2017 Audi Q7 First Drive
A Huge Leap Forward, Yet Pleasantly Familiar
EngineSC 3.0L V6
Power333 HP / 325 LB-FT
0-60 Time6.1 Seconds (est)
Curb Weight4,700 LBS (est)
Cargo73.3 CU-FT (max)
MPG18 City / 25 HWY (est)
As far as revolutions go, the 2017 Q7 certainly looks new. It resembles a tall station wagon more than ever, at least in European trim. A little tweaking of the design wand has left the rear end boxy and angular. Our test models use an adaptive air suspension, and the the "all-road" setting lifts the Q7 about an inch, to the normal ride height for US models. Thus raised, the big Q looks more like an SUV.
This Q7 represents the first of the Volkswagen Group's MLB-platform cars. Lighter and said to be more dynamic, MLB will underpin everything from the next-gen A4 to performance and luxury SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne, and Bentley Bentayga. With the structural improvements comes a diet heavy in aluminum, the prime reason for the previously-mentioned weight savings. When outfitted for our content and crash-safety specification, US-bound models will still be about 500 pounds lighter than before.
But dramatic weight-savings isn't the Q7's only trick. The adaptive air suspension significantly changes the character of the Q7, especially in the sportiest Dynamic model. There's an optional all-wheel steering feature that improves turning radius, and helps with high-speed stability. This is not to be confused with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive, which along with a panoramic sunroof and seven seats, comes standard on all stateside models.
Under the hood, things aren't so different. Both available engines are reworked but largely the same. The supercharged 3.0-liter gas engine still makes 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, but it's not as thirsty as it used to be. Expect a two or three mile-per-gallon bump once official EPA ratings arrive. That engine, as well as Audi's reworked 3.0-liter V6 TDI – good for 260 hp and 443 lb-ft once outfitted for the US – are mated to the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed transmission.
The Q7's driving character greatly depends on where it is pulling power from. While the diesel model is capable, turbo lag cuts back on the satisfaction we normally derive from oil burners. Audi did a great job of making the 3.0-liter TDI quiet, but it lacks the elegant, sporty note of the TFSI gas engine on aggressive acceleration. The TFSI currently accounts for 80 percent of all Q7s sold. With power at the ready, this is the engine we'd opt for if fuel economy or towing are not foremost concerns.
Regardless of which engine you choose, the Q7 will capably take a corner (we had our share while ascending and descending the Alpine switchbacks), and feels far more nimble than its large frame would suggest. The TDI is expected to hit 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds, while the TFSI should take a hair over six seconds.
There are significant advances in the Q7's interior tech (or the cranium, if you will). Audi's Virtual Cockpit makes its first SUV appearance here, complementing the high-resolution screen on the center stack. The instrument panel and guages have all been replaced with a digital skin (think Cadillac XTS) which can double as a second screen with Google Earth navigation. Critically, that puts driving directions in the driver's sightline. Steering wheel buttons allow you to access all the menus you would otherwise navigate from the control knob, though it takes some fiddling to get acquainted. Audi also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. And rear passengers, especially kids, will delight in the Audi tablet, an optional iPad-like device with 10.1-inch screens, powered by a Tegra 4 processor. The tablets works both with the in-car systems as well as give media and entertainment options. And unlike an iPad, you shouldn't have to worry about leaving the Audi tablet in the car on a freezing night.
There are a host of new assist systems on the Q7 that Audi says are the next step towards an autonomous car. These include a Traffic Jam Assist, which acts like an advanced active cruise control to do most of the driving at speeds of up to 37 mph. There are also the latest iterations of the lane-keeping assist system, pre-collision assist, and more.
Perhaps the smallest surprise is how nice the interior is, if only because we expect as much from recent Audis. There's an especially attractive and sporty leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel flanked by shift paddles on either side. Our tester had oak and aluminum inlaid trim, an Alcantara headliner, and leather everywhere. (We half-expected upon opening the glove compartment a sea-scroll of never-ending pillowy-soft leather would billow out.)
The one drawback to the Q7 interior is the third row. While there's an electronic button to help fold the second-row seat and improve access, ingress and egress is a bit of chore. And the rear is not a desirable place for adults, especially if there are taller passengers in the second-row seats. On the flip side, a standard feature will be electronically folding third row seats, meaning you can effortlessly have a large, flat cargo area in a matter of seconds.
When the new Q7 arrives early next year, it will offer a more dynamic, fuel-efficient, premium, and technological experience. The Q7 excels as a city tourer, but capably transforms instantly into a sporty machine. The Q7 sheds more than 10 percent of its body weight compared to the current generation, and feels more dynamic and nimble as a result. And with new advanced assistance tech, a next-gen MMI and connectivity, revised and modern styling, and an interior we've come to expect as the standard bearer, the Q7 makes a strong case as the most alluring SUV in its segment.
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