AutoCar have driven a second-generation Audi Q7 in pre-production form and have given the new car a resunding thumbs up. Testing in Namibia with the Audi development team on their last validation drive in extreme conditions - a mixture of course-chip bitumen, gravel roads, rocky trails and sandy tracks before the SUV heads into Listers showrooms at a starting price of £50,340.
“Departing in every area of construction from its predecessor, the new Q7 is the first model to be based around Audi’s new, second-generation MLB platform which will underpin a whole new generation of Audi models, including the all-new A4. Audi says the new platform is key to a significant 325kg reduction in kerb weight over the first-generation Q7.
You won’t have any trouble distinguishing the flagship SUV from its many competitors. Key styling cues, such as the bold single-frame grille, have been retained, although the the new Q7 now has a more athletic look with numerous crease lines within the flanks also give the impression that it sits closer to the ground.
The changes inside are even more far reaching than those outside. As part of Audi’s effort to provide the Q7, with a more upmarket positioning, it gains a high, contemporarily styled dashboard with an optional 12.3in digital instrument panel offering various displays, minimal switchgear and a retractable 8.3in infotainment monitor. The cars may be billed as pilot production prototypes but the quality throughout is outstanding, with leather, metal and soft plastic surfaces.
Visibility is excellent, helped by the repositioning of the exterior mirrors from the front quarter window to arms attached to the doors. Before we set off, though, we climb into the rear of the new Audi and discover added space all round. Despite the subtle reduction in external dimensions, the new Q7 offers greater rear accommodation with worthwhile improvements in both leg and head room.
All models destined for the UK will come as standard with a third row of seats, providing seating for up to seven in all. Getting into the two rearmost seats is made easier than before by a second row that now tilts further forward. There is sufficient room for adults under six feet tall.
With seven occupants there are a nominal 295 litres of luggage space, or 770 litres when the third row of seats is automatically folded away into the somewhat high-set floor of the boot via a button. With the second row of seats folded away, there are 1955 litres of capacity on offer.
The 3.0 TDI – the model Audi expects to garner the majority of sales. With 268bhp and generous 442lb ft on tap, it is authoritatively brisk with plenty of low-end urge and a nice smooth nature. There is excellent throttle response and sufficient flexibility through the mid-range to endow the new Audi with effortless performance up to and beyond UK speed limits.
Audi claims a 0-62mph time of 6.5sec and a 145mph top speed. Subjectively, it feels quicker. You sense the wholesale reduction in weight almost immediately out on the open road. Overall, the new Q7 feels significantly more fleet-footed and a lot more eager than its predecessor on the run.
Official figures point to 47.9mpg and a CO2 rating of 153g/km. As part of the focus on weight, Audi has once again decided not to offer the Q7 with the low-range transfer case.
Another significant improvement is the ride, which is much more controlled and offers outstanding rolling refinement across a wider range of speeds in Comfort mode than before. With aluminium now used within the front suspension strut towers and other areas of the floorpan, the second-generation Q7 benefits greatly from an overall increase in structural rigidity.
A new four-wheel steering system, which will come as an option on models bound for the UK, reduces in the turning circle over the first-generation Q7, along with greater manoeuvrability around town.
With quattro all wheel drive, grip levels are outstanding. In normal conditions the torque sensing four-wheel drive system apportions the drive in a 40% front, 60% rear split, but it has been programmed to send up to 85% to the rear when required”.
Smooth, quiet, spacious, reasonably quick, economical and engaging to drive, the new Q7 is noticeably improved in every area. But with the luxury SUV ranks already crowded with a whole armada of rivals, and with new arrivals such as the Jaguar F-Pace not far off, the new Audi is clearly going to have its work cut out emulating the outstanding success of its predecessor, which has so far hauled in over 500,000 sales in the 10 years it has been on sale.
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI
On sale August; Price: from £50,340; Engine V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power 268bhp at 3250rpm; Torque 442lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2060kg; Top speed 145mph; Economy 47.9mpg; 0-62mph 6.5sec; CO2 emissions and tax band 153g/km, 28%