Overall rating: 4/5
Audi overhauls the biggest of its SUVs, the seven-seat Q7, with the first all-new version of it in ten years. A thoroughly updated cabin and less weight mean the new car is suitably impressive, but the appearance may divide opinion.
In the Metal:
Right, let's be clear about something before we begin - the new Q7 is not an ugly car, because Audi simply doesn't do ugly. In fact, it's a better-looking thing than the old model, but sadly, that's not actually the biggest compliment in the world, because the first-gen was a bloated, gargantuan monster. The 2015 Q7 is a touch shorter and a bit lower, but it's still one of the physically largest SUVs in the class; Audi's masterstroke here is making it look compact so that it's no longer a domineering brute. Yet we're not entirely sure about the second-gen Q7's exterior. The 'singleframe' grille at the front is too large for our tastes, its stance is apologetic rather than brash and that it manages to make 19-inch wheels appear utterly lost in the rear arches is a worry. The overall effect is of a car that looks like someone attached an A6 Avant to a compressed air machine before blowing it up a few psi, although we will concede the Q7 is nicer to behold in reality than it is in images.
All of the aesthetic praise for the biggest Audi is to be heaped onto the interior, which is a familiar story when it comes to Ingolstadt product. However, the German company is determined not to rest on its laurels and so this one is another blinder, the addition of the TT's glorious 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit TFT instrument cluster being the main highlight (it's a €913 option on the SE but standard on SE Business and S line models). Everywhere you lay your hands feels top notch and soft touch, while aesthetically it's pleasing but reserved, the main visual draw for passengers being the Volkswagen Passat-like chrome line running the width of the dashboard through the air vents. In terms of space, there's nothing to complain about - the interior of the Q7 is huge and seven people should fit in no bother, although luggage space is at a premium with a full human complement on board.
While it is accepted that no large SUV can ever truly be a great-handling machine, there are vehicles in this sector that will entertain their drivers more than the Audi - specifically, the Porsche Cayenne, the BMW X5 and the Range Rover Sport. You can cover ground reasonably quickly in the Q7 but there's precious little reward for driver or passengers in doing so.
What the Q7 does do really well is comfort. All the cars we tested on the international launch event, including the 'base-spec' SE models with the lower-powered diesel engine as driven here, were fitted with optional adaptive air suspension, so we can't yet comment on the standard passive set-up, but as tested the Q7 has a supple, cosseting ride that's coupled to a dearth of body roll. The result is a car that's a genuine pleasure to waft about in, helped by limited amounts of road roar and wind buffeting noise making their way into the cabin, while the refined diesel engine and extremely smooth eight-speed Tiptronic auto are both excellent. For the average Q7 user, these cultured manners will be more than enough to merit a purchase.
Something properly to commend Audi for is the weight reduction over the old model, as up to 325kg has been stripped out of the Q7 for this generation. That does mean better emissions and economy figures while supposedly helping performance, but the 218hp 3.0 TDI especially doesn't feel as quick as the data might suggest. It also sounds coarser than the 272hp version of this engine when being treated to more than half-throttle, which is surprising. We will revisit that when the Q7 arrives in Ireland.
What you get for your Money:
Audi Ireland is offering three trims of SE, SE Business and S line, with increments of €4,400 and €6,900 over SE respectively for the two higher trims. There are three engines too, the two power derivatives of the 3.0 TDI (218hp/500Nm or 272hp/600Nm) and the 333hp V6 petrol TFSI. We tested the entry level 218hp SE, which is pretty well-specified as it is - MMI Navigation Plus, Voice Control, Audi Drive Select, cruise control, heated leather seats, a powered tailgate, Xenon headlights and of course the seven seats are all part of a long kit list. Its price compares well to a D5 Volvo XC90 and it looks a bargain up against a Range Rover Sport SDV6. The options list on the Audi is like a Tolstoy epic and it includes four-wheel steer, should you want it.
For the target buyer, the new Audi Q7 is spot on the money, and as more than 500,000 of the first-gen found buyers globally since 2005, we've no reason to doubt the new model will eclipse that figure. The Audi SUV has a large, clever and attractive cabin, lots of standard and optional equipment covering both driver assistance and passenger comfort, and a solid dynamic set-up that's safe, dependable and serene. Buyers have never had it so good, as there's some very strong competition in this marketplace now.