Yes yes yes, Oh YES: superb engine, quiet cabin, feels expensive
Not so much: the VW scandal, possible resale issues
I can picture the Q7 in a Bond flick. It would be driven by a heavily tattooed muscle-for-hire thug. In the back seat, a rancid villain would be running his evil empire shielded from the law by the dark tinted privacy windows. There is no risk of accidently starting WWIII by pressing the wrong button on his tablet. He won’t be unceremoniously jostled by errant potholes, because he wouldn’t feel them. The ride is as smooth as a baby’s bum and the cabin as quiet as a church.
Of course, the Audi doesn’t need fettling by Q branch because the Quartermaster couldn’t come up with much more than is standard from the factory. If the evil villain wanted more, he could check all the options boxes costing many many farthings.
That’s a great shame because it is from the driver’s seat where the true joy lies.
The driver gets to choose what info he is looking at on the big centre LCD. It replaces conventional dials, or he can choose the pop-up screen in the centre stack. Some info, such as the Satnav, can be displayed in one or both locations. Like the fabulous TT, the driver’s panel completely replaces all of the awkward dials and gauges. You can minimize the speedo/tacho dials to favour other displays. If you’re really keen you can have most of the screen for the Satnav. Even in that mode you get all of the info you need to make the usual driving decisions. It makes even the most ham-fisted bogan seem capable and intelligent.
There is only 1 engine option, the 200kw V6 turbo-diesel with a stupefying 600Nm of torque. it can pull this 2060kg car up a 60% slope with 7 people on board. I can’t imagine why even the most desperate despot would want to do that, but it’s about options. The cargo hold has a couple of occasional seats operated by electric buttons located just inside the electric tailgate. If the despot decides on a bit of light gun-running, he can press another button in the cargo hold to lower the rear end of the Q7 (in the air suspension models). It’s much easier on the back as some of those crates hold quite a heavy load. It saves all the brouhaha and puffing trying to lift heavy things.
Q7 seems to be one of the few cars not affected by the fact that limo companies have bought them in droves. They ferry busy VIPs from their private jets to their deluxe suites in town. I wondered why so many movie stars seemed to prefer Q7 hire cars, until I drove one. On the highway the Q7 crouches slightly, as if that’s going to make any difference to the drag co-efficient on a car that size.
You might expect the Audi to wallow about the place like a grange-drinking politician, and it does, even if the sportier suspension mode is selected. This doesn’t overly concern me. If I wanted to go quicker to 100kph than 6.5 seconds, I’d probably buy something else. Even with body roll, you never feel like the tyres will let go.
You don’t often find a car that all passengers compliment without prompting. I had occasion to do an airport run. I’m not sure why all international flights arrive at Sydney Airport at 7am but this practice is one which should be abolished. Kingsford Smith International instigated a new practice where short term parking can be had in an organized way. You can drive into a parking spot then out the other side after you’ve collected your PAX (that’s airport talk for passengers innit). Of course, there was room for 4 beefy lads and some super-gay-sized luggage. You know what queens are like? Never pack one shirt when 50 will do. The chaps had been on a boozy Thai adventure and had come back complete with tchotchkes and hangovers. I was pleased with the universal praise heaped upon my humble people SUV.
There are a few things worth noting:
1: The Q7 takes up most of a parking spot. This is no problem as the reverse camera has many modes, one of which is a 360° aerial view. It’s a great idea but not so easy to use around posts and pillars. For some reason the posts are a bit hard to see. They’re much easier to navigate using the windows and a door mirror or two. There is an automated parking option if you’re completely useless.
2: The fuel consumption, which has been the subject of much talk, is excellent. This 2 tonne behemoth fairly whisks round town doing well under 10L/100k, more or less. On the highway it does even less and could do the Sydney/Melbourne run on a single tank.
3: The Q7 feels like a pucker limo
After doing the city thing for a few days we took a spin down into the gorge and along the switchbacks into Kangaroo valley. It’s a nice spot for a weekend getaway and has some brilliant roads, but a word of warning; they should be treated with respect. Those hairpins and seeping corners have magnificent views, which shouldn’t be enjoyed simultaneously. There is an ancient bridge leading into Kangaroo valley proper. In the tiny settlement is a small but tasteful collection of touristy shops, eateries and a quite decent pub. Surrounded by mountains on one side, and farming land on the other, it’s the embodiment of bucolic beauty Australian style. The roads are in various states of repair, but even the worst of the battle-scarred bitumen was smoothed out especially in comfort mode. We rolled into town in time for a quiet lunch and small shandy. It’s exactly the way I could imagine an Audi owner to be enjoying a few snatched moments of relaxation.
