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Audi Q7 (2017) long-term test review

Published: 07 February 2017

 CAR's Audi Q7 long-term test review
 Fitted with optional air suspension
 Latest Q7 daily driver reports

Month eight living with an Audi Q7 3.0 TDI: the end of our long-term test

My biggest-ever car has departed, and it leaves an equally big hole in our family life. The Audi Q7 really is big: 50mm longer than a Range Rover and 200mm longer than a Range Rover Sport. You’d need an ocean-going Mercedes GLS to overshadow it, and then only by 80mm. My three-year-old, with the keen eye for automotive assessment that will doubtless see him follow me into motoring journalism, referred to it simply as ‘the big car’. 

You would expect a huge, luxury SUV costing fifty-four grand (or nearly sixty-five as tested) to ace family life, and it did. More surprising was how it did all this while never allowing its size to be a pain in the ass. Part of the interest of this long- term test was that the VW Group’s new MLB-Evo platform which underpins the Q7 also gives us three other big SUVs: the Bentley Bentayga and the next-generation VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne.

Six months’ experience of the Q7 bodes well for all of them. The platform’s thinner high-strength steel and greater use of aluminium produces a car which is around 300kg lighter and which feels deft, agile and composed on the road. We knew this from our first road test, of course, but it’s remarkable how it continues to affect your view of the car in daily use. You simply enjoy driving it more, and seldom curse its bulk. The old Q7 was a big car too, and boy did you know it.

There are also features unique to the Q7 that help disguise its size. Visibility is excellent, helped by the thin split A-pillars. The optional active rear-steer (£1100) transforms its tight-spot manoeuvrability, and the (also optional) surround cameras make parking simple, assuming the space is actually big enough. I’m not too proud to admit that I used them constantly.

The CAR magazine Audi Q7 3.0 TDI

The Range Rover Sport which the Q7 replaced looked better, handled slightly better and offered more exuberant colour and trim options than the very conservative Audi. But for cabin technology the Audi makes the Range Rover feel two generations old. I added a bunch of tech options which we don’t get to assess fully in an initial road test. Most proved their worth, and many can be specced on other Audis.

There was a detailed report on most of these in the September issue (and now online). Of the others, I liked the £600 Virtual Cockpit, which allows you to shrink the dials and enlarge the other information, with the very useful option of a full-width bird’s-eye sat-nav map directly in front of you. But I’m not sure I’d bother with the £950 Matrix headlamps, which can recognise oncoming traffic and selectively dip areas of the main beam while leaving the rest of your view fully illuminated. It’s clever, but not quite clever enough yet: you can sometimes see it fading down one area unnecessarily, and even when working perfectly it doesn’t make a sufficient difference to visibility to justify the price.

Of the two early faults, one fixed itself (a sticky ‘park’ button on the gearlever, which freed up with use) and a map-redrawing error was solved with a reset of the MMI system, as instructed by phone by the dealer. Once resolved, the cabin was the usual Audi perfection. Economy, as previously reported, seldom strayed far either side of 30mpg, and averaged 29.6mpg over 7000 miles: not bad for such a big car. Yes, it’s well short of the official figure of 47.9mpg, but I think we’ve all now stopped paying those any attention whatsoever.

A one-paragraph summary? The Q7 is big, but doesn’t feel it. It’s expensive and very well-made, but only the interior shouts about it. It is immensely clever, and while not all of the tech options are genuinely useful or worth their eye-watering prices, one or two might make a huge difference to your long-term enjoyment of your car. The needs of a magazine force us to swap these cars every six months: I’d have happily driven this one for ten years.

By Ben Oliver

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro S line

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  Gearbox 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km CO2
Price £53,835
As tested £64,745
Total miles 7372
Our overall mpg 29.6
Official mpg 47.9
Fuel costs overall £1255.11
Extra costs £0


Month seven with an Audi Q7: tackling the urban grind

As a means of city-centre transport, a big SUV is about as suitable as a submarine. But a combination of the Southern Rail strikes and a slipped disc has forced me to take the Audi Q7 to work in London recently. It’s been pretty nice. The A-pillars are thin for an ally-bodied car, so junction visibility is good.

