The Audi Q7 has finally received its much awaited all round update, incorporating Audi’s latest tech, a sharp new suit and an interior borrowing heavily from the Q8, but packs the sort of auto-braking, road-following, pedestrian-spotting gadgetry that not long ago was science-fiction.
Let’s not forget how easy-on-the-eye the new SUV is. Gone is the tank-like exterior of the old Q7, replaced with a far crisper suit that leans on aluminium and advanced body surfacing techniques to bring some of the Q8’s sporting lines to Audi’s bigger family model.
The more pronounced grille is now a 3D shape, rather than just a trim moulding, and combined with the LED daylight running lights give the Q7 a more aggressive fascia. From the side, Audi accentuated the wheel arches to highlight the standard all-wheel drive, while the shoulder lines are meant to remind you of those of the original quattro rally cars.
I’m not sure you’d ever mistake the Q7 for something belonging on a rally track, but it’s certainly a cleaner, rounded and more visually appealing design than the outgoing model.
Inside, leather, accents of chrome and aluminium combine for a light and roomy cabin. The seats are power adjusted in the front and heat up as standard, while an optional package throws in active cooling and massage features. Second-row seating gets legroom adjustment as well as a 35/30/35 split, and tumble forward with a little muscle effort to access the third row, which supports power-fold as standard.
Space in the second row is good for adults, though the third row starts to feel a touch cramped, particularly with the lower roofline. Boot space is roughly the same as before, with 865 litres in standard guise and 2 050 litres if you drop all the seats, but the load floor is lower and wider to be more flexible.
Then there are the toys. The 2021 Q7 incorporates two large touchscreens, along with Audi’s refined version of the MMI interface. It features an embedded SIM, a Wi-Fi hotspot, natural voice control and the extensive Audi connect portfolio. MMI is fast, smooth, and intuitive. Each display gets its own processor, and that keeps things like animated system settings and pinch-zooming in the maps lag-free.
If you prefer, CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported as standard, while Audi has a new version of its Audi connect app offering things like remote locking/unlocking, location-based alerts, geofencing, and status reports. The Bang & Olufsen 3D audio system is available as an option that your ears will thank you for.
The Q7 feels smaller the more you drive it, and although you have space for seven inside you could easily tell yourself it’s one of Audi’s larger Avant models, or even the A7 if you must. A fair part of that is how well it handles, contradicting its own curb weight and hustling around the bends with little in the way of body roll. I much prefer the steering feel in Dynamic mode too. Once you set it to Comfort it suffers Novocaine-levels of numbness.
Then there is the impressive air suspension that enables a waft-like feeling as you drive, even on gravel, while four wheel steering makes maneuvering in tight spaces a cinch. The Q7’s rear wheels can turn by up to 5-degrees, with the SUV’s brain deciding whether to match or mirror the front wheel angle depending on speed. The upshot is slightly tighter cornering as well as a much-reduced turning circle.
With the aid of the navigation system, the SUV can be even more helpful. On top of its optional Active Cruise Control (ACC), which uses the various front-facing sensors to track traffic in front and adjust speed accordingly, the Q7 will look at the next bend on the map and automatically slow down if it thinks that is necessary. In Comfort mode it prioritizes a smooth experience, slowing early and then gently easing back the power, but in Dynamic it can be more aggressive than a human driver, waiting to brake and then powering out of the bend in a way that takes a little getting used to.
No luxury SUV comes cheap. The 2017 Q7 kicks off at R 1,328,500 for the 45 TDI quattro tiptronic, climbing to R 1,388,500 for the 45 TDI quattro S line tiptronic on test here, which Audi expects to be its top seller. In comparison, one could consider Mercedes-Benz’s GLE or Volvo’s XC90, although there’s a huge options list to be mulled over before you can make like-for-like comparisons.
Clear out of the gate is that Audi has made a driver’s SUV. Yes, you can leave the Q7 in Comfort mode and waft serenely, but it best differentiates itself from the rest of the segment when you click over to Dynamic and plant your foot. It’s not just in a straight line, either and when that angular grille meets a corner the Q7 sails right around it. Factor in solid build quality, advanced safety tech, and handsome design, and it is only that meaty starting price and equally rich-blooded options list which give pause for thought, at which point you’d really have to consider Porsche’s Cayenne S too.
Words: Papi Mabele
Images: Papi Mabele & Audi SA