The Q7 is accomplished, but doesn’t feel as at home on UK roads as more refined rivals like the Range Rover Sport and BMW X5

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Ever since its launch, we’ve rarely had much trouble controlling of our admiration for the Audi Q7, Ingolstadt’s outsize, full fat SUV. And this is strange because in theory it should be one of the company’s most convincing cars.

Audi has rarely been susceptible to accusations of lacking style, but substance? That’s proven a somewhat happier hunting ground for those who’d like nothing more than to see Audi fail. But you can’t accuse the Q7 of that, not unless you’re looking at it from the point of view of the driver of a Hummer H1 or a Peterbilt truck.

Highlights on the long and pricey options list include double glazing and 21-inch alloys

There’s so much substance it extends to over five metres in length and almost two in width. The Q7 is a vast, hulking beast, Hagrid on wheels relative to most normal cars and about as attractive too.

Yet it exists because to many people it provides the answer to one of life’s great paradoxes: how do you drive a car both you and your neighbours will regard as inherently desirable after you’ve ended up with more children, pets and clobber than perhaps you originally intended?

At first Audi had the field almost to itself with only the Land Rover Discovery offering the space, seven seats and a badge to keep our inner snob calm.

But these days there’s competition from almost every corner: the Mercedes-Benz GL is a dedicated seven seater, the BMW X5 now comes with a third row option, while even the designers of the first generation Range Rover Sport have recognised that seven seats means sales now in places where once there were none.

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Question is how well does the ageing Audi stand up too all this fresher product with their equally coveted images?


Audi Q7 front headlight

The Q7 sits on an adapted version of the platform that underpins both the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne.

Its immensely high bonnet line provides the demeanour of a battleship and while we’re swift to praise most Audis for having a certain elegance of line, we’ll be politely declining to comment in such terms about the Q7. It has undeniable presence and that’s about the nicest thing we can say about it.

Driving position is excellent but it's hard to judge where the extremities of car are.

Sensibly Audi has long since seen the light regarding the combination of petrol engines and a 2.3 tonne kerbweight and none is offered for sale, at least in the UK. Instead there is a choice of two versions of the same 3-litre V6 diesel, one offering 201bhp the other 241bhp. Actually while the step up in power is easily noticed, it’s the additional 73lb of torque of the stronger engine that you’ll both notice and appreciate more.

Of course if you want your Q7 to provide performance commensurate with its stately surrounds, there’s also a 334bhp, 4.2-litre V8 diesel closely related to that in the flagship A8 limousine and if you thought the 405lb ft of torque of the more powerful 3-litre engine sounded impressive, be advised the V8 comes to market with 589lb ft. This should be enough to do anything this side of reversing the rotation of the earth.

What the Q7 lacks is a smaller capacity four cylinder diesel that even with a 2-litre displacement could easily match the power and torque of the entry level V6 but provide better performance and handling through reduced weight not to mention wildly improved fuel consumption. Nor is there any hybrid powerplant available, at least as yet.


Audi Q7 dashboard

You might expect a full size SUV to have an interior designed with all the chunky, hairy chested style its genre suggests. But you have to remember that this an Audi first and everything else a somewhat distant second, so in fact what you get is a cabin reminiscent of any other expensive Audi, albeit somewhat further from the ground.

Not that we quibble with this. We know the car’s intended role in life has nothing whatever to go with battling its way through jungles or across the Russian Steppes but instead carrying all the apparatus of family life while keeping the owner sane and satisfied. And this the Q7 does to Audi’s usual and usually phenomenally high standards.

Audi builds beautiful interiors. This one is executed almost perfectly.

Indeed you could argue it’s even better at keeping its occupants happy because it comes with that most commanding of driving positions, one you’d need a Range Rover to comfortably best. The quality of the controls, common sense of their distribution and the ease with which they operate place the Q7 on a level above the Mercedes GL and at least on a par with the very latest BMW X5.

And of course there is space aplenty. It would be very odd in a car of such mammoth proportions were there not. Even so, this is a very comfortable for five but a less capable seven seater. Those rear seats are mounted quite high so at least the children they carry will have a clear view out, but head room is quite limited and leg room especially so.

Access is not the easiest either. And while the boot is big enough with the third row seats folded, the loading lip is very high which means hauling heavy items aboard will often require two people where otherwise one may have sufficed.


Audi Q7 front quarter

All Q7s come with the same eight speed automatic gearbox and for almost all customers the high output 3-litre diesel has more than enough performance not to make you feel compromised by the type of car that circumstances have forced upon you.

The engine is notably smooth and tuned in nicely to the shift patterns chosen for the transmission. The way to make the most of it is to keep the revs low and let the torque – of which there is plenty – do the work rather than the power of which there is actually comparatively little given the vast heft of the car it is being asked to propel.

There’s no shame in the fact that the Q7's steering is short on feel, given its size and intent

With barely 200bhp to its name, the problem with the entry level engine is not that it’s inadequate for the Q7 but rather it must be worked quite hard to provide the kind of performance you might these days think should be taken for granted in such a car.

If that doesn’t trouble you because you’re happy to knock along with the rest of the traffic then it remains worth a look, although you should bear in mind that not only is it actually very little cheaper to buy than the high output engine, the small fuel consumption advantage it holds on paper would probably be entirely negated by the extra effort it must make to provide decent performance.

