Audi was a little late in jumping onto the luxury SUV bandwagon, only introducing the Q7 in 2007. Luckily for them however, the model was an instant hit! Since then, the Q7 has only been lightly retouched, remaining mostly unchanged over the years. And funny enough, it hardly shows its age today. But Audi is going to get with the times for 2016 by introducing the second generation of the Q7, which should make its way into showrooms by December.
We recently had the chance to check out the new model at its worldwide launch at the Detroit Motor Show—and we were curious to see if Audi would manage to surprise us.
A little bit less of almost everything
Downsizing is the latest trend. Even Audi’s biggest and most expensive SUV is being affected, with reductions in weight, engine displacement and fuel consumption. It was totally redesigned and now incorporates lighter materials—particularly for the chassis and suspension. Audi engineers managed to shed 325 kilograms (716 lbs) compared to the old Q7. The vehicle looks smaller, and it’s not just an optical illusion. The new generation is a few millimeters shorter and narrower.
There will be no confusing the new Q7 with the old one. Whereas the previous gen was a macho beast with rounded edges, the new one looks more like a wagon on stilts. It’s more classic, but very nice; we’re just not sure whether it will age as well as the first generation did. In front, the trapezoid grille’s crossbars extend wider and lower than before for added impact. They did a great job with the headlight design, especially with the strip of LEDs. As is often the case with this type of vehicle, the wheels really up the ante by enhancing the overall dynamism.
A pair of V6s and an e-tron
Wondering about the mechanics? Audi kept the same pair of V6 engines (one taking gas and the other taking diesel) but updated them. The first has 3.0 litres of displacement and produces 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s 53 horses more than the last gas-powered V6 and should bring the Q7 in line with its competitors’ basic engines. In fact, it’s the same engine found in the previous Sport trim, but it’s now offered factory-standard.
Meanwhile, the diesel engine has the same amount of displacement but delivers 272 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque. This increase in output makes it one of the more robust engines in its class, which is good news for diesel fans. The diesel drivetrain concedes just two hundredths of a second on the 0-100 km/h sprint compared to the other V6. The dash takes about 6.3 seconds, which isn’t bad for an SUV of this size.
While it hasn’t been confirmed, a Q7 plug-in hybrid may be on its way to Canada. Called the “e-tron,” this model is the first to combine a diesel engine with an electric motor. Together, they send 373 horsepower to all four wheels. The all-electric range is somewhere around 56 kilometres, but the best thing about the diesel hybrid is that its fuel consumption is estimated to be 1.7L/100 km. Impressive!
While Mercedes has its AMG models, and BMW has its M versions, Audi is keeping it simple with the Q7. There are no “S” or “RS” versions to rival the other speed machines in the category.
Interiors: Audi’s specialty
If you want to see what Audi does best, you have to get inside the vehicles. What gives Audi's interiors that “wow” factor? Meticulous attention to detail, the unique feel of the parts and controls, and the feedback you get from them. The latest Q7’s interior is an evolved version of what we saw in the past. There’s a sizeable dashboard with air vents running its length. Some trims come with Audi’s virtual cockpit and entirely digital instrumentation. It can be customized in several different ways, but it’s pretty high-tech (read: complicated). As for the rest, the designers kept it logical and easy to use.
Audi’s new MMI system controls almost everything by way of a small touchpad (instead of a touch screen). Once again, it works well, but it’s complicated. Rear passengers get an Audi tablet (much like an iPad) that allows them to interact with the vehicle’s various systems, including entertainment.
The seats strike a good balance between comfort and sportiness. But you know what we were most impressed with? The massage feature with various modes and intensity settings. This will make long drives so much better! Once again, the Q7 can be equipped with an electronically powered third bench if you want to carry up to seven passengers. It’s a practical option if you have a large family or if your kids often invite friends along.
On the road
During the demo, we had the chance to try both engines. Note that all Q7s come factory-standard with quattro all-wheel drive as well as a Tiptronic eight-speed automatic transmission. It was evident that the gas engine is solidly designed. We loved its energetic personality and the torque available at low revs. It can be a bit impulsive at higher revs, but it’s effectively backed by the eight-speed transmission. We liked the Drive Select System, which allows drivers to adjust the vehicle’s personality at the touch of a button. It changes the accelerator response, steering and suspension settings. There are several modes, with “Dynamic” being the sportiest and making all the variables firmer.
The diesel engine will seduce buyers with its fuel efficiency and generous torque. It’s a marked departure from the rough diesel drivetrains of the past. In fact, you can’t really hear that it’s a TDI in the Q7. The only time you’ll hear anything is when you reach maximum revs or when the engine rumbles at low speeds. But the best thing about the diesel is what it saves you at the pump.
While automakers used to showcase their latest technologies in their sports cars or full-size sedans, they now rely on their SUVs for that. And that’s exactly what Audi has done with the new Q7. It features all of the brand’s technological advancements, including adaptive cruise control, a towing assist system that can steer a trailer behind you and much more!