We also popped in to the HARS at Albion Park Rail (near Wollongong).
Above Left: view from the Kangaroo Valley road. Above Right: bridge into Kangaroo Valley village
Above: The Q7 in Kangaroo Valley pub carpark. Above right: Kangaroo Valley
Below: The pub at Kangaroo Valley
Below: Historic Aviation Restoration Society at Albion Park Rail
Below: The City of Canberra (747-438) and the Q7 at HARS
The different driving modes make little difference to the handling so you may as well be comfortable. The exception is the terrain selection and descent control. The may well come in handy and the air suspension gives up to 245mm of ground clearance. If you need to, it can wade into water 535mm deep. Think about that for a moment; the Q7 can be over half a metre deep in a creek. Why?
You have Quattro AWD which makes a huge difference to handling and grip. The smart system makes sure there is as little slippage as possible and is the same as is used in other Audi road cars. It imbues a sense of calm and confidence in every condition encountered. As well as that, the cabin was eerily quiet. Most of the time, the loudest noise was the air coming from the climate-control vents.
A few final words about the cabin;
It is beautiful. The leather feels soft, the metal highlights look tasteful, and the genuine fake imitation woodgrain looks classy. Normally, I loathe fake wood but here it looks completely in-keeping. Of course, like all but the very top uber-expensive luxury models, not everything you think is leather is actually leather. Hard wearing vinyl is perfectly matched and is used in places of high wear like the outside of seat bolsters, and in areas of low contact such as the rear surface of seats. If you can’t tell, does it make any difference?
The centre console houses Mission Control. There’s a nifty touch pad and an electronic gear selector. We were all frightened by the truly diabolical BMW Idrive in its first iteration. That 7 series made the simplest chores fiendishly difficult. No so for the Audi system. Nothing is more than a few clicks away and most things are where you expect them to be. You rarely have to go into the menu while driving but if you do it is best left to a passenger. There is voice control, but like most voice control, is like a naughty child being told it can’t have another lolly. It simply repeats “try again” or something equally annoying.
There only a few concerns and they are those relating to the trouble at Volkswagen HQ. Some idiot was fudging the emissions figures. This will be fixed, but at what cost to fuel consumption and reputation? If the engines could register those figures while using only a whisper of fuel and producing that much power, there would be no need for figure-fudging.
There is a further problem reported about some engines and their cam shaft lobes. Most cam shafts are milled from a single piece of metal, but VW uses lobes pressed into the shaft. Presumably they’re held in place by a dowel of some kind. The dowel has sheared off allowing the lobe to come away. The resulting damage could be substantial in engines where pistons and valves occupy the same space at different times. I haven’t yet had the chance to ask Audi about these issues but I’d recommend caution rather than panic. We’ve been reporting for years that fuel figures and manufacturer claims didn’t match, but buyers kept buying anyway. Since nothing has changed, the only thing that could be a problem is people running about the place with their hands in the air screaming “we’ll all be rooned”. This would make the resale value of all VW brands plummet. It won’t do the rest of the industry much good either. However, buyers have a right to expect the claims made regarding any of the specs to be honest and accurate. In fact, it is the law.
The revelations haven’t affected my view on VW and its sub brands. It hasn’t made their vehicles less worthy, but buyers will be the judges. If I could do one thing, it would be to bitchslap the bloke who thought faking figures was a good idea.
The Q7 is around $115 grand on the road and that’s no small potatoes, but considering what you get for the money, it isn’t too bad. If you want a cheaper SUV, buy one but it will not drive like the Q7 does. Nor will it make you feel special.
Would I buy one? Yes, with some trepidation, and only because I fear second-hand buyers will panic.
Price: from $114,260 (including $7,673 luxury car tax) on road NSW
Engine: V6 turbo diesel, common rail injection, Euro 6
Trans: 8 speed auto with lockup converter