You never want to be left behind by the competition, especially in the automotive world, where things change at a breakneck pace. Case in point: The Audi Q7.
If Audi is well-known for its subtle mid-life facelifts that make you question the difference between new and old, then the second-generation Q7 is the exception to the rule.
Make no mistake, the large SUV has been given a major facelift – one that it needed to keep up with its new-generation rivals.
So, has it been worth the extra effort? We put the updated Q7's volume-selling 50 TDI variant to the test to find out.
Audi Q7 2020: 3.0 TDI QUATTRO (160kW)
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
Good on Audi for throwing the kitchen sink at the second-generation Q7. As far as mid-life facelifts go, this is a really good one.
Up front, the headlights, 'Singleframe' grille and bumper have all been redesigned to ensure the Q7 isn't out of place in Audi's new-generation line-up. Either way, this is a large SUV with presence in spades.
Changes around the side are less drastic, limited to new sills and fresh sets of alloy wheels, including the 20-inch items seen here, which we reckon are pretty unexciting.
The headlights, 'Singleframe' grille and bumper have all been redesigned to ensure the Q7 isn’t out of place in Audi’s new-generation line-up. (image: Justin Hilliard)
The rear end is the best angle thanks to the redesigned tail-lights and rear diffuser, both of which look great. We particularly like the former's segmented design, shared with the headlights.
That said, the real story is happening inside, where Audi has well and truly flipped the script. The old cabin was ageing well in some regards, but not others, and that was reason enough for a complete overhaul.
If the new interior design looks familiar, it's because it is, having been lifted from the much newer – and mechanically related – Q8 large SUV.
The rear end is the best angle thanks to the redesigned tail-lights and rear diffuser, both of which look great. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Needless to say, it's a technological tour de force, with not one, not two, but three large display screens dominating the cockpit.
Of course, Audi's much-loved version of a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is one of them, although it's running new software now.
What is completely new, however, is the pair of stacked central touchscreens, with the top unit measuring 10.1 inches in diameter and the lower item checking in at 8.6 inches apiece.
Metallic trims are used throughout to brighten up the interior, while gloss-black finishes are liberally applied to the dashboard and centre console. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Both are powered by Audi's latest-generation multimedia system, with the former handling most functions, while the latter is responsible for the climate controls.
Aside from being a fingerprint magnet, this set-up works pretty damn well. Yes, some functions require a few too many taps to get to, but the acoustic and haptic feedback bring some unexpected tactility to what is a largely buttonless system.
Look past the obvious, though, as it's more or less business as usual for the Q7, which is chock full of lovely materials, including the 'Cricket' leather upholstery seen here.
The old cabin was ageing well in some regards, but not others, and that was reason enough for a complete overhaul. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Take for instance the soft-touch plastics used on the upper dashboard and door shoulders. Even the hard plastics found lower down look and feel suspiciously good!
Metallic trims are used throughout to brighten up the interior, while gloss-black finishes are liberally applied to the dashboard and centre console. Frankly, we could do without them as they are fingerprint magnets. Yep, keep a microfibre cloth in the glove box.
Measuring 5063mm long, 1970mm wide and 1741mm tall in facelifted form, the Q7 is large for a large SUV, which goes some way to explaining why it's only available with seven seats.
That said, the third row is more of temporary solution than a permanent one, even for kids.
Granted I'm an adult that's 184cm tall, and therefore not the target audience here, it's still tight back there, albeit up with the best in class.
With the second slid all the way forward, I manage to have my knees pressed up against the seat backrest, while headroom is severely limited.
Footwell space is okay, and so too is toe-room. Again, children will cope, but only on shorter journeys.
An undisclosed amount of space is available with all seven seats in use. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Cargo capacity with the power-folding third row stowed is generous, at 865L. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Cargo capacity can be expanded up to 2050L with the middle bench stowed. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Ingress and egress to the third row is made easier by the 40/20/40 split-fold middle bench, which can tumble forward easily with the pull of a tab and then a latch. It's not glamorous, but it's doable.
Conversely, the second row is spacious and easy to get in and out of, even when set up to make the rear occupants as comfortable as possible.
Behind our driving position, around 10cm of legroom is available, depending on the positioning of the bench. No matter what, though, there's plenty of toe-room, and two inches of headroom is on offer, despite the panoramic sunroof.
Indeed, this is one of very few SUVs that can accommodate three adults abreast in relative comfort, even with the transmission tunnel reducing footwell space.
The door bins are simply massive. (image: Justin Hilliard)
The door bins are simply massive, with the front items capable of accommodating a large bottle and two regular ones, while their rear siblings can take one of each.
Two cupholders are located between the driver and front passenger, while another pair is hidden in the middle row's fold-down armrest. Rear occupants are treated to two smaller items.
Connectivity-wise, in an old-school twist, four USB-A ports are split between the first and second rows. In both instances, a 12-volt power outlet is found nearby.
