Bigger, badder, better

Those that believe size doesn’t matter would do well to look at the motoring world, where the SUV explosion knocked that argument into touch forever. These cars used to handle like wet cement, were slower than Forrest Gump and as environmentally friendly as nuclear weapons tests, but they sold by the bucket load because they were big.

But then everybody had a massive car, so mere size was no longer enough, which is where companies like JE Design came in to work their particular brand of magic on the Audi Q7.

Now the Audi has joined late in the game, perhaps too late as the public backlash against the SUV market has killed sales of the Cayenne and more in the lucrative yet politically correct United States. It’s a raging success in Europe, though, and that’s because it’s simply one of the best of its kind.

The Q7 is every bit as good as any of these lumbering beasts, including the Cayenne and X5, thanks to adjustable air-suspension that means it can be all things to all men: a genuine tall and comfortable family wagon or a big fat sportscar with road-holding that would leave Stephen Hawking scratching his head. Well, you know…

It is also an elegant machine, compared to its major rivals anyway. But that can be changed. JE Design, which produces bodykits for Audis, SEATS, VWs and more, knew there was a cash cow in the making as SUV tuning has proved a major hit in lucrative markets like Russia and the Middle East and elegant isn’t necessarily the right answer there. Flash, brash and loud, that’s what works.

Mission accomplished: that was clear as soon as the diesel model rumbled into view at MediaTel’s latest gathering at Hockenheim Circuit in Germany. If there had been any children present, they would have started crying.

Because JE Design’s visual additions have transformed a shape designed to hide 2.5 tonnes of metal and leather luxury into a violent, steroid-pumped freak that strolls up and down the gym all day soaking up the attention. Not all of it will be complimentary, but people are looking and that’s the point.

The front is an abject lesson in aggression. Headlamp caps narrow the drug-crazed eyes provided by a new twin headlamp set to a glinting stare and it just gets crazier from there. The spoiler drags the whole car closer to the ground and those flared arches further transform this machine into something sinister, something evil.

The wide body kit pumps up the rear flanks more than the front and those arches add 80mm to the rear track, turning a gentle giant into a monster. And that’s just the start, the company has added a whole new rear apron to house the angular exhaust tips and carbon-look ‘diffuser’. There’s a rear wing and a brace of buttresses, too, while side sills join the vented arches on the rear to those at the front and unusually combine with full-on door panels to ensure that the kit blends seamlessly and doesn’t look like the cheap mail-order parts that will end up on older models in the distant future.

Now think seriously about this for a moment and it’s obvious that Jamaica will win the bobsled at the Winter Olympics before aerodynamics actually make a difference to a 2.5-tonne truck, so it’s all about the attitude. But it works.

Thankfully the most important visual aspect is also a performance enhancement, JE has dropped the car 60mm, which is a hell of a lot. The air suspension means the car can rise up again like Lazarus, but hunkered down low on its monumental 22 inch alloys it just looks the business. One owner still isn’t satisfied and JE is working on 23 inch wheels, but these will satisfy all but the most egotistical rapper on the block and come as close to filling those railway arches as any sane individual would ever want.

Dropped down, there’s genuine cornering advantages to be had from this suspension tweak and while the huge Audi was impressive before, now it’s just unbelievable. The realms of opposite lock and four-wheel drift would still take huge confidence and skill, but such things shouldn’t even cross the mind in a big SUV like this and the slightest touch of body roll is all that greets even the most hardcore cornering approach.

It feels like a sportscar in the corners, almost, which is just stupid when you remember how far off the ground you’re sitting. A Range Rover Sport would have rolled into oblivion long before this car felt seriously troubled, of that much I’m sure and Q7 owners would do well to call on JE for this mod alone, even if the rest of the work has them reaching for an imaginary volume control.

As for the outright pace, well this 3-litre diesel V6 was never going to be a world-beater, but it’s not the tugboat some might expect. The 60mph mark falls in a more than respectable 8.4s, 0.7s faster than the standard model thanks to a 52bhp power hike through chip tuning.

JE works with massively respected Audi tweaker MTM on the engine side, and their work has realised a further 30lb/ft of torque – taking the Q7’s 3-litre beyond the magic 400 mark. Now that will make its presence felt on the Autobahn, where this beast will rumble along at low revs and punch past traffic at every opportunity.

And there will be lots of those. If this car came up behind you on the Autobahn, you’d move, you already know it, and you’d probably throw your wallet out the window as it went past to stop it coming back to mug you. Come up behind something like this and there’s no way you’d flash it out the way, the owner would clearly be someone you just wouldn’t want to mess with.

When they finish work on the 4.2-litre V8 petrol version of this car, you’ll probably need a license and a city inspector will need to visit your home to ensure it is properly caged. It’s that mad, it’s that much fun, it’s that over the top and though it’s one of those cars that only other people will drive, it’s still great to know it’s there.

This car is the biggest of the big, and somehow, this time, that kind of makes it better…

Gallery: WCF Test Drive: JE Design Q7 Widebody

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