Driven - April 2016

Grown up yet young at heart: Audi’s new Q7 driven.

Slimmer, smarter and better.

Getting older is a funny and weird thing. You start to notice changes in not only how you view the world but also, how you use it. Not only do I not drink beer any more (let’s be completely honest, it doesn’t taste nice and most of us drink it to fit in) but my choice in cars has swayed a bit too. Not only do I look at performance and how the car makes me feel, but I find myself looking at the boot space of a car and asking my wife strange questions like, “do you think a pram will fit in the boot?” and “does it come standard with ISOFIX” I mean ISOFIX, really!?

This was worsened when we had the new Audi Q7 on test. To be honest, when our editor said, “you need to drive this car!” I was a little taken back by just looking at it. The previous Q7 had left me feeling underwhelmed and it was just too big. Sure it could do what the other SUV’s could, but in my opinion it wasn’t as refined as its competitors, and it felt dated too.

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So off I went, leaving my BMW 435i in the basement and into the boxier new Q7. Man, was I surprised. What immediately struck me were the proportions of the car. Yes it’s big, but the car seems to have shrunk from its predecessor. Visually, it’s sleek and understated, it also has those lovely day time running lights due to the optional Matrix headlights that seem to have been taken straight out of the movie Tron. I walked around the new Q7 and felt like Joey from the sitcom Friends as I asked the car “How you doin?” (If you don’t get that joke, you’re too young.)

The surprises kept on coming as I got more acquainted with the car. The premium interior trim, long dashboard, ease of controls and most importantly, Audi’s biggest party trick the Virtual Cockpit all impressed me. Despite all of this I was still sceptical because I still remember how the old girl drove, surely it’s still a tank that’s an absolute mess to park? Wrong again Richard.

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This latest model, with its 3.0 TDI producing 185kW and 600Nm, made me think of the “as smooth as a hot knife through butter” cliché. It glides and gets up to speed very quickly. After a few hours, I didn’t miss my 225kW daily drive at all. There are some back roads on my adventurous route home and I decided this was going to be a good challenge for the new Q7. I dove in aggressively to the first of many sharp corners and the steering feedback as well as the suspension setup surely hides the cars’ weight and it proceeded to devour the bends in a way a 4×4 shouldn’t. It seemed to look back at me and say, “is that all you’ve got?” All of this is due to the lower centre of gravity on the new Q7 compared to the previous car, as well as a weight reduction of 325 kilograms.

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Another test was the “wife test”, since most wife’s have the biggest influence in car choices. So I picked up my wife and found an excuse for us to go out for dinner and I pleasantly found out that I wasn’t the only one to be bitten by the Q7 bug. The feature that she liked the most? The fact that the car does not feel big inside and is therefore not intimidating to drive or to be a passenger in. What didn’t she like? The fact that new Q7 didn’t look as exciting as other SUV’s on the road, something we agreed to disagree on. So the car had so far passed some key tests.

To say I was impressed by the new Q7 is an understatement. My current favourite SUV was the not so new Range Rover Sport TDV6, but this new Q7 I found was more exciting and dynamic. I’m glad that the ugly duckling now has a chance of becoming the “prom queen”, but we can’t give it the crown until we drive the new Volvo XC90, a car that is the current SA Car of the Year. That being said, the new Q7 is better at everything than the car it replaces and yes it can fit a pram in the boot and it does have ISOFIX. The good thing is that despite it making me indulge in my mature desires even more, it still made me feel young. Which is a lot to say for a car intended for families. Starting at R907 000, it’s competitively priced in its segment too.