The former's input options are located in the central storage bin alongside SD and SIM card readers, while the latter's reside at the rear of the centre console, below the central air vents and climate controls.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 9/10
The entry-level 45 TDI variant kicks off the new Q7 line-up from $101,900, plus on-road costs – $4100 higher than its direct predecessor, although Audi claims more than $15,000 of value has been added.
Meanwhile, the mid-range 50 TDI version tested here costs $6000 more than before, at $112,900, in exchange for more than $20,000 of added value. It can also be had in S line guise for an $11,000 premium.
Standard equipment not already mentioned in the 50 TDI includes matrix LED headlights, dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, 285/45 tyres, a tyre repair kit, auto-folding side mirrors (with heating and auto-dimming), and a hands-free power-operated tailgate.
It has fresh sets of alloy wheels, including the 20-inch items seen here, which we reckon are pretty unexciting. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Inside there's, satellite navigation (with live traffic updates), Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay support, digital radio, a windshield-projected head-up display, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, four-zone climate control, a power-adjustable steering column, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting.
Both variants also feature a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which consists of a belt alternator starter (BAS) connected to the crankshaft, and a 10Ah lithium-ion battery pack located under the boot floor.
Audi says the aforementioned 48V mild-hybrid system reduces fuel consumption by 0.7L/100km thanks to its coasting ability, which sees the engine turn off for up to 40 seconds between 55km/h and 160km/h. It also engages idle-stop from 22km/h. In reality, it all works pretty well.
During our week of testing, we averaged 8.9L/100km with limited highway driving, which is a pretty solid result. Naturally, longer journeys will see that figure come closer to the claim, if not exceed it.
It's also worth noting the standard fuel tank takes 75L of diesel, although the optional item accommodates 85L. The 50 TDI also requires AdBlue, with a 24L tank on board.
For reference, the 45 TFSI manages 7.0L/100km and 184g/km.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control (with stop and go functionality), driver attention alert, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, surround-view cameras, and front and rear parking sensors.
Other standard safety equipment includes eight airbags (dual front, front and rear side, and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, among others.
It comes with a tyre repair kit. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
All Q7 variants come with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is well short of the premium market's new five-year standard.
Audi also bundles in three years of roadside assistance, although this term can be extended up to nine years if the vehicle is serviced at an authorised dealership, which is nice.
Speaking of which, service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing plans are available, costing $2310 for three years or $3190 for five.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
The Q7 is a big beast, but it's not as intimidating to drive as you may think.
In fact, it's very easy to live with, if you don't mind managing its size in certain scenarios, such as finding a park in a busy shopping centre.
The SUV's electric power steering is speed-sensitive, which means fewer inputs are required at low speed, making parking and other manoeuvres easier, while stability is improved at high speed.
While not the first word in feel, this system is nicely weighted and surprisingly direct, endearing the Q7 with some sports-car characteristics.
That said, our favourite element is its independent suspension set-up, which consists of multi-link axles with air springs and adaptive dampers.
Needless to say, ride comfort is superb, with the SUV just floating along, even on uneven surfaces.
Introduce a coarse-chip road or a pothole, though, and the Q7 does become unsettled. But this is probably more noticeable because the ride is otherwise so sublime.
As far as mid-life facelifts go, this is a really good one. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Instead, it's through the corners where it's truly exposed, with body control decent but nowhere near class-leading. Yep, it's here that its 2135kg unladen weight (excluding 75kg for driver and luggage) is really felt.
Flick the SUV into its Dynamic drive mode and things noticeably pick up, with extra heft added to the steering and the suspension firming up and hunkering down by up to 40mm. It's an improved experience in the bends, but not a memorable one.
However, our biggest bugbear is the exaggerated turbo lag served up by the 50 TDI's engine. Below 2000rpm, it has absolutely no go. Above it, though, it hammers.
Being a diesel unit, it doesn't have a lot of revolutions to play with, so you find yourself hunting for its upper reaches when accelerating, even around the town.
Making the most of the situation, the 50 TDI's smooth automatic transmission is responsive to kick-downs, but it's not lightning quick, meaning progress is stunted more often than not.
It also doesn't help that the eight-speeder is tuned for economy and therefore likes to keep engine speeds just above idle. This is particularly evident when attempting to power out of a corner.
When playing in the engine's upper reaches, the 50 TDI well and truly comes alive, serving up punchy acceleration, which is easier to access with the aforementioned Dynamic drive mode engaged. It makes shift patterns more aggressive and prompts more consistency.
The Q7 was at risk of irrelevancy due to the unfortunate timing of its rivals' life cycles, but Audi made sure that wasn't going to be the case.
As far as mid-life facelifts go, Audi has knocked it out of the park with the Q7, so much so that the case can be made it's now the class leader.
In many ways this Q7 feels like an all-new model, which is quite something. More importantly, the positives well and truly outweigh the negatives.
Is the new Q7 one of the better facelifts in recent memory? Tell us what you think in the comments below.