Platform gives Audi Q7 a steadier ride

’17 model’s tech touted in competitive field

’17 model’s tech touted in competitive field

The Audi Q7 sheds 474 pounds in curb weight for 2017.

YOUNTVILLE, Calif. — It may still be called the Q7, but Audi‘s largest crossover has evolved into a different animal than what arrived stateside in 2006.

The redesigned seven-seater is lighter and leaner than the outgoing model, helping it achieve driving dynamics more like a sport sedan.

The Q7’s ride and handling, plus a host of new driver-assist and connectivity technologies, are among the competitive advantages that Audi of America CEO Scott Keogh sees for the redesigned Q7 in the rapidly growing luxury crossover market.

He estimates the current Q7 has about a 7 to 8 percent share of the luxury “C-crossover” segment, which includes nameplates such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X5. The smaller Q5 has about 12 to 14 percent of its segment, Keogh says.

“We definitely see an opportunity here in a segment that has good pricing power, good growth and good margins,” Keogh said on the sidelines of a media event here.

2017 Audi Q7 Audi’s biggest vehicle receives its first redesign since it debuted stateside in 2006. Now armed with a larger share of global production than with the outgoing Q7, Audi of America hopes the Q7’s combination of sport-sedan-like driving dynamics and driver-assistance and connectivity technologies will help it swipe market share from rivals such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE.

The Q7, which goes on sale next month, will launch with a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 before an entry-level model powered by a 252-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four is added later in the 2017 model year. All-wheel drive and seating for seven with power third-row seats are standard.

Powertrain: Supercharged 3.0-liter V-6; eight-speed automatic

Technology: Optional above-view camera, customizable digital instrument cluster, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Audi Connect connectivity suite, color head-up display

Safety: Standard collision warning and emergency braking, optional adaptive cruise control, left-turn assist, lane assist, rear cross-traffic assist

Target: 20,000+ units a year (est.)

Competitors: BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volvo XC90, Acura MDX

Strengths: Ride and handling, interior design and fit and finish, high-tech connectivity and display options

Weaknesses: Cramped 3rd row; panoramic sunroof adds weight

Bottom line: Trucks that drive like cars are nothing new, but the Q7 takes it to a new level. The Q7 ate up the twisty vineyard-lined roads of Sonoma County, Calif., despite its size. Optional 4-wheel steering makes carving through corners even easier. Crossovers already are powering Audi sales to record levels. The redesigned Q7 looks poised to accelerate that trend.

While the VW Group’s diesel scandal has expanded to include more Audi vehicles, Keogh says it’s “incumbent” upon him and Audi of America to give the Q7 a strong launch and keep Audi’s growth streak in the U.S. alive.