March 29, 2016 @ 04:33 PM

Review: Audi Q7 - Driver’s car… pfah, this big Audi is the driver’s SUV

Ever wondered what happened if an SUV was produced in Hethel? Ingolstadt has the answer


Under normal circumstances, the word light would not be used to describe something that’s large unless when describing a large cardboard box, a hot air balloon or a blimp; you know, things with plenty of air in them. This isn’t to say that the second generation Audi Q7 is featherweight — our Malaysian-spec still weighs more than two tonnes — but the new SUV is lighter than the first generation. By how much, you ask? Well, depending on the engine, the Q7 can get up to 325kg lighter than its predecessor. I’ll let that number float a bit.
 
Weight shaving methods are usually done by ditching what’s not needed, like tossing out the seat, deleting the air-conditioning and shedding the sound-proofing. Removing 325 kilograms from a full-sized, seven-seater SUV isn’t easy especially when Audi still had to account for the Q7 being a people-mover that moves people with a good deal of flash, pomp and circumstance. When you’re shelling out RM589,900, the SUV better have more than just a 'leathery' interior with aluminium inlays. And so it does.
 
You’ll be playing with all the latest toys from Audi’s parts catalogue. Chiefly, the MMI navigation plus that displays places of interest and city models in 3D on an 8.3-inch colour screen that lowers itself to sit flushed with the dashboard at the press of a rubbery button. Even fancier is the MMI touch that lets you input letters into the system by writing it out with your fingers, which makes the process of finding a contact or an address much quicker and easier.
 
But it will be the Audi virtual cockpit that gets the conversation going. Audi does away with the standard meters and replaces it with a large colour screen, sandwiched by the fixed engine temp and fuel gauges. A number of buttons and a rotary dial on the steering let you call up different layouts of the screen, depending on what you want as your main display, but it will never remove the speedometer and tachometer from the screen. Despite the choices, you’ll leave the screen virtually locked to the 3D terrain model navigation map sprawled from edge to edge of the 12.3-inch screen, effectively taking it from the dashboard’s colour display and throwing it up in front of your face. Yes, it is every bit as impressive as it is useful.
 
The inclusion of the surround view camera is welcomed. You’ll be sitting tall behind the wheel, not just the electric-powered seats but also in part due to the ample ground clearance. The broad sheet-metal of the 5052mm long and 1968mm wide vehicle is a proper challenge in tight spaces, with added wing mirrors; you need more than 2212mm worth of space. A 360-degree camera helps negotiate tight spots and the lightened steering wheel makes parking-lot manoeuvres a breeze to execute.
 
With the entire new tech inside, how can this Q7 still be lighter than the previous Q7? The engineers began to look at the individual parts to see where lightness can be added on, it is the little things you know. The doors are made with an aluminium outer shell that weighs 24kg less than the previous Q7. The suspension system takes of 27kg in the front and 40kg at the rear, the powertrain is 20kg lighter and the exhaust system is lightened by 19kg. Other places that Audi shaved off slivers of weight were the seats (19kg), module crossmember under the instrument panel (3.5kg), loading floor (4kg), wheel brakes (8.5kg), wiring (4.2kg), engine cooling system (8.7kg), and brake pedal (1.01kg)… the list isn’t exhaustive. The newfound lightness comes from the Audi Space Frame body; hot-formed steel and aluminium makes the Q7 71kg lighter than the first generation.
 
All the weight-saving measures taken boils down to only one thing — the Q7 could be the agilest full-sized SUV you will drive this year, and 2016 just started. If you’ve ever wondered what if Lotus made an SUV, here’s your answer. The Q7’s handling contradicts its size, this large vehicle shouldn’t feel this flat around the corners, shouldn’t change directions this quickly and shouldn’t be… this fun. Yet, the Audi is all that and a bit more. The Q7 gets tauter when you dial up Dynamic. The suspension lowers the car and changes the powertrain mapping and sharpens the handling by a couple of degrees to carve up the curved roads with more ability than its classmates. In a sense, the sledgehammer has been turned into a claymore.
 
Throughout, the ride is simply top-class. The Q7 doesn’t get floaty in Comfort, isn’t bumpy in Dynamic and disperses all bumps and dips in Allroad and Lift/Offroad. Ah yes, Lift. You could, as and when required, put more distance or close the gap between the belly of the SUV and the ground that lets the Q7 overcome more challenging terrains. The air suspensions make the change in height possible, with five levels to alter the ground clearance.
 
The mill and transmission change characteristic according to the drive modes. So it becomes quick and punchy in Dynamic, low and slow in Lift/Offroad. This makes sense. It is all about putting down the power appropriately according to the road situation, dumping all 440Nm of torque in soft sand will only dig you a deep ditch. Power in properly and the Q7 becomes one a luxury beach-comber and mud-slinger, something not many future Q7 owners will subject their adept SUV to.
 
Although there are seven drive modes to choose from, the Q7 will spend most of its time in Comfort; it isn’t a bad thing. You’ll still have full access to the 3.0-litre supercharged to deliver 333bhp and 440Nm of torque. An 8-speed torque converter automatic smoothly sends power to all four wheels. Whip it up and the Q7 sprints to 100kph in 6.3 seconds, which is mighty quick; and right up to a top speed of 250kph easily.
 
As amazing as all of the above numbers read, it is only the Audi-geeks that would make notes of the Q7’s weight loss regime and the effects it has on the SUV. The rest of the world won’t care how or where the Q7 gets lighter, only how cool the Q7 is with them behind the wheel. And if you want to impress the Joneses and overtake the Kardashians of the world, the Q7 is the vehicle to do it in.
 
CHRIS NG
 
Spec: Audi Q7 3.0 TFSI quattro
 
Engine
2995cc, V6, direct injection, TFSI, 333bhp @ 5500-6500, 440Nm @ 2900-5300
 
Transmission
8-speed Tiptronic, all-wheel drive
 
Performance
6.3s 0-100kph, 250kph, 7.9l/100km, 183g/km
 
Weight
2030kg
 
On sale
Now
 

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