Looking for a great all-round SUV that’s perfect for the open road? You’d struggle to find a better vehicle than the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI.
The first-generation Audi Q7 was a quintessential luxury barge. It was a large, lumbering SUV that offered plenty of space and opulence, but wasn’t terribly fun to drive. This was unfortunate, since it offered some stonking engine options. You could buy the Q7 with a six-litre V12 (yes, V12) oilburner that delivered 368kW of power and 1 000Nm of torque, though this engine was eventually dropped. There was also a 4.2-litre V8 diesel that delivered 250Nm and 760Nm, and a three-litre turbo petrol that generated 245kW and 440Nm. There was no shortage of oomph, then.
But while many things, the Q7 was no sports car, it was too big and lurching to make proper use of 368kW and 1 000Nm. A luxury SUV needs some power and torque, but not 1 000Nm, especially if it’s a vehicle that cares far more about comfort than handling. The original Q7 was not a vehicle that enjoyed corners. The latest version of Audi’s big SUV is a very different animal. For one thing, there are no crazy engines delivering 400kW or 1 000Nm of torque. It’s a more sane and sensible vehicle. There’s a two-litre petrol that offers 185kW and 370Nm of torque, and a three-litre TDI that delivers 183kW and 600Nm. To be sure, these are still impressive figures, but not quite as extreme as a six-litre V12. You get all the power you need, without having to spend a fortune on fuel. Overall, these engines provide a good balance between performance and practicality. The diesel in particular is fantastic, with peak torque (600Nm) created as low down as 1 500r/min.
Moreover, with the latest Q7 you have a large SUV that’s actually fun to drive. It is lighter and nimbler than its predecessor, and offers an optional adaptive air suspension that is comfortable yet sporty. The Audi’s multi-material construction saves up to 71kg in weight. The doors, including the complete outer shell, are made of aluminium, which save an additional 24kg while engineers have exploited large weight-saving potential in the chassis of 27kg at the front and 40kg at the rear suspension. The powertrain contributes a saving of 20kg and the exhaust system, 19kg. So, what you have is a large SUV that doesn’t feel particularly big or unwieldly when you’re behind the steering wheel. Most of the time, it offers a pleasant and relaxed drive, but if you’re in the mood for a bit of fun, the Q7 can provide that. It isn’t an insane performance SUV like the BMW X6M, but it doesn’t want to be. The Q7 is all about effortless travel. It is a grand tourer in the true sense of the term. It gobbles up kilometres and sips fuel while doing it.
The Audi Q7 is a fantastic long-distance vehicle and a huge step up from the previous model. The original Q7 was boat-like. The new one isn’t. It’s still large, but is 37mm shorter and 15mm slimmer than its predecessor. Thanks to great styling, it looks even smaller and sportier than that. Open the luggage area, however, and you’ll be surprised by the space. With the second row of seats up, storage space is pegged at 890 litres. Fold them down, and this swells to 2 075 litres. But what about off-road performance? Well, for a luxury SUV, the Q7 performs well. It’s not designed to tackle serious obstacles, obviously, but it can definitely handle a bad dirt road. It boasts Audi’s well-known Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and it can be specced with tyres that have enough rubber to prevent disaster on gravel.
Many luxury SUVs, particularly those focused on performance (we’re looking at you BMW X6M and Merc GLE 43 AMG), have low-profile tyres that can’t go anywhere near gravel. The Audi doesn’t provide the performance of the BMW or Mercedes, but what it lacks in terms of cornering ability and braking distance, it makes up for in practicality. You can set off in the Audi without having to worry too much about the roads you’ll encounter. With the BMW and Merc, you don’t want to venture very far from smooth tarmac. The Audi Q7 is a grand, comfortable and economical long-distance tourer.
Open-road rating 8 out of 10
The good Practical, frugal and easy to live with.
The bad Perhaps a tad too sensible and sober to put a huge grin on your face.
Specifications – Audi Q7 3.0 Tdi
Engine 2 967cc V6 Turbodiesel
Power 183kw @ 2 900r/Min
Torque 600nm @ 1 500r/Min
Transmission Eight-Speed Automatic
4wd System Audi Quattro
Fuel Tank 100 Litres
Fuel Consumption 5.7 Litres (Claimed)
Tyre Size 255/60 R18
Spare Yes (Full-Size)
Luggage Space 890 –m2 075 Litres
Price R1 027 000