Life has been hectic at Audi of late, with new models seemingly being introduced every other week, writes Iain Robertson, but what might appear slightly chaotic is actually eminently logical for a brand that relies on extensive hardware sharing.
The Audi Q7 makes a technological leap of faith to fall into line with its Q8 counterpart, taking on board the latest engine updates, important mild hybrid drivetrain developments and cabin digitalisation innovations that have been first seen in the coupé-inspired flagship of the Q range. Its exterior hardware also benefits from a reboot and now combines crisper detailing with the latest design hallmarks that characterise Audi’s Q model line. Seven seats, adaptive air suspension and Matrix LED headlights are among the new standard features for all models in the UK product line-up, which is equipped to Sport, S line, Black Edition, or the latest, top tier Vorsprung specification.
The Audi Q7 demonstrates the hallmark SUV elements of its current design language. It adopts the large octagonal-shaped radiator grille, with its six upright slats that create an even more potent impression from the outset, along with two-part side air inlets and the sill area that draws attention to the big SUV’s noticeable ground clearance.
The headlights emphasise the width of the car with their contours and light signatures. An upgrade to HD Matrix LED units with Audi laser light, is reserved for the Vorsprung versions. At the rear, a chrome strip connects the flat rear lights with their technical-looking graphics and carries forward the horizontal body line.
The designers achieved the clear view with taut, flat surfaces that span the entire width of the car. Even more striking are the alloy wheels measuring 20.0-inches diameter in the S line, 21.0-inches in the Black Edition and 22.0-inches in the Vorsprung. The Sport specification makes do with a 19.0-inch wheel.
The latest Q7 is more manoeuvrable, precise and agile in urban traffic, particularly in Vorsprung trim, which includes four-wheel-steering as standard. Carefully revised damping rates provide supremely comfortable and poised touring, with supple ride comfort on motorways, helped by the adaptive air suspension that is factory fitted to all UK versions. Of course, it provides variable ground clearance and prepares the quattro drive system for terrain off the beaten track. The relevant off-road mode can be selected using drive select, with its seven driver-adjustable profiles. Black Edition and Vorsprung versions are equipped with the slightly tauter adaptive air sport suspension, with a lower ride height than the standard version.
All of the engines in the Q7 are coupled to an eight-speed tiptronic and quattro permanent all wheel drive transmission. A choice of two diesel engines is available soon, to be joined shortly afterwards by a petrol unit, followed by a plug-in hybrid model. The standard mild hybrid technology plays a major part in the efficiency of the power units by reducing fuel consumption by up to 10.0mpg. Its central component, the belt alternator starter (BAS), powers a 48-volt main electrical system, in which a compact lithium-ion battery stores the energy.
During braking, the BAS can recover up to 8kW of power, which is fed back into the battery. If the driver eases off the accelerator at speeds of between 34mph and 99mph, the Q7 recuperates energy, rolls at idle, or coasts for upwards of 40 seconds with the engine switched off. The BAS restarts the motor as soon as the accelerator pedal is depressed and does so faster but more gently than a conventional starter. The start stop range begins at 13mph.
During the redesign process, the Q7 has grown in length by 11mm to 5,063mm, with 1,970mm width (2,212mm including mirrors) and 1,741mm height. Its interior length is greater and there is more head, hip and elbow room in both front and rear. A host of storage compartments, in the instrument panel as well as the boot, provide functional value. Dependent on the position of the rear seat backs, the luggage compartment on the seven-seater version offers between 865 and 2,050-litres of volume and the boot floor is completely flat, with access through an electric tailgate. When the optional Comfort and Sound pack is specified, it also brings foot-activated gesture control for even easier opening.
The cockpit architecture harmonises perfectly with the new, twin touchscreens. They provide both haptic and acoustic feedback. Equipment across the four trim levels befits the Q7’s positioning in the Audi model family, particularly with Vorsprung versions that take luxury and convenience to the next level. Powered soft-close doors set the tone for the exceptional comfort and luxury within. Occupants are treated to ultra-supportive front sport seats with diamond-stitched Valcona leather upholstery, climate control and a massage function, plus an extended leather pack taking in the door pull handles, armrests and lower door trim, the front centre console trim and the underside of the instrument panel. Seat heating is also expanded to the second row, and attention is even lavished on the roof, which gains a soft-touch Alcantara headlining. The 3D BOSE surround sound system is also installed to fill the interior with cinematic sound quality.
To complement the now fully digital instrumentation, top-of-the-line connectivity incorporating LTE Advanced, a Wi-Fi hotspot, natural voice control and the extensive Audi connect portfolio, opens up everything from online traffic information and navigation with Google Earth, to hybrid radio. The cloud-based Amazon voice service, Alexa, is integrated within the MMI operating system.
Vorsprung models are equipped with convenience technology such as the Audi Phone Box to provide wireless charging for all Qi-enabled mobile phones, a head-up display projecting important information (such as vehicle speed and assistance system notifications) onto the windscreen and a particularly extensive portfolio of automated driver assistance systems. The list covers all the bases, from side assist, lane assist, cross traffic assist, rear and turn assist, to camera-based traffic sign recognition and the predictive efficiency assistant promoting the most economical driving style.
Audi is loading-up its latest models in ways it never has before. Okay. So the SUV sector is still bubbling away happily and businesses are snaffling them up, but I cannot help but feel that something else is afoot.