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FIRST DRIVE: Updated Audi Q7 ups the ante 

Updated Q7 readdresses some shortcomings of the pre-facelift model

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Q7 has arrived after a much needed shake-up to what was no longer a top-of-mind premium SUV choice. Its right back up there now. 

The largest of the range Audi Q7 has received something of a summer nip and tuck. It’s actually way more than that as far as product updates go and it has brought the Audi Q7 right back into the fray for premium SUV consideration. As one of the older products in the segment, it was high time for an update. Despite the delays brought on by the 2020 pandemic, the new Audi Q7 is available in dealers right now and it is an altogether much more complete and refreshed product. It also begs an interesting question in terms of the marketplace for large, 7-seater, premium SUVs. Let's take a look at the car itself first.


Exterior Design Updates

The keen-eyed among us will notice some bold changes to the design. The Audi Q7 now shares a closer resemblance to its Q8 sibling with a redesigned singleframe octagonal grille. Where it previously featured horizontal slats, the new look visage features the chrome fronted vertical slats instead, accentuated by a new headlamp design with 7 single modules at the bottom sided by two vertical tubes to form an arrow-like feature. It's a new Audi headlight, a winner as always.

The Q7 is offered in two trim variants, a S-line and non-S-line spec. The S-line as always employs the use of more black trim pieces for a sporty attitude as well as things like 20-inch alloys wheels and silver roof rails.

At the rear of the Q7, you’ll note a chrome strip that runs the length of the bootlid just above the slimmer and smarter rear lamps that feature the Audi animation when locking or unlocking the vehicle. The Audi Q7 has always been the longest and ungainly among the German players, but its definitely been trimmed, now presented in a more taut design. I like it. Modern. Fresh. Still strong on the traditional Q7 traits.  



Behind the Wheel

It doesn’t feel as large from behind the wheel, thanks to the addition of 4-wheel steering, an optional feature but one that is welcome for a vehicle so big. It really complements the surefootedness of the quattro all wheel drive system improving the turn in agility at slower speeds. I tested this through a few mountain passes, some of which were slippery from a recent rain shower. There’s a level of confidence that the Q7 gives even when the conditions are simply not ideal. 

Under harder driving, there’s a more distinct and noticeable feel of the weight and sheer size of the car, but once again its traction and overall body control was very impressive. The Audi Q7 features a number of driving modes via the Drive Select controller, each priming the drivetrain, steering and differentials to suit the conditions. A new self-locking differential improves the off-road ability of the car but it’s something we’re yet to test. 

Updated interior brings it in line with the stunning Q8


The Versatility of Diesel

The latest Audi Q7 range is available with one engine – but it’s a fantastic one. It’s the group-shared 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel unit coupled to an 8-speed tiptronic transmission. It’s the same engine working in the Audi Q8 45 TDI or the Volkswagen Touareg. Power is 183kW and 600Nm and its capable of a 225km/h top speed. Acceleration figures of 0 – 100km/h in 6,9-seconds are quoted.  

It’s an absolute gem of an engine, something we’ve tested extensively already. It’s no wonder it is employed elsewhere in the group. It’s versatile, powerful, efficient and most important of all in this premium application, refined. 

The near 400km drive route at the local launch was a mix of mountain passes, country routes and national highways – the Audi Q7 is the comfort king, silent and serene in its power delivery and waftability. It’s a consummation of a few different elements, the engine being the first and then the adaptive air suspension and the beautifully insulated cabin that deliver this plush and luxurious driving experience. 

As far as other driving technology goes, the Audi Q7 can be specified with the full suite of assistance systems. The Pre Sense system is like an extra check for drivers that I am certain will reduce the number of collisions and bumper bashings that occur in those quick eyes-off-the-road situations. You know the situations? I look at my phone for a second only to look up and see a car has slammed the anchors in front of you. Or at slipways as you’re trying to merge into the lane and once again, you think the car in front of you has accelerated so you do one more check to the side while accelerating – and guess what? The car is still there. Pre Sense is designed to mitigate or at the very least, reduce those sorts of mishaps.

