We’ve read quite a bit about the brand-new, second-generation Audi Q7 for quite some time now. Our friends across the pond were able to get a hold of it long before we were, so all we could do was read about it. But now the Q7 has landed on US soil and we just recently were able to take it for a quick spin.
The second-generation Audi Q7 is built on Audi’s new MLB platform, that’s shared with Volkswagen, Porsche and even Bentley. The platform is built using a ton of aluminum and high-strength steel, which allowed the new Q7 to drop over 700 lbs. That’s a significant difference and it can be seen and felt when driving the new Audi Q7. It instantaneously feels lighter and more nimble, and it also rides and performs better, thanks to its new found weight loss. The new platform is more rigid as well, so it’s smoother and more composed, especially over rough pavement and through tight corners.
It also pays dividends in the way the new Q7 looks. It’s visually much slimmer and sharper than the outgoing model, which looks a bit dumpy by comparison. The first-gen looks plain ugly standing next to the second-gen. This new Audi Q7 is a very handsome car, with crisp lines, an excellent-looking 3D grille, square-jawed good looks and an overall shape and stance that exudes both performance and elegance. This is one of the better looking SUVs on the market, that’s for sure. Though, it is a bit reserved and not too shouty, which is a good thing.
Build quality is also top-notch. Close the doors from the outside and they close with an aristocratic ‘whumph’. It’s like closing the door of a bank vault and the car does budge a millimeter. Every crease and panel gap is absolutely perfect, as always with Audi’s. It’s just a superbly built vehicle.
The interior is much the same. Get in and close the door and you’ll feel like you just locked yourself in the bank vault. Whether at speed or around town, the Audi Q7’s cabin is near silent. The materials are also outstanding, with supple leather, soft touch plastics and some alcantara throughout the cabin that give the interior a feel of quality beyond its price point. If this was the interior of a lower end Bentley, you wouldn’t second guess it. It’s also very visually appealing, with its typical German simplicity. The air vents that run across the dash in a single, uniform line work well with the uncluttered dashboard and hidden navigation screen. The center console houses many buttons for the myriad of different technologies, but it’s easy to use and very user-friendly. Even if you don’t drive an Audi, every button and switch feels as it’s where it should be and you can feel at home quite quickly.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit has been called the best in the business by some and we see no reason to doubt that. It’s simply incredible. With the ability to change the digital gauge cluster, with the push of a steering wheel-mounted button, from two traditional gauges to a massive navigation screen with Google Earth and have it happen instantaneously, the VC is a must-have option. The screen is incredibly crisp with excellent graphics and it’s very easy to use. All of the controls for it rest on the left spoke of the steering wheel and can be operated with just one thumb. It couldn’t be simpler and enjoyable to use.
One of the best parts about the system is that the VC can be operated independently of the MMI navigation screen on the dash. This means the passenger can be fiddling around with either the navigation system, radio or in-car settings and it doesn’t change, or even effect, the screen in front of the driver. So the driver can have the navigation screen up in full view on the VC right in front of their face, while the passenger shuffles through radio stations or settings or whatever else. It’s brilliant.
But all of that techno-gubbins is useless if the car doesn’t drive properly. And we’re happy to report that it drives fantastically. No joke, this is one of the best Audi’s we’ve driven in a very long time. The model we drove didn’t have the optional air-suspension, so we felt most bumps and changes in the road surface. But, in fact, we think that it’s better for it. It still rides incredibly well and was never upset by any bumps in the road and it always felt composed. I don’t think air-suspension will be a necessary option on this car, as it ride perfectly fine without it and it saves quite a bit of money with steel springs.
But the main reason we’d like to keep the standard steel springs is the steering. While most Audi’s have been plagued with vague, uncommunicative steering, this Q7 was not. The second-generation Audi Q7 actually has steering feel, legitimate steering feel. Wrap your heads around that. Whether driving slowly around town or tackling twisty corners, the Q7’s helm actually communicates what the front tires are doing with little tiny vibrations through the steering wheel, like sports cars of a decade ago. So we’d rather have the steel springs to feel everything in the seat of our pants as well as through the wheel. The steering also weights up nicely after initial turn-in and really gives a sense of what the front end was doing. I found myself being able to chuck the Big Girl into corners without fear of losing grip because the steering gave me so much confidence. Overall, the steering weight was a touch light for my tastes, but then again this is a big luxury SUV, not a sports car, so it was perfectly fine.
The 3.0 liter Supercharged V6, which produces 330 hp, provides more than enough power. While it isn’t as sprightly as other Audi’s using the same engine, it moves the big SUV with authority. The eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic gearbox is excellent, as usual. It’s smooth, responsive and gives you right-now gearshifts in manual mode. It’s also incredibly intelligent in automatic mode, always keeping the Q7 in the correct gear. It also does a good job of shuffling gears around quickly when you stomp the pedal, which allows it to get the most out of that great engine. The blown V6 sounds good, too, with a raspy growl at the top of the rev range. We didn’t test out its fuel economy, as we didn’t have time, but we will be able to give real-world figures in the future.
Overall, the second-generation Audi Q7 is genuinely a fantastic SUV and a great all-around package. The Audi Q7 starts at around $55,000, which is really good for what you get, but that doesn’t come with the excellent Virtual Cockpit and some of the other great features. The car we tested was around $70,000, and for that money we’d be hard pressed to find a better overall package of luxury, performance, comfort, fun and amazing technology.
Thanks to our friends at Ray Catena Audi of Freehold, NJ for letting us test the new Audi Q7.