First drive: 2016 Audi Q7 in Switzerland
A day’s worth of travelling and transit flights brought us to the little town of Verbier in Switzerland, which, for the time being, had become overrun with all-new 2016 Audi Q7 midsize luxo-crossovers, as we were hosted at this sleepy skiing village for the international media-drive event. The Q7 is a big deal for Audi, as their best-seller has finally undergone a complete re-engineering after almost a decade unchanged.
While it looks very similar to the old model, pretty much everything about the 2016 Audi Q7 is new, starting with more aluminium panels on its high-strength steel unibody that contributes to overall weight-savings of a whopping 325 kg.
The new Q7 looks smaller than before thanks to visual trickery, but it’s just as decently spacious as before inside, which means good legroom and tons of headroom for the first two rows of seating, and an optional third-row bench that’s still only fit for small kids. Fold flat that last row and you get a massive boot that features some rather clever luggage-sorting barriers.
As for the actual cabin design, it’s a refreshing change from the usually-staid layouts of past Audis. There were lots of soft-touch surfaces, stitched leatherette, brushed metal trim and more in our tester with the S-Line package, as identified by its body-coloured exterior cladding. A rather unique feature is the line of a/c vents that extends the entire length of the passenger-side dashboard, which feels like it was designed just for the Middle East.
Aside from modern innovations such as the LCD gauge cluster, heads-up display, panoramic glass roof and a navigation system that shows Google Earth-like maps (at least in this European spec), there’s some remarkable tech options we haven’t seen before, such as a Bang & Olufsen stereo with serious 3D surround-sound even for radio music and videos, as well as Audi-specific Android tablets that plug into the back of the front headrests for use as rear entertainment screens.
Alongside diesel and hybrid options, the main motor for the GCC will be the 333 hp 3.0-litre supercharged “TFSI” V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic, this petrol drivetrain being the only major component carried over from the old model.
The all-wheel-drive Q7 pulls pretty strongly, and the engine settles down to less than 2000 rpm at highway speeds. The ride is mostly smooth with a slight hint of firmness on unruly pavement, always surefooted and never floaty, even at illegal speeds. There was a fair bit of wind noise noticeable at 120 kph though, but below that, it’s very quiet.
Theoretically, the handling has improved, as Audi has lowered the centre of mass by mounting the engine lower in the chassis, while an optional all-wheel steering system turns the rear wheels by as much as 5 degrees, either for tighter turning at low speeds or more stable cornering at high speeds. We’ve never driven the old Q7 to be able to compare, but we can certainly confirm that the new Q7 drives very much like a car, with adaptive air suspension that keeps it feeling flat on tight mountain roads at moderate speeds. We didn’t particularly push it hard, considering the oncoming traffic on said roads.
The steering is lightly weighted, always responsive and offering only a hint of feedback. The brakes work well, with good pedal weighting and linear stopping power. There’s a certain “Germanic” feel about the controls that drivers of premium European cars will be familiar with, and appreciate in the Q7 as well.
Audi made a big deal of their latest safety features as well, with demonstrations of systems such as auto-braking for wayward pedestrians, auto-braking for oncoming traffic at junctions, auto-braking while reversing out into cross-traffic and auto-braking when an imminent collision is detected — basically a lot of automatic braking. If fully specced out with these features, the Q7 can even crawl forward in traffic, show warnings if you open your door as cars are coming, and control your steering as you park, whether in parallel, reverse or even frontwards.
There’s still the option to raise the car using the air suspension system, but generally, the new Q7 has taken a pass on any semblance of offroading to become a better, lighter all-weather car that does more of the things that its target market appreciates. If you like your German family wagon to be quick, safe and filled with tech, there’s none better.
For GCC specs and expected UAE prices, visit the Audi Q7 buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Audi.
Thanks for bringing this, was curious to see what Audi does to the slightly ugly looking current Q7. I think they have done a good job by not overdoing on the exterior design, rather rectifying current design, especially the rear end. Any idea when this could come to UAE?