Of course the engine we’d all like in our Q7 is the mighty 4.2-litre V8 diesel, a motor strong enough to serve not only in the A8 limousine but also in mildly modified form under the bonnet of the Porsche Cayenne Diesel S, currently the most powerful diesel car on sale.

The problem is not just the five figure premium the engine commands nor the disastrous effect on fuel consumption and range that results, nor even the horrendous tax consequences of its 242g/km CO2 output. The real reason you might think twice before selecting it is that while it turns the Q7 from moderately capable performer into a genuinely quite quick car, if you’re going to pay that much for it, you want massive performance in return, and this it lacks.

A 0-62mph time of 6.4sec for a seven seat, diesel-powered SUV is impressive indeed, but the lighter and even more powerful Porsche requires just 5.7sec to do the same and costs very little more to buy. All told and despite the V8’s wonderful smoothness, you’re almost certain to be better off with a V6.


It’s all about choices because when the property you’re dealing with an SUV weighing twice as much as a family hatch, you can’t design a chassis that will do it all, providing excellent ride and handling characteristics while also proving capable in the off-road environment.

Audi’s choices with the Q7 are plain to see. Every one is equipped with front and rear air suspension and so long as you don’t get carried away with the selector button and summon up dynamic mode, it rides really rather well in most circumstances.

A car of this size needs a load bay longer than the 1840mm the Q7 actually offers with seats folded

It’s true that if you drop one of its massive wheels into a particularly vicious pot-hole the car’s composure will be briefly dropped but by no more than you’d expect of any car with that much unsprung weight hanging off each of its corners. The rest of the time this is a smooth and comfortable car and one whose ride quality varies impressively little from empty to fully laden.

So no, this is not a car with an instinctive appetite for the open, twisting road. There are actually no flaws in the car’s handling save those inherent in a car this high and heavy, but attempts to drive it fast are met with grim determination not to let the side down rather than any actual enthusiasm for the job.

Roll rates are quite well controlled and the steering is more than adequately accurate, but there’s not much you’d mistake for feel in the helm and when it does run out of grip at a relatively modest level of adhesion, the understeer that results would be of the rather helpless variety were its excesses not so ably mitigated by the stability control systems.

As for offroad ability, if the size of the wheels and paucity of tyre profile don’t dissuade you from anything more than parking on the school playing field, then its limited ground clearance, approach and departure angles should, and long before you realise the underside of the car is nothing like as well protected as you’d expect any car with a genuine off-road brief to be.

This is an off-roader in name only and much the same can be said of most rivals other than a Mercedes GL and, of course the Discovery and Range Rover Sport. It will tow up to 3200kg, impressive but not as good as these closest rivals, all of which are right on the 3500kg legal limit.


Audi Q7

Believe the figures and you’ll think a 3-litre V6 Q7 will manage almost 40mpg if driven with a modicum of circumspection. It won’t. These numbers reveal everything about the ridiculous and unrealistic way at which they are arrived (and in which Audi has no choice) and nothing whatever about the likely fuel consumption of the Q7.

As previous stated we’d not expect the lower powered V6 to actually use substantially less fuel than its stronger sister and in both cases if you’re beating 30mpg in normal driving you’re doing well.

Most SUVs have a several 12v power sockets, but the Q7 has two within inches of each other

Push either harder than it cares to go and you can wipe 10mpg off that number in very short order indeed. As for the V8, the claim of 30.7mpg is probably slightly less of a fantasy figure though you’ll still be doing well to get close to it: we’d reckon 25mpg is what to expect in normal driving.

Still at least the 5.9-litre V12 TDI version is no longer on sale: you’d have struggled to get that out of the teens. All Q7s have the same massive 100 litre fuel tank so even the V8 should cover over 450 miles on a tank, the V6s over 550 miles.

All Q7s hold onto their value if not with the vice like grip of a Porsche Cayenne, then certainly with the tenacity that is characteristic of this class. Just remember all bar base SE model Q7s are well equipped and resist the temptation to be too trigger happy with the options box, a sure fire way of turning the Q7 into a depreciation nightmare.


3 star Audi Q7

At the very least the Q7 deserves to be praised for having a certain timeless quality that has nothing to do with the way that it looks.

Now surrounded by almost uniformly younger and fresher opposition, the fact it manages to retain not just its dignity but a chunk of credibility against such rivals is entirely to its credit.

The Q7's superb cabin doesn't compensate for its heavy feel and dull handling

And if you want a rock solid seven seat SUV but fancy neither a Range Rover Sport nor a Mercedes GL, there remains much to be said for it. Quiet, comfortable and spacious, for many people these qualities coupled with a still world class interior add up to an entirely convincing proposition.

For us however the world has moved on a little beyond the point occupied by the Q7. Lacking both the style and off-road class of even a Discovery let alone the Rangie and the sheer all-round ability of the GL, the Q7 is not a poor car but one that was once reasonably good but has now grown old.

It’s too heavy, stodgy to drive and dynamically limited to earn a recommendation from us here, qualified or otherwise.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Audi Q7 2006-2014 First drives