Audi Q7 2007 Review
But the Allroad never had the great size, voluminous interior and elevated driving position which affluent suburbanites in Australia and America prefer in this sort of SUV. Given that the Yanks are the world's most powerful and influential consumers of these vehicles, the German marque had little choice but to defer.
The Q7 is late on the scene with its most obvious rivals, the American-built Mercedes-Benz M-Class and BMW X5, now into their second generations. Yet it could have been much worse.
Once the consequences of its mistake became apparent, Audi managed to secure an SUV platform from parent Volkswagen and project partner Porsche. Then, as if to prove a point, it created a bigger vehicle than either the Touareg or Cayenne, which all roll down the same production line in Bratislava.
Just as there were accusations early on that Porsche and Volkswagen had lowered their standards in the pursuit of US market penetration — based largely on poor quality survey results and a couple of embarrassing recalls — the Q7 has also suffered from a disappointing four-star Euro NCAP crash-test result. This is a rung below the standard expected in this class. In 2004 the Touareg scored a maximum five stars.
Judging from the Q7 order bank in Australia, that controversial crash test — which forced Audi to take corrective action — and other extraneous factors such as rising interest rates and higher fuel prices have not dented sales.
And little wonder. While the vehicle fails to break new ground in this segment, the Q7 is a strong alternative to its main rivals — including the class-leading X5 — with a powerful road presence, luxurious appointments, quiet and cavernous cabin, a third-row option and, in the TDI model tested here, a marvellous V6 common-rail turbo-diesel.
A bit more powerful than the version used in the Touareg, the Q7's 3.0-litre TDI produces 171kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm from 1750-2750rpm. The engine's diesel origins will be obvious to those outside the vehicle, but for those within it manifests a quiet, smooth and flexible nature that has no trouble with the 2.3-tonne kerb weight and never leaves the driver aching for more acceleration or responsiveness.
In this regard, the six-speed automatic transmission works in wonderful concert with the engine, shifting gears with smoothness and cleverness in accordance with driver demands and the prevailing road conditions. There is also the means for gear shifting in a sequential-manual fashion, although the diesel's muscle at low and medium revs tends to negate the need for it.
The Q7 is not as lean on fuel consumption as its government rating indicates, returning 12.3 litres per 100km across our test. But, like the NCAP result, this is probably not a figure that will terminate a prospective sale.
Indeed, this is true for most facets of the Q7.
Not a new breed of prestige-sports SUV as Audi would have us believe, the Q7 still proves to be a competent, composed and well-rounded vehicle. It is a cinch to manoeuvre around shopping centres, effortless to drive on the open road, undisturbed across broken bitumen and controlled around corners.
A monocoque construction with independent double-wishbone suspension front and rear, the Q7 does not feel as sporting to drive in standard form as the Allroad or X5 — the value of which is disputable in a high-riding, two-tonne SUV — but it does feel stable and secure in most situations.
It keeps a level head during quick directional changes and, with the combined efforts of Audi's Quattro permanent 4WD and 255/55 18-inch Bridgestones, maintains a great deal of adhesion to the road. It also has accurate steering, and all-wheel disc brakes offering outstanding resistance to fade.
Things come undone a bit in accordance with deteriorating road conditions. On corrugated dirt and gravel, the Q7's electronic traction nannies become intrusive, cutting power and braking (and emitting a horrible noise) in the quest to maintain control. A less-than-impressive emergency-braking exhibition on loose gravel and sand also brings into question ABS calibration for dirt roads.
Off-road, the confidence the vehicle exudes on bitumen erodes further. Short overhangs, decent ground clearance and a full-size spare wheel on the five-seat model are all beneficial, but the braking assistance offered with the ESP-related off-road mode provides nowhere near enough control, often forcing the driver to take corrective action.
Up steep gravel inclines the Bridgestones can struggle to maintain traction, while the parking assistance system goes berserk when it detects wheel ruts or even long grass. It can be turned off, but re-engages of its own accord whenever the driver selects reverse.
For all the attention to detail and hi-tech gadgets and passenger comfort that Audi has built into the Q7, the interior also has some drawbacks.
For instance, the TDI driver must contend with a foot-operated park brake (which did not disengage properly on our test car), an unconventional high-mounted ignition slot on the left-hand side of the steering wheel and, worst of all, distracting reflections on both exterior mirrors from the chrome-look trim surrounding the dashboard air-vents.
There is no electric front seat adjustment, no lumbar support and no rear-seat automatic seatbelt locking retractors for securing child restraints properly. If the optional panoramic sunroof is fitted, there's a sense of never being able to escape a blazing sun (despite perforated blinds). The optional electric tailgate is convenient and detects obstacles, but can also cause minor injuries before grinding to a halt.
Accommodation and amenities are excellent in the front and rear passenger compartments, and further astern in the five-seat version there is more than enough luggage room. The floor-mounted guide rails and attachments in the cargo area are also useful, although the flimsy "telescopic retention bar" left something to be desired.
Again, irritations like these are unlikely to halt the Q7 queue. Standard TDI features include a reverse-parking camera, dual-zone climate-control, a beaut 11-speaker stereo, eight airbags, leather trim and Audi's MMI computer interface.
Combine these with the requisite size and looks, a splendid engine and an $85,700 asking price, and Audi has at last got itself a sure-fire SUV success. Even with an all-new Allroad coming soon, "all roads" now lead to the Q7.
Range and Specs
|3.0 TDI Quattro||3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP||$14,400 – 20,240||2007 Audi Q7 2007 3.0 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|3.6 FSI Quattro||3.6L, PULP, 6 SP||$16,400 – 22,880||2007 Audi Q7 2007 3.6 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs|
|3.6 FSI Quattro SE||3.6L, PULP, 6 SP||$17,400 – 24,200||2007 Audi Q7 2007 3.6 FSI Quattro SE Pricing and Specs|
|4.2 FSI Quattro||4.2L, PULP, 6 SP||$8,800 – 13,200||2007 Audi Q7 2007 4.2 FSI Quattro Pricing and Specs|