When it first appeared as a newcomer on the motoring scene, the Audi Q7 seemed huge and looked like a Goliath in the traffic. Designed with the lucrative US market in mind, it seemed rather at odds with more conventionally sized cars on UK roads at the time. Over in America, with its super-sized vehicles and vast freeways, the big butch Audi felt completely at home right from the start. Here, though, it seemed a bit out of scale, dwarfing all its neighbours in any urban traffic jam.
That was a decade ago. Times have moved on, and so has the typical size of an average family car across Europe. Beefier models are now far more numerous than they were back in the Q7’s debut days in 2005. So when I took a new generation Q7 on a long driving trip around Hampshire the other day, it felt far less imposing than the old model did when it made its debut.
The Q7 has been subjected to the automotive equivalent of weight-watchers, and emerged with measurements very slightly shorter and narrower than before, as well as having had an impressive amount of weight – 240 kg and more – shaved off its read-out on the scales. That’s a lightening of its all-up weight by the equivalent of several average-sized people, a worthwhile saving, because it always saves the fuel that would be needed to cart them around.
Reducing any non-essential weight is a bit of a motor industry obsession at present, because of the benefits it delivers in lower CO2 and improved fuel consumption. The still-big new Q7 has a power-boosted three-litre turbodiesel engine, with a hefty 268 bhp power output, and rapid acceleration with a 0-62 mph sprint time of six and a half seconds. But its combined fuel figure is a respectable 47 mpg, with CO2 output of 154 g/km. that’s not exactly green, but it is a lot better than big 4x4s used to be.
The Q7 has some tough competition in cars like the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and new Volvo XC90, as well as the forthcoming Jaguar F-Pace that will soon join the growing ranks of luxury SUVs. So the big hunky Audi needs to be good, and it is.
You might well say, so it should be at the price, which is on the upper side of £50k. For that you have a right to expect a lot of executive toys, and it has them. Its glitzy gizmos include features like the virtual cockpit dashboard layout, adaptive suspension that adjusts itself to the driving mode you select – from sport to comfort with other choices in between – and quad zone climate control that allows individual settings for the driver, front passenger, and each of the two rear seating rows.
Seven seats are standard, and so is four-wheel-drive and a hill descent control system. There is an optional all-wheel-steering system, which makes this big bulky car a lot easier to manoeuvre in tight urban spaces, because it reduces the turning circle of the standard car by a full metre.
Yes, it’s still a bit of a Goliath, but a more nimble one than it has been until now. It also has more company than when it first appeared, and five-metres-long 4x4s no longer stick out in the traffic as they once did.