– Cleveland, Ohio
Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Audi first debuted the Q7? In all that time, we’ve never gotten an all-new, clean-sheet design until now. This new Q7, though, joins a group of well-heeled competitors that haven’t been standing around twiddling their turn signal stalks over the last decade. They include Volvo’s hot new XC90 and the recently renamed Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, as well as a few Japanese luxury competitors that would prefer not to be forgotten. Fortunately, Audi has armed the Q7 with enough tech to make NASA jealous, but we’re not sure that’s enough to place it firmly in front of its three-rowed cohorts.
- The Q7’s 3.0-liter supercharged V6 makes 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, but it feels more powerful than those numbers suggest. Maybe it’s the Q7’s relatively light sub-5,000-pound curb weight or the fact that peak torque arrives at a low 2,500 rpm. It could also be the eight-speed automatic transmission’s imperceptible shifts always keeping the engine in its sweet spot. Regardless, power is always there when needed and it comes on strong and silently.
- The Q7 stays more composed in turns than most large, high-riding crossovers. It’s tighter, more-controlled handling means things don’t get scary when you take an onramp too fast or cut a corner a little too tightly. That said, the ride is still plenty comfortable, even over rough roads. Of the four different driving modes available – Comfort, Auto, Offroad, and Dynamic – only Dynamic strongly differentiates itself. Unfortunately, it’s not a mode we would drive in every day because it’s too firm.
- Virtual Cockpit is one of the coolest interfaces you can find in a new car. Rather than entering an arms race over who can fit the largest screen in the center of the dash (ahem – Tesla, Volvo), Audi turned its entire gauge cluster into a 12.3-inch digital screen and masterfully integrated the typical info you see through your steering wheel with full controls for the stereo, navigation, and communication systems. It looks impressive and works brilliantly once you learn the controls, though Audi could’ve acted more boldly by deleting the second screen on top of the Q7’s dash altogether like it did in the new R8 and TT.
- There’s an incredible amount of technology both standard and optionally available on the new Q7. Some of the cooler bits we’ve yet to mention that came with our tester include the MMI all-in-touch handwriting-recognition pad, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a top-view camera system for reversing. Some we weren’t able to try that you can order with the top Prestige trim level include all-wheel steering, an adaptive air suspension, night vision, and two 10.1-inch Audi-branded Android tablets that act as removable, rear seat entertainment systems. We haven’t encountered a luxury three-row crossover that offers more cool tech to buy, but you’ll pay north of $80K if you want it all.
- I’m not a fan of Audi’s current exterior designs, and the Q7 is perhaps the least attractive expression of it. This large crossover has always been shaped oddly with a very long, tall body that looks as much wagon as it does SUV. This new design doesn’t fix those odd proportions; in fact it might accentuate them more. Just look at how long those rear passenger doors are!
- The design of the Q7’s shifter is highly suspect. Reverse, Neutral, and Drive are all engaged – in that order – by pushing the shifter forward or pulling it back. Park, meanwhile, is engaged by pressing a button on the back of the shifter. The first few times driving the Q7, I instinctively pushed the shifter forward to engage Park only to realize – quickly, thankfully – that I had entered Reverse. I got used to this odd design over time, and the Q7 will enter Park automatically when you shut it off or open a door, but the placement of this button seems like an invitation for trouble.
- Audi Active Lane Assist wasn’t the semi-autonomous driving technology I expected it to be. All it does is make small, jerky steering adjustments that are supposed to keep you in your lane, but half the time the system can’t operate because it doesn’t see the lane or you’ve entered a bend that’s just a little too sharp. Rather than being helpful, it feels like you’re fighting for control of the wheel with a ghost in the machine. I left it off mostly, but it’s part of a Driver Assistance Package that costs $2,400 and also comes with adaptive cruise control, auto high-beams, and traffic sign recognition.
- The Q7 is really big on the outside but not so large on the inside. In particular, its third row of seating is cramped with limited legroom and a flat, not-well-cushioned seat bottom that’s very low to the floor (the second row does slide forward for more legroom, though). Also, its maximum rear cargo area with all of the seats folded is 71.6 cubic feet, which is over 14 cubic feet smaller than what the Volvo XC90 offers despite the Audi being five inches longer and nearly three inches wider. You may not use the third row often and 71.6 cubic feet is probably big enough for most, but that’s still an inefficient use of space inside for a vehicle so outwardly large.
|2017 AUDI Q7 3.0T QUATTRO|
|ENGINE||Supercharged 3.0L V6|
|OUTPUT||333 Horsepower / 325 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH||5.7 Seconds|
|TOP SPEED||155 MPH|
|EPA FUEL ECONOMY||19 City / 25 Highway / 21 Combined|
|TOWING CAPACITY||7,700 Pounds|
|CARGO VOLUME||71.6 Cubic Feet|
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com