec; CO2 emissions/BIK tax band na

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Ski Kid 17 May 2015

Old one better

I.m.o. the older one was uniquely ugly but the new one is just plain ugly ,so on balance prefer the old one as it had more character in a weird sort of way.
AddyT 15 May 2015

Well, not one surprise from

Well, not one surprise from reading that article I guess! Pretty surprised that Audi for their never ending quest to be "on-trend" have made a new version look worse than the last one and already dated! Same old story really isn't it...rear lights taken from an A6/A8, horrendous front, that soon-to-be-common digital dash with incorporated sat nav, sorry Virtual Cockpit, and I wondered if they'd throw in the temperature readouts in the air vent hubs from the TT and so they did! Entirely predictable. Entirely boring. And I'd take something like the new Volvo everyday of the week.
Einarbb 15 May 2015

Some don't like the lokks, reckon 'em bland ... my eyes it simply looks like any other AUDI estate car, except being a little taller. A tall estate sums it up. It's more or less, as inoffencive to look at -as any other AUDI estate. No more exciting either. So if you like your AUDI estate you'll like the taller - wider Q7. Calling this "bland" is calling a generic AUDI like this, "bland." It's what it is -if you don't like it. Have something else.