If you can find anything that combines class and practicality better than Audi’s biggest SUV, buy it
With its imposing looks and sheer size, the original Q7 became a byword for aggressive 4x4s. This second-generation model is more restrained, with a self-assured elegance that’s well suited to its high-class cabin and dream-like ride.
At the road-biased end of the luxury SUV scale, the Q7 majors on quality and luxury. It’s also an exceptionally practical choice – as well as being available with an excellent range of engines.
These include a pair of 3.0 TDI unit, both of which are very smooth. Neither is slow, either – though the more powerful 268bhp unit is noticeably livelier, with stacks of shove from barely past tickover, making it well worth the extra money.
If that’s still not enough, the SQ7 model is just unbelievably fast – enough to be a little unsettling as a family car, to be honest. There’s also the E-tron hybrid, whose performance is similar to that of the higher-powered 3.0 TDI.
Whichever you go for, it’ll be mated as standard to an eight-speed auto whose quality is best summed up by the observation that it’s completely unobtrusive in action. Refinement is just all-round immense, with next to engine engine noise or vibration. Wind and road noise are never an issue either – which is saying something when the tyre choices on offer go all the way up to a 21-inch rim size.
What does that do to ride quality? Not a lot, to be honest. The silkiest Q7 is the SE model, which comes on 19-inch wheels, but even on the 21-inch fitment it’s very acceptable indeed. It’s very good on the standard springs, but upgrade to air suspension and it’s the smoothest ride in its class.
That’s so long as you don’t buy the SQ7, however. This performance-focused model is more firmly sprung, which makes for exceptional body control in fast corners but does let the road surface intrude on cabin comfort. Another reason why it’s not the best Q7 for family duties.
Less-elevated Q7s ride sumptuously but lean far more in corners making them feel a bit slow-witted on B-roads. Obviously there’s plenty of grip, but it’s not much fun when you want to press ahead – though even the SQ7, with its outstanding suspension, fails to inspire confidence thanks to a dire lack of weight in its steering.
So it’s the SQ7 if you want to monster everything in sight, or a standard 3.0 TDI (probably) if you want a big, classy family car. And it certainly is both those things – as well as being hugely practical.
The E-tron is only a five-seater, but diesel-engined Q7s are capable of carrying seven adults in real comfort. The front two rows are extremely roomy in all directions, and even the third will take a couple of six-footers without anyone having to apologise to anyone else.
Carting stuff about is easy, too, as all five rear seats can be individually folded flat – creating an immense and very usable cargo bay. With just the third row down, you can slide the second all the way back and there’ll still be heaps of luggage space, while even in seven-seater mode there’s still enough room in the boot for a useful load.
Either way, it’s all accessed via an electric tailgate. This is one of many features that are standard across the range – others include nav, Bluetooth, electric part-leather seats, voice recognition and dual-zone climate, so the hefty jump in price it takes to add a bodykit, bigger rims and a few other toys hardly seems worth it. Better to spend your money on worthwhile options, of which air suspension and the brilliant Virtual Cockpit are prime.
All the basics are standard, though – like a fantastic view of the road ahead and a great seating position in which anyone can get comfortable. Build quality is sky-high, too, with premium materials everywhere you look, and the multimedia system is one of the very best there is.
So too is the safety and security hardware that gained five-star scores from EuroNCAP and Thatcham alike. This helps keep insurance costs manageable, as is servicing, and with good dealer discounts and strong residual values the Q7 is a sound proposition to own if you can afford the high initial outlay.
The premium SUV market is of course crowded with excellent vehicles, so Audi is not short of competition. Between its build quality, interior space, flexibility and truly magnificent ride quality, however, the Q7 is worthy of consideration alongside any of them.