I use the surround cameras (including the witchcraft aerial view) for parking, but haven’t bothered with the self-parking function once in 7000 miles. And not only is my journey home immune from Bolshevik sabotage, but I’m guaranteed a seat.

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro S line 

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Gearbox 8-speed auto, awd  
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km  
Price £53,835  
As tested £64,745  
Miles this month 476  
Total 7372  
Our mpg 29.3  
Official mpg 47.9  
Fuel costs £85.28  
Extra costs £0

By Ben Oliver


2017 Audi Q7 long-term test

Month six with an Audi Q7: we’ve got late onset desirability

A guy just tapped on the window of our Audi Q7 in Halfords car park and asked if he could have a look inside. It’s his lottery-win car, he told me. He didn’t look like he was about to car-jack me so I was happy to oblige, explaining that I can’t afford one either. Just a few days earlier an impressed, non car-enthusiast friend asked me from the back seat how much the Q7 cost, thinking it might be a good thirty-grand replacement for her family S-Max. She choked when I told her that it was £54,000, or £65,000 with options.

It’s odd: until these two experiences I’d almost forgotten that the Q7 is an expensive, desirable car. This is a compliment. Its subtle looks and seamless integration into family life make it feel like an upmarket seven-seat people carrier, which is precisely what a lot of its buyers want. I’ve criticised the Q7’s shy, amorphous design before (strident grille excepted) but its relative subtlety is proving popular, unscientifically proven by the fact that I’ve started to see a lot of them on the road in the last couple of months.

2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Sadly my time with the Q7 is already nearing an end. Six months and a four-figure mileage isn’t enough to require even a basic service we could report on, but I was at Halfords to perform the new (to me) maintenance task of filling the AdBlue tank which feeds its urea solution into the exhaust system upstream of the catalytic convertor to cut nitrogen oxide emissions.

Carmakers worried that we would find this task irksome, but it’s no more complex than topping off the washer reservoir and you’re only likely to need to do it once or twice between services, if at all. The first warning came up at around 6000 miles and the urging got increasingly shouty, eventually warning me that if I didn’t fill up in 500 miles I wouldn’t be allowed to start my car. Bit cheeky of the Volkswagen Group to admonish me for a lax approach to emissions, I thought. Twenty quid for ten litres wasn’t too painful.

2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Six months will also be insufficient for me to fully master the Audi’s MMI interface. Most of the key functions are just a couple of clicks away: the trouble is remembering which click (or twist, or swipe), as there are so many ways ‘out’ of every screen. This is mostly my fault: after ten years I still can’t remember which way to turn the mixer tap in my shower for hot water.

But the Audi system does seem a little haphazard in places and lacks the intuitive feel of some rivals. I particularly like what looks like a Post-It note which appears on the main instrument panel with the sat-nav directions: I’m sure it’s not an afterthought, but it looks like it. But German logic has not always extended to switchgear and instruments: see most 911s for proof.

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line 

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km  
Price £53,835  
As tested £64,745  
Miles this month 1362  
Total miles 6896  
Our mpg 30.1  
Official mpg 47.9  
Fuel this month £236.50  
Extra costs £20 (AdBlue)

By Ben Oliver


2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Month five with an Audi Q7: diary notes

Any Land Rover designers or engineers I’ve spoken to recently have shown strong interest in the fact that I drive an Audi Q7: can’t think why, with the new Discovery around the corner. I tell them what I tell you: that styling aside, I like it immensely.

Tasks this month have included jump-starting a 205GTi (note handily positioned terminals) and transporting Ben Whitworth, me and bikes to the start line of the RideLondon 100-mile ride, and back home afterwards. The new-car smell has now departed.

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line 

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Gearbox 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km  
Price £53,835  
As tested £64,745  
Miles this month 1011  
Total 5534  
Our mpg 30.3  
Official mpg 47.9  
Fuel costs £177.60  
Extra costs £0

By Ben Oliver


2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Month four with an Audi Q7: meet our resident specs therapist

When ordering this Audi Q7 I chose a bunch of tech options which you might be considering if you’re buying any Audi, as many of these are offered on other models too. The idea is that a long-term test reveals the value of such options far better than a first-drive, and once you’ve decided to buy an Audi, what you really want help with is how to spec it. So here’s a mid-term report on some of the options. I’ll look at others in future issues.

