What is it?
This is the lightly facelifted Audi Q7 4.2 TDI. Apart from a minor visual refresh, the key changes are to the powertrains, all of which are more economical, cleaner and more powerful. The 4.2 TDI benefits more than most engines in the line-up, its output climbing from 322bhp to 335bhp. Combined fuel consumption improves by 3.0mpg to 28.5mpg and emissions drop 32g/km, to 262g/km. All Q7s now get intelligent alternators too, which usually generate their charge when the car’s coasting or braking to save fuel.
Otherwise, the Audi Q7 4.2 TDI is mechanically unaltered, but there are plenty of detail changes, including subtle redesigns for the grille, the bumpers and their under-protectors, the door mouldings and the tail-lights, which are now LED.
Inside, the appearance and finish of the instruments and switchgear has been improved, along with the interior lighting, and the latest version of the MMI infotainment system is installed with hard-drive storage and bird’s eye view graphics. SE versions get Bluetooth phone connectivity.
What’s it like?
The new car is little different to pre-facelift version. The Audi Q7 4.2 TDI’s performance gain is barely noticeable when there was so much shove in the first place. If you can stretch to it, this engine is worth the extra over the 3.0 TDI in performance and refinement terms, and it delivers its urge with creamy, undiesel-like panache. It pulls more convincingly than the 3.0 TDI, though you’re reminded of what a heavy car this is when you mash the throttle and unleash all 561lb ft of torque, both engine and transmission needing a moment before they spool up and thrust almost two-and-a-half tonnes towards the next reason to slow down.
If that reason is a bend, it’s still a surprise to find that the Audi Q7 4.2 TDI can negotiate a path around it with some aplomb – enough that there’s a curious enjoyment to be had from hustling this car along, provided the road’s wide enough. Less impressive is the ride, which is more sudden than it should be in a car of this price and calibre, off-roader or not.
The small upgrades to the Q7’s well constructed interior allow it to keep pace with the ever-rising standards in this area, but its packaging is a disgrace in a vehicle of this size. The middle seat of the middle row in not a place to spend much time for instance, and the height of the load deck, which admittedly houses seats six and seven, means that this car swallows far less than its silhouette would suggest.
Should I buy one?
If you park the issues surrounding big SUVs to one side, and consider the Audi Q7 4.2 TDI simply in terms of its fitness for purpose, then it makes a fair case for itself. You get the commanding seating position, good off-road ability, high-grade refinement that extends from the quality of the interior to its effortless way with autobahns.
And while buying a 4.2 TDI V8 to save a little fuel might sound perverse, it makes for a pretty impressive engine. Land Rover has done more to update its big SUVs for 2010 than Audi (though the resulting Q7 price hike is small), but if it’s a luxury seven-seat SUV that you need, it’s worth short-listing, despite the unspoken opprobrium that your choice might attract.