Audi's all-new Q7 has arrived in Ireland with seven seats, a lot less weight than before and a remit to beat the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 at their own game. Our first impressions of the new luxury SUV on Irish soil are favourable indeed.
In the Metal:
I'd be the first to admit that I was quite underwhelmed when Audi initially released photographs of its all-new Q7. The over-processed images and bright blue paintwork made the big SUV look ungainly and plain awkward from some angles, but seeing it for the first time in daylight (and in more subtle hues) confirms that it can be a handsome car - especially so on the 21-inch alloys of our test vehicle. It certainly has presence in S line guise.
Some may not find the exterior to their liking, but we don't expect the Q7's cabin to divide opinion, as it's awash with high-quality materials, the most tactile switchgear in the business and plenty of design flourishes to keep owners and onlookers alike entertained for hours. There is, however, a lot going on. Where the Virtual Cockpit in the Audi TT and new Audi R8 reduce clutter in the cockpits, it doesn't really do the same for the Q7, though it's a joy to use of course. It's supplemented by a large retractable display screen on top of the dashboard and Audi's MMI system is augmented with a big touchpad ahead of the gear lever on the centre console. Above that are the wondrously tactile controls for the climate control. Space in the middle row of seats is expansive in all directions, though the rear-most two chairs are short on legroom, as is the norm in this segment. Most buyers will fold them away the majority of the time, which can be done by holding down buttons in the boot or inside the rear doors. It's slick and with them stowed there's a huge 770-litre boot.
We'll conduct a more thorough review of the new Q7 later in the year, but even a brief drive of the car at the Irish launch near Slane was enough to confirm a few things. Audi quotes a 325kg weight reduction over this car's predecessor and it's immediately obvious in the way the new Q7 drives. It accelerates, stops, changes direction and deals with bumps in an entirely different manner, making it an accomplished all-rounder whether you're cruising up and down the country using the motorway or taking the scenic route over unmaintained back roads. Even on 21-inch wheels the suspension dealt with abrupt undulations and poor road surfaces, but the most impressive facet of this car's make-up on first acquaintance was its refinement. It isolates occupants from the world outside in terms of wind and road noise, plus the engine note is reduced to a distant murmur, even when you plant the throttle to the carpet. Do that and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how rapid the Q7 can be. And more good news for those that enjoy driving: our first impressions suggest that the steering is quite good too.
What you get for your Money:
Pricing for the new Audi Q7 starts at €72,975 on-the-road, for the 3.0 TDI 218 SE model. All versions come with quattro four-wheel drive and the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox as standard. The 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine is offered in 218- and 272hp states of tune (the latter costing €6,000 extra across all trim levels) and a single petrol engine is available, the 3.0-litre TFSI unit producing 333hp, which starts at €81,350.
The Audi Q7 SE comes as standard with auto boot opening, 18-inch alloy wheels, seven seats with electric third row operation, Drive Select, Pre Sense City, electric folding and heated door mirrors, a four-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, auto lights and wipers, Xenon headlights, Cricket leather upholstery, heated front seats with electric adjustment, acoustic glazing, cruise control, front and rear Park Assist, MMI Navigation Plus with touchpad and two-zone climate control.
It costs €4,400 to upgrade to SE Business, bringing with it 19-inch wheels, Valcona leather upholstery, sports seats, colour-coded bumpers, Oak Grey interior inlays and the Virtual Cockpit. For another €2,500 buyers can opt for the S line model, featuring exterior and interior upgrades specific to the model, such as 20-inch alloy wheels, a three-spoke steering wheel, LED headlights and embossed Valcona leather.
All three trim levels are available with each of the three engine specifications, though the S line variant tested here with 21-inch alloy wheels is given its own designation as the larger wheels increase emissions. For the record, all diesel versions of the Q7 other than that with 21-inch rims reside in Band C, costing €390 a year to tax. The petrol versions are in Band E.
Audi's new Q7 has arrived at a good time, when sales of large SUVs are on the up once more. Nonetheless, it's a luxury SUV for the times we live in, with less brash styling and much-improved efficiency. Of course, the reduced weight helping achieve that also makes the Q7 faster and more agile than before. SUV buyers with in the region of €80,000 to spend have never had it so good.