It’s been ten years since the Audi Q7 lumbered onto our roads. In the Jurassic war where size is all the Q7 was a noted heavy-weight contender. It had something of the brontosaurus about it, those smooth slab-sides – usually grey – drooping to a ruminant nose or wallowing rear. It tipped the scales at a ground-shaking 2,300 kg, was just over five-meters long and two-and-a-quarter wide: plump enough to bar the behemoth from more or less any supermarket car-parking space. We were just getting used to a new class of large SUVs back then – it’s not as the if the Porsche Cayenne, the BMW X5 or the Mercedes ML, were svelte – but even so, I remember seeing my first Q7 and the image which straight away came into my head was of Benny Hill negotiating with Michael Cain in The Italian Job: ‘Are they big? I like ’em big’. Benny would have loved the Q7. It was bigger!
As with a house, however, you’re mostly on the inside of a car looking out and even the first Q7 shrank somewhat from that interior perspective. Plus it was an Audi: if you have to spend hours in a car, an Audi is always a fine place to spend them. On the move the first Q7 was surprisingly agile, though no-one would have called it lithe. It liked its drink too: few models saw better than 30 mpg. Even so, it was popular: over half a million Benny Hills fell for its Rubenesque charms.
But ten years is a long time in the Jurassic world of up-market SUVs. In that time BMW, Volvo, Mercedes, Porsche and Range Rover have evolved new life forms, and hefty footfall is heard in Jaguar and Maserati and Bentley-land too.
A new Q7 was long overdue, but now it’s here. I guess I had a slight size bias and wasn’t quite expecting to love it, but I did. We all did. I had the Q7 for a long weekend and undertook more or less every driving activity I could contrive in those few days: dog-walks, school runs, shopping, a winter-work party on our local chalk-stream (a bit of off-road to get there, you see), surveying a new river restoration project (more off-roading) and taking the video back to Wolfy’s in Hunstanton. I concluded that I could very happily live with a Q7, that it was the most imperious of mile munchers and if I had to rally it to Peking, or take salmon rods and five adults to Sutherland (in fact it’s a potential seven-seater), the new Q7 would be a great machine to make the journey in.
While this latest version is not smaller than the last (it’s teeny bit shorter and a teeny bit wider), it looks and more importantly drives as if it were much smaller: the slab expanses have been diminished with neat styling folds and creases that suggest a slimmer, trimmer shape. And the car is lighter too: 350Kg of liposuction leaves the new Q7 feeling miles more sprightly. You’re still on it rather than in it, but even so the giant drove effortlessly and cornered well: nice and flat, even on the ‘comfort’ setting. The magic-carpet quality of the travelling experience was only magnified by the most impressively tamed engine and road-noise. Stop-start tech means the engine does stop at lights and in traffic jams, but even when it was running I could hardly hear it. On the move there’s a whisper of airflow round the mirrors, but otherwise not much to bother the calm, landscape-conquering drive.
Engine choice is from two versions of a new three-litre diesel with an e-tron coming later. But for the fact that its a bit cheaper I can’t see any reason why I’d go for the 214 bhp version. Claimed mpg is about the same, while 150 plays 153 g/km of CO2 emissions, sneaking it into a F not G tax band. The 268 bhp version is as refined and powerful as anyone could desire, and will shove you up to 60 mph in under seven seconds. Overtaking is effortless with gallons of mid-range shove and the eight-speed auto is a delight. With DSG who needs manual anymore?
There’s an impressive range of suspension settings: off-road, comfort, dynamic etc. Comfort was stiff enough. Dynamic was too choppy and who hustles a Q7 anyway? ‘Off-road’ helps you through the gloop. I tried some steepish winter-mush tracks and hardly noticed them. Though it’s not about to out-gun a Discovery across the plough, I reckoned the Q7 would – with the right tyres – happily cope with all but the hardiest shooting terrain. Quick skim: readable Sat-Nav screen, handy reversing camera, impressive audio, excellent sports seats, reclining rear seats, bags of leg room and 3 isofix points across the rear too.
Apart from for the utterly maddening telephone interface there’s nothing to dislike about this car, except perhaps the person in it? Was it me or were the motorists I met on narrow lanes, or filtering around parked cars in town a teeny bit less charitable than when I’m in my humble A4? Oh well, let them eat cake I say: where’s that lottery ticket I left in the wash?
Model tested: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro SE 272PS
Annual road-fund licence: VED G £180
Fuel Consumption (claimed) 47.9 combined. (I got 35 round Norfolk)
Power: 272 bhp / 600Nm @ 1500 – 3000 rpm.
0 – 60: 6.5 secs.