Photo: 2017 Audi Q7 Photo 1
New people hauler upgrades to Benz-like levels of protective tech
What is it?
The 2017 Audi Q7 will help keep you in your lane, keep you at a safe distance from the car in front of you, save you from a cross-traffic crash, watch for pedestrians, help you turn and watch your mirrors for approaching traffic as you exit the vehicle. The only thing it won’t do is drive itself. However, after a full day in the car, caressing the damp, twisty California mountain roads in the fog, we almost wish it would back off a little bit.
The second-generation, seven-passenger Q7, on sale in January, tries to take all of the stress out of driving, and it mostly does. But there are those times when a slightly riskier move might make more sense than what the camera, lasers, radar, sonar and lidar will tell you, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The 2017 Q7 comes equipped with a new version of the company’s 3.0-liter supercharged V6, making 333 hp at 5,500-6,000 rpm and 325 lb-ft in a broad 2,900-5,300 rpm window. An eight-speed Tiptronic transmission sends power through Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system to whatever wheels it sees fit. We’ll see a diesel in the lineup at some point as well. The 4,938-pounder can cha-cha to 60 mph in an impressive 5.7 seconds.
Speaking of that weight, Audi axed 474 pounds off the last SUV through the use of more aluminum and other high-strength/lightweight materials. The company notes that’s the equivalent of taking a grand piano out of the back seat, or two big NFL running backs. It also lowered the center of gravity about 1.5 inches, and that’s important because the Q7’s computer senses that center, and adjusts if say, there’s luggage on the roof.
2017 Audi Q7 i1
Top speed is 130 mph and mileage is rated at 19/25/21 (city/highway/combined). We returned about 18 mpg on our 250-mile trip, but we have notoriously heavy feet, and the roads weren’t exactly flat Kansas highways, either.
The new Q gets Audi’s single-frame grille, with more angular headlights like the rest of the new class. Its sheetmetal is pulled tighter all the way around, and it looks much less chubby and bubbly than before. The taillights are squared off, and the dual exhaust pipes are integrated into a diffuser that looks like a skidplate but is not.
Inside, Audi cleans up the dash, with its quick-reacting virtual cockpit in upgraded models. That system puts the navigation in the gauge cluster so drivers only have to look down for a second to see where they are. It also uses Google Earth so you can see the sort of terrain you’re approaching. The central screen retracts when not in use, and the Bang and Olufsen sound system we tested belted out the loudest version of “Hello” our ears could stand. You want numbers? How about 1,900 watts, 23 speakers and four — that’s the number of tears we shed during Adele’s newest power ballad.
2017 Audi Q7 i2
What’s it like to drive?
The Q7 offers either a steel suspension setup or an air suspension. And that air ride comes packaged with four-wheel steering. You know the deal on this. At slow speeds, the rear wheels slightly turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels to tighten the radius; at high speeds they turn in the same direction, steadying quick lane changes.
We found the steel suspension to be plenty compliant on the curvy mountain roads and only a bit jouncy on the really rough stuff. The air suspension is adjustable — it’s biggest advantage — ranging from very soft in comfort mode to impressively stiff in dynamic. The drive modes adjust everything on the air-suspension-equipped cars, and everything but the suspension on the steel-equipped cars. The air cars also have off-road and lift modes, both of which give you extra travel on rutted roads. Once the speed is picked up, the SUV automatically lowers.
Audi is usually near the head of the pack in steering weight and feel, even on its big models. This Q7 continues the trend with something that’s truly fun to drive, for an SUV. In both suspension setups, changes of direction are quick without a lot of body roll, and it’s easy to stick on the inside line of turn, as long as those safety features aren’t cutting in.
Here’s the rub. Most of the time the lane-keeping, pre-sense distance sensing and like systems aren’t intrusive. We tested the traffic assist system that will accelerate, brake and turn with traffic at speeds of up to 37 mph, and it worked well. You have to keep your hands on the wheel or the system will chide you, but it will stay in the lines and keep a safe distance. It would truly save you from stress in traffic. The problem arose when we were on a curvy two-lane with only oncoming traffic. The natural tendency of a driver is to gently fade away from an oncoming car when it passes, but the lane-keeping feature — which turns on automatically — pushes you back towards the middle of the lane, toward the oncoming car. It led to a few hairier situations with bigger trucks and logging semis when we had to yank the car back over to the right line. It only acts on the wheel with 3.7 lb-ft of torque, which is the most it can legally do to allow the driver to overpower it in case of emergency.
Thankfully, both of our hands were on the wheel most of the time because the Q7 keeps all of the controls at your fingertips. The virtual cockpit is controlled with a few buttons and wheel by your left thumb while radio and other important controls are on the right. On those dark, lonely roads we were glad not to have to reach out or look down to touch a screen or turn a dial.
As for cargo and passenger room, the Q7 has space for seven, though the third row would be a little tight for adults for long distances. The middle row folds and tumbles out of the way with a 35/30/35 split. All five back seats can be configured any way you want, meaning if the kids want to go in the third row, you can fold all the second-row seats down, leaving a ton of space in the middle. With them all folded down, you get 71.6 cubic feet of space.
2017 Audi Q7 i3
Do I want it?
The new Q7 is more fun to drive than many of its competitors, including the Mercedes-Benz GLE and Acura MDX. The BMW X5 might be a little sprightlier, but the third row there is optional. Then there are the electronics. The level of tech in the Q7 is truly staggering — when it’s not being annoying, and will no doubt save lives in the long run. The new hauler comes in at $55,750 including, $950 in destination charges, where the GLE starts at about $52K and the X5 costs about $54K, so we have to say it’s priced fairly.
And of course with the Audi Q7, we can go where we want to, a place where they will never find. And we can act like we come from out of this world, leave the real one far behind. And we can dance, and we can dance…