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Driving the SUV with a genius-level IQ
HOW THE GERMANS can make a very understated-looking car and still endow it with the aggressiveness and authority that only a Teutonic design can impart never ceases to amaze me.
Case in point: the new 2021 Audi Q7. It has one of the smoothest and cleanest designs in automobiledom. No macho fender flares, no superfluous curves, no stray character lines — just an elegantly minimalist design that nevertheless conveys an aura of luxury and strength.
Much credit, of course, goes to that imposing Audi Singleframe grille and those mean-looking — and very effective — HD Matrix LED headlights (which effectively double the distance of most cars’ high beams in stunning precision). But the vehicle itself, even in a very understated dark blue, turns a lot of heads with its sizable proportions. The seven-seater Q7 spans a full 5,063mm long and a vast 2,212mm wide (including the side mirrors). Its wheelbase is a stunning 2,995mm — much longer than many of the popular seven-seater SUVs’— giving the Q7 superior cabin space compared to its direct competitors. Even the third-row occupants of the Q7 can sit in true spacious luxury.
The 2021 Audi Q7 TDI sports the mid-cycle face-lift of the current second-generation model. The first-generation model debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005 while the second-gen model came out in 2015. The new Q7’s side air inlets and sill area have a much more expressive line, underscoring the vehicle’s ground clearance and off-road capabilities. The light signature of the LED headlamps emphasizes the width of the model, while the restyled rear’s chrome strip and flat taillights with technical-looking graphics connect with the body’s horizontal line. Complementing the refreshed styling are 20-inch cast aluminum wheels in 5-V-spoke turbine design.
Numerous storage compartments and cavernous luggage space — even with the third-row seats up — give the Q7 superb versatility. The finely crafted cabin combines luxury with practical features that make the driving and riding experience more rewarding and absolutely stress-free. The Q7’s cockpit architecture seamlessly integrates a new digital operating system highlighted by two large touchscreens that provide haptic and acoustic feedback for their touch controls. When switched off, the top display slots almost invisibly into the large black decorative surface. All other elements are arrayed logically in true German tradition. There is a learning curve to negotiate with the interface if one is used to Japanese cars, but the transition is easier if one is used to European vehicles.
Included among the premium features in the cabin are the Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus (featuring a high-resolution color information display), MMI Navigation Plus with MMI touch response, a handsome and delightful-to-grip three-spoke flat-bottom leather multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifters, a superb Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, an ambient LED lighting package, four-zone automatic air-conditioning, and Audi Music Interface for the rear seat.
All three rows of seats can be slid forwards or backwards individually, and the seatbacks can be reclined. The middle portion of the second-row seats can be folded down to create a wide armrest and partition for the outboard seats, effectively transforming the back into a business class-like suite. Fitted as standard is an electrically operated tailgate. Befitting a true luxury SUV, the new Q7 boasts power-latching, soft-closing doors. The luggage compartment offers up to 2,050 liters of space (with the second- and third-row seats folded), creating a fully flat load area.
Further elevating the Q7 are its host of safety equipment, which includes full-size air bags in front, air bags at the outboard sides of the front and rear passengers, Isofix child seat mountings, Parking Aid Plus with 360-degree display, tire pressure monitoring, advanced traction and stability control systems, and numerous driver-assist technologies.
Powering the new Audi Q7 is a surreally quiet and supremely strong 3.0-liter TDI V6 turbocharged diesel engine that makes 286hp and a whopping 600Nm of torque — enough to propel the nearly three-ton Q7 from rest to 100kph in a scant 6.3 seconds. Matched to this is an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, which sends the engine’s output to the Quattro all-wheel drive system. But despite the immense power output, the car’s power delivery is impressively linear and smooth. There is no sudden and unsettling surge forward — just smooth, strong and relentless acceleration, almost like an Airbus A380 super jumbo taking off a runway.
Yet more dynamic performance achievements are the impressive blend of a luxurious ride with responsive handling and the easy-to-modulate brakes, which allow you to quickly decelerate from high speed without the occupants flying forward against their seat belts. That’s true smoothness in every aspect.
Making the engine more efficient is a mild hybrid system that uses a belt alternator starter to power a 48-volt main electrical system, in which a compact lithium-ion battery stores the energy. The system can recover energy during braking, then use this to allow the vehicle to coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off. The engine restarts immediately as soon as the accelerator is pressed.
All things considered, the Audi Q7 is much more than your stereotypical luxury product. It transcends mere branding and exclusivity by offering cutting-edge technology, world-beating performance, and near-opulent levels of luxury. And the beauty of it is that it conveys all of these not by screaming it out to the world, but by assuredly and effortlessly delivering all those values in an understated yet distinguished manner.