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Audi Q7 luxury 4WD

Remember four-wheel-drives? Hulking, slabby, graceless sods of things derived from - and sometimes even called - Jeep.

They were the vehicle for the man on the land or the sort of suburban man whose wife had to restrain him from wearing an Akubra in public.

Then the nomenclature changed, as nomenclature does. Now there's a thing called Sport Utility Vehicles - SUVs. And they're the preserve of ... well, just about everyone it seems.

And they're not necessarily hulking, slabby, graceless sods of things; increasingly they come in luxury guise with all the accoutrements one demands in a prestige sedan, including handling that can vaguely approximate one.

While in engineering terms, the latter is the greatest triumph of Audi's Q7 - the vehicle that finally gets the marque into the segment owned by BMW, Mercedes Benz and Lexus - how it drives is possibly the least relevant thing about it.

Pity that, because the Q7 is a rewarding and seductive drive even for one convinced that SUVs are part of a dark plot to sap our nation's morals and turn us into globulous Americans.

For a cert some Q7s will be driven - in the loosest possible sense of the word - by people in whose ability-shy hands it will be not an SUV so much as an UAS. Ie: an Urban Assault Vehicle.

Certainly Q7s will be beloved by the over manicured creatures who congest the streets outside private schools before the hours of 9am and 3pm and chaps whose off roads travails extend no further than the up ramp of a CBD car park.

So among the Q7's many virtues, perhaps the foremost is that it has the ability to save we ordinary mortals who can't afford one from those who can.

The vast wing mirrors, which would normally be used to check recently salonned faces, not only detect the presence of other road users but light up and beep a warning when the driver is about to commit a typically non-indicatored SUV lane barge.

If per chance this warning is missed, Side Assist monitors the area to the rear. Adaptive Cruise Control can be set to brake the car should you be too enchanted by your reflection to see traffic ahead.

A rear view camera - fitted as standard across the range - not only reveals the presence of innocent bystanders but incorporates reversing guidelines into the image.

It even illuminates at night. An array of banshee sensors is triggered if the 2.2 tonner draws too near another object, be it metal or flesh and bone.

For these things, non-buyers can be grateful; for these and the fact that the Q7 is not just another aesthetically challenged SUV.

It looks like an A6 Avant on growth hormones – “Quattro XXL” as we've called it before. And this is why the too big, too square Mercedes Benz ML and BMW's angular and planed X5 will sleep less easily.

As for Lexus's RX330, well, it lacks the illogical but very real lure of a German badge, which really shouldn't mean anything, but seems to for some.

Indeed the Q7 has been designed within a millimetre of its life; from the Walter da Silva-penned single frame grille, its lines flow elegantly and eye-pleasingly.

Within it's typically luxo, with standard leather, Multi Media Interface and six speed multitronic auto transmission.

The “entry-level” $85,700 3.0 TDI quattro can be optioned into triple figures. So long and varied is the options list - not least in colour and trim - that few Q7s are likely to be identical.

You can have active air suspension, which adjusts ride height and comfort at the twiddle of a dial. You can have a sixth seat or a seventh and the world's longest sunroof.

You can wait until November to pay $84,900 for a 3.6 FSI (direct injection petrol) variant or you can find $116,800 right now for the 4.2 FSI V8 - a 275kW/440Nm version of the stunner that propels the glorious RS4 sedan. And there's a thunderous V12 turbo diesel someway down the line.

But the unadulterated V6 turbo diesel is not only the best value for money, it's the best of the two available.

It offers almost 30 load/seating combination. So it's surely all the SUV you'd ever need.

That V6 oiler packs 171kW and a whopping 500Nm from 1750-2750rpm to achieve a claimed 0-100kmh time of 9.1 seconds. So it's fast enough.

Claimed combined urban/open road fuel consumption is 10.5L/100km. So it's fairly frugal.

Even without the trick but costly air suspension option, it offers fine handling, true grip and better road feel in real world conditions. So it's hard to imagine a better compromise between a car and an SUV.

BMW have a new X5 coming hither, but that is then, this is now and the Audi is the perfect vehicle to discreetly charm the bourgeoisie.

The only problem will be buying one. Audi Australia's 2006 allocation of 650 vehicles has been pre-sold. They modestly expect to do double that next year, but they'll surely go better.

Thankfully when Q7s do appear in numbers, the rest of us won't need to avert our eyes or dive for cover.

Continued: the Audi Q7 outback test

Full Specs Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro

Full Specs Audi Q7 3.6 FSI quattro

Full Specs Audi Q7 4.2 FSI quattro

Paul Pottinger is a senior roadtester on the CARSguide team, and also editor of the Sunday Telegraph CARSguide. A version of this review, as well as other news, reviews and analysis will appear in the

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