IT’s not so long ago that I attended the launch of the all-new Audi Q7 and reported my very positive findings in these pages. Since then, I have had the opportunity to sample the new SUV for a week on home turf, an occupation which can sometimes lead to changed opinions as launch routes and everyday usage can be very different beasts.
In this instance, as will be revealed in this brief report, my original glowing assessment passes muster with more than a bit to spare as the Q7 proved to be a consummate cruiser and ever-so-easy to live with in the daily grind despite its not inconsiderable dimensions.
The straighter-edged styling, compared with the previous Q7 model which frankly didn’t titivate my senses, just looks so much slicker and most importantly, the newcomer is significantly lighter too which improves so many aspects of the driving experience, not to mention economy of operation.
The test unit was coated in a gleaming metallic brown finish that confirmed Audi’s reputation for unmatched assembly standards, an impression reinforced by flawless shut lines and by doors that opened and closed with a satisfying precision.
The interior, in this instance decked out in an alcantara/leather mix, can be configured to seat up to seven lucky occupants who will revel in a cabin that can be described as a masterclass in simple yet classy execution.
Those occupants will have good reason to feel they are looking down on most passing traffic and not just because of the imposing ride height.
The feel good factor generated by that gorgeously-trimmed interior is hard to overlook and just about the only thing I could point a finger at is the fact that the second row of seats features rather flat backrests. This is a common glitch in vehicles with folding seats but it does mean the occupants don’t benefit from the lumbar support that is offered by more shapely pews. And on a point of detail, just open an ashtray lid and acknowledge with smug satisfaction how good the soft-touch mechanism feels.
In terms of equipment, the Q7 lacks for nothing but like all Audis, it can be configured to suit your tastes if not your pocket, so please visit www.audi.co.za to get the low down on just what can be done to reflect your personality.
Huge 285/45R20 tyres are wrapped around delectably-styled multi-spoke alloy wheels and if you thought the low profile configuration would trigger a hard ride you’d be wrong .
This vehicle’s air suspension offers a number of driving modes but whichever is chosen, the quality of the ride is exceptional as is the isolation of road and wind roar, not to mention mechanical disturbances.
Superb refinement is the order of the day and while there’s no escaping the fact that this is not a low-slung sports car, the Q7 handles adroitly and is very easy to manoeuvre in tight situations thanks to effortless steering, the feel of which can also be configured to suit personal preferences.
The 3.0 V6 turbo diesel engine ranks as the smoothest oil burner I’ve ever experienced and apart from offering sufficient punch to get you to 100 in just 6.3 seconds, it spins with alacrity and never emits more than a pleasant hum even when under load. Fuel consumption varied from 8.5l/100km on the open road to 12.2 in town.
Combine this lovely motor with a smooth-acting and responsive tiptronic auto box that drives through Audi’s famed quattro system and you’ve got yourself a touring vehicle that rivals luxury saloons for silky delivery but which offers the benefit of pretty serious off-road ability too.
Without a doubt, the Q7 provided one of the most pleasing driving experiences of the last year but there remains one question to answer.
How does it compare with the Volvo XC90? The two are so similar in so many ways albeit that the Swede projects a softer, less Teutonic image. You might think I’m trying to dodge the issue by bringing up the old chestnut of horses for courses, but I’m not going to do that.
I’m giving my vote to the Audi for one very good reason – that 3.0 litre engine, when compared with Volvo’s excellent but harder-working 2.0 turbo petrol mill, offers a more relaxed power delivery when pressed and it delivers the goods on less fuel too.
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