This system and a full array of passive safety features that are required and expected at this premium level of motoring is included in the Audi Q7. 


Digitalisation

Not that you’ll need to look at your actual phone. One of Audi’s key business strategic pillars at the moment is that of digitalisation. It’s why the Audi Q7 has the new digital cockpit and architecture from the Q8. That protruding top level screen is gone, replaced by that dual screen, flush fitted interface. It’s complemented by the virtual cockpit that allows the same level of digital integration and customisation in the instrument cluster. 

Next to the Audi A4, the Q7 is the second Audi product to come with Audi Connect as standard. If you don’t know what Audi Connect is, think of it as an extension of your digital lifestyle. Your mobile phone is really pointless without being connected to the internet – it’s where your apps, browser, social media networks etc actually become useful. 

The myAudi app connects your mobile device to your other mobile device

Audi Q7 then is a connected car. With the ability to think for you, the ability to be accessed by you from the comfort of your sofa or from the boardroom anxious to get to your next meeting. You can unlock and lock the car from your phone, find it at OR Tambo airport parkade when you've forgotten your parking bay, pre-set your planned navigational route among many other things. It’s also built with emergency SOS for when either you or someone else has an accident. It will send an emergency call when you can’t alert emergency services, or you can push the button yourself if you can speak to an operator. 

The whole Audi digital experience is really where the world of automotive is going. Audi isn’t the first to offer this sort of tech, but given the entire interior digital ecosystem, it feels most at home here. 

The digital touchscreen functionality does take some getting used to and the screens take a beating with oily hands and grubby fingers but they’re built within the realms of Audi quality and it all feels a solid and fantastically put together interior all round. 


Space for Days

Of course it’s a Q7 and though much tauter on the outside, the vast space is in fact slightly larger. Slightly by 11mm. It’s always been a class-leader as far as interior space goes and it continues of course. First off the Audi Q7 can be tailored to either a 5-seater configuration or a 7-seater with electronic 3rd row operation. Our launch spec cars were 7-seaters and the process of entry and exit is a quick operation. The load/luggage space is 865-litres and can be increased up to around 2000-litres with all seats folded down. 

As its new strategic play, Audi has made the idea of packaging options a winner. The Audi Q7 is available with a number of options but to make that process easier, Audi has a few key packages that can be ordered with the car, and put together by its owner data. These are the Comfort Package, the Black Styling Package and the S-Line Interior Package. The Comfort Package for instance is a R33 000 option that incorporates Adaptive Cruise Control, Aluminium interior elements with gloss black, all-wheel steering and the fully flexible electronic rear seat system. 

If you’re really picky there are a few more options available as well as the higher-end Audi Exclusiv customisation service.  Audi customers are reported to spec their cars at this level at quite a high standard, averaging around 20% of the base price. So a well specced car will retail between R1,5m and R1,6m by my calculations. As far as my experience goes, the comfort package is a must do plus the 3rd row of seats and Matrix LED lighting system. If you buy an Audi, get it with the best lighting system. You’ll thank me. 

Overall Impressions

The progress of automotive technology and design is rampant. Everyone talks of a ‘digitalisation’ and ‘contemporary design’ but getting it all to work in a user-centric and real-world fashion is something akin to modern day alchemy. Not everybody gets it right. Audi does though. They’re getting it spot on. The Q7, though an ‘older’ product has been refreshed well enough to position it as a worthy consideration in this segment. It offers more versatility and practicality and the truth is, if you’re considering a large premium SUV, this one is the biggest. Which begs the interesting question - The Q7 has always been the only 7-seat option in this space and in a sense, its existence has birthed the likes of the BMW X7 and Mercedes Benz GLS. Where the Q7 is generally positioned next to the X5 and GLE models, it now offers itself as an option for both segments, one of which is a lot pricier. So does the Q7, especially with this new update present itself as the most value for money? I'm not saying its better than the X7 or GLS but it is worth a look at a fraction of the price. Go figure.

Pricing

Audi Q7 45 TDI quattro tiptronic    R 1 328 500

Audi Q7 45 TDI quattro S line tiptronic   R 1 388 500








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