Audi faces a challenge with the second-generation of its phenomenally successful Q7 SUV. This seven-seat behemoth has found more than half-a-million homes worldwide since its launch a full decade ago in 2005, so the new one needs to be markedly improved to try and attract new buyers, without being so radical that existing customers look elsewhere.
How, then, has Audi gone about differentiating Q7 mark two? The clearest change for the 2015 model is the angular exterior styling. Where the old car was blobby and curvaceous, this one is all big ‘Singleframe’ grille, sleek light clusters and sharp swage lines. It certainly doesn’t look as elephantine as it did before, helped by the fact it is slightly shorter and lower than the old Q7 (albeit it still one of the physically biggest SUVs in the class). But there’s an air of over-inflated A6 Avant about it when you stare at it in profile, and any vehicle body that makes 19-inch wheels look positively puny arguably has some issues!
No such complaints inside – this is Audi doing what it does best. Premium and soberly attractive in terms of dash architecture, the real highlights are provided by the magnificent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit TFT cluster that has been lifted from the TT, while the chrome line running across the dashboard is reminiscent of the latest Volkswagen Passat; it’s a nice aesthetic flourish. Everything is of the highest, soft-touch, quality inside as you’d expect and even the base SE specification comes with a healthy array of standard kit, incorporating dual-zone climate control, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, cruise control, keyless go, MMI Navigation Plus, a powered tailgate and heated leather seats among more.
One of the major benefits of the Q7 can’t be seen with the naked eye. This car is at least 240kg lighter than the old model in seven-seat guise, and 325kg trimmer with just five chairs. Audi proudly says this is the weight of a grand piano and it naturally means the Q7 is now quicker and more economical than ever before. There are two specifications (SE and S line) and just one UK engine option from launch, which is the 3.0-litre V6 TDI turbodiesel, making 268bhp and a considerable 443lb ft, leading to impressive on-paper stats of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, a 145mph top speed and combined economy of the order of 47.9mpg. However, it merely feels commendably brisk, rather than outright rapid. It is extremely smooth and quiet, though and coupled to a fabulous ride (all our test cars were fitted with the optional adaptive air suspension) and a hushed cabin, the Q7 is perfectly fine for cruising about, which is surely what most owners will be doing with their cars.
Like most large luxury SUVs, it’s no great shakes when it comes to handling. Body control is good, as of course is the quattro grip, but the steering is overly light and lacking feel, while the chassis is largely uninvolving. Both the Range Rover Sport and the Porsche Cayenne provide more entertainment for whoever’s behind the wheel. Another engine will be available to order from summer with deliveries in October, but don’t get your hopes up – it’s a less powerful, 215bhp version of the same 3.0 TDI unit, with the emphasis on extra economy. Keener drivers will need to wait to see if any S or RS models are forthcoming.
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Top speed: 145mph (limited)
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Power: 268bhp from 3250 to 4250rpm
Torque: 443lb ft from 1500 to 3000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed ‘Tiptronic’ automatic, four-wheel drive
Wheels: 19-inch alloys front and rear standard (SE), 20s S line
Tyres: 285/45 R20 tyres front and rear
Price: SE from £50,340; S line from £53,835
On sale date: Now