All-wheel steering £1100

Verdict: have

It’s not cheap, but making the rears turn cuts a metre from the turning circle and makes this seven-seat SUV feel astonishingly manoeuvrable in town or in tight car parks. Even after four months, I’m still surprised at how it takes in one sweep a turn that other SUVs would need two bites at. Last month’s autobahn run proved that high-speed stability is impressive too.

Park Assist Pack £1150

Verdict: have (the cameras, anyway…)

I haven’t tried the self-parking function included in this pack but the surround cameras it also brings can, by witchcraft, generate an overhead image of the car, and look in both directions along a road you’re joining unsighted from the side. No matter how great I might pretend to be at parking unaided, I use this system constantly, and now feel a bit blind without it. Together with the all-wheel steering, it makes the Q7 little harder to park than a hatchback, and this is probably why I haven’t tried the self-parking yet.

Adaptive air suspension £2000

Verdict: have

The air suspension on my car came as part of the £2655 Dynamic Pack, which also brings a bunch of safety and efficiency aids which I’ll look at later. It’s probably good value given that the air springs are £2k on their own, and they are worth having if you can stretch to them. Together with the standard 20-inch rims it allows the Q7 to be impressively isolated when you need it to be, and surprisingly sharp in Dynamic mode.

2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Advanced Key £950

Verdict: have (I didn’t)

Doh! I read in the brochure that the Q7 has Keyless Go as standard and assumed that meant keyless access as well as ignition. It doesn’t. I don’t want to sound over-pampered – I have cars which still require a metal key to be inserted in a lock – but keyless entry is massively useful if, like me, you approach your daily driver at least twice a day with a child in each arm. On a car of this price, it probably ought to be standard. Yes, £950 is a stupid amount of money, but I curse not having it at least 14 times a week.

Flat-bottomed multi-function wheel £150

Verdict: don’t

So having just spent thousands of your money, I’m now going to save you a whole £150. I didn’t realise that a normal, round multi-function wheel was standard, so I ordered this, which looks great in an R8, but a bit daft in an SUV.

From the driving seat 

+ Optional air springs and standard 20in rims an impressive combo for both ride and handling  
+ Alu-intensive construction makes this Q7 way sharper than the old one  
+ This 268bhp diesel is the big seller: more than adequate go, and very refined  
– No keyless entry? For £65k? Come on! 

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line 

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km  
Price £53,835  
As tested £64,745  
Miles this month 977  
Total miles 4523  
Our mpg 29.8  
Official mpg 47.9  
Fuel this month £168.19  
Extra costs £0

By Ben Oliver


2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Month three with an Audi Q7: invited to an autobahn dance

Does a week in Germany with two toddlers and your (German) in-laws actually count as a holiday? Either way, our Audi Q7 was the perfect, stress-relieving transport. The previously reported faults have been cured: the sticky ‘park’ button on the gearlever freed up with use, and the malfunctioning maps were sorted by a hard reset of the MMI system, as remotely instructed by the very helpful Brighton Audi. Now working, the sat-nav’s guidance is super-clear and its traffic-avoidance abilities around the clogged Ruhr were supernatural.

On the autobahn, the Q7’s immense refinement extends beyond 130mph, keeping the kids asleep and shortening the trip. Once awake, a fifteen-quid aftermarket iPad holder kept them happy – I can’t see why people still blow thousands on rear-seat entertainment systems. 

And after last month’s praise for the fold-out boot protector, this month I’m going to single out another simple £115 option: the 85-litre tank. Some manufacturers only offer a big tank on their thirstiest models to give them a reasonable range. Not Audi. An extra ten litres might not seem much but it gives an extra 60 miles between fills, saving one fuel stop in ten, and the occasional panic. 

I can’t seem to make the economy stray far from 30mpg: the worst I saw from a tank was 27.7 after long stints near v-max fully laden. The best was 31.8mpg, which gave me an indicated range of 1030km. John Grant’s Disappointing was playing at the time, its title displayed alongside the range. In a full-size SUV, that figure couldn’t be more impressive. 

By Ben Oliver


2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Month two with an Audi Q7: one worthwhile option is an inexpensive one

How long do you baby a new car for? Our Audi Q7 still had double digits on the odometer when I threw a dirty bike and dirtier rider (me) in it for a loop through the Surrey Hills. Thank God for the stain-resistance of the genuine alcantara trim.

We deliberately loaded this car with tech options to test, but my favourite so far is the simplest and cheapest: a £115 dirt-resistant fold-out mat which also protects the rear door trims and bumper and preserves the showroom look, if not the new-car smell. 

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line 

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km  
Price £53,835  
As tested £64,745  
Miles this month 1379  
Total 1649  
Our mpg 28.2  
Official mpg 47.9  
Fuel costs £241.03  
Extra costs £0

By Ben Oliver


2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

Month one with an Audi Q7: the introduction

The new Bentley Bentayga has only just gone on sale and the replacements for the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne have yet to be revealed, but we’re living with them all already, channelled through our new Audi Q7.

All will share the VW Group’s MLB-Evo platform, which here uses its aluminium and thinner high-strength steel to cut 300kg from the weight of the old Q7. Lighter, stiffer cars are faster and handle better. More importantly for big SUVs, they should also be more refined, more economical, and easier to live with and justify. We’re about to find out.

The new Q7 scored a solid third in CAR’s recent test of three big SUVs, but perhaps the chance to carefully specify our own and use it as intended for the next year might win us around. Actually, it already has. I really like this car, even if some of these early experiences seem negative.

So, the spec. You’ll decide for yourself, but the new Q7’s styling doesn’t seem to have won many friends, and the standard colours don’t help. They are terrifically dull: seven monochromes relieved only by a dark blue, a dark green and a beige. For £2155 you can choose any colour in the Audi range, or for £2655 you can mix your own. But that seemed extravagant, so I went for Daytona Grey pearl, which is exclusive to the S-line and a £675 supplement. Only the black and white won’t cost you extra. As ‘understated’ was going to be the (involuntary) theme here, I stuck with the S-line’s standard 20-inch rims, which ought to help the ride.

Next, engine. Since I specced my car, the e-tron plug-in hybrid has been added, and the SQ7 with its 429bhp electrically supercharged 4.0-litre V8 will arrive later this year. But this 268bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI will be easily the biggest seller. There is also a 215bhp version which is £2585 cheaper but only a claimed 0.8mpg more efficient, for which you sacrifice 74lb ft of torque. Fitted with its own special 18-inch rims its emissions just squeeze under 150g/km, saving a little on company car and road tax, so maybe that explains it. My version is only 4g/km dirtier.

The cabin trim options are equally conservative. I decided to leave the interior visuals and entertainment standard, and instead blow the options budget on some of the Q7’s impressive tech offering. This stuff only usually reveals its value once you’ve lived with it for a while, and our experience with it will be relevant to those buying the other Audis it’s offered on. 

The highlights? Virtual cockpit shrinks the dials, and displays a big map right in front of you. Matrix LED lamps use sat-nav to decide when to use main beam, and can apply it selectively to different parts of the road ahead. Predictive Efficiency claims to be able to improve fuel use by 10% by tweaking the car’s systems and your driving technique to what it knows about the road ahead. All-wheel steering cuts the turning circle by a metre, and the park-assist pack means it will park itself and gives you five different camera angles should you be forced to park yourself. The optional air suspension and the full-length panoramic sunroof were the other big-ticket items. In total, we added £10,740 to the £53,835 OTR price.

And now it’s here. Yes, the exterior is a little dull. But the extraordinary material quality and finish of the cabin drew a genuine little gasp when I first sat inside it. My early miles have shown the ride quality on the 20s and air springs to be exceptional, and the mechanical refinement to be just as impressive. But there are problems. The sat-nav controller doesn’t redraw the map correctly, leaving you with mad, trippy fractal art instead of directions, and the park button on the gearlever requires thumb-bruising force to activate. So I’ll be getting acquainted with my dealer sooner than I’d hoped, but it won’t take the lustre off this very accomplished, very clever big car. 

Logbook: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro S line

Engine 2967cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 268bhp @ 3250rpm, 442lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Stats 6.5sec 0-62mph, 145mph, 153g/km  
Price £53,835  
As tested £64,745  
Miles this month 270  
Total miles 270  
Our mpg 24.5  
Official mpg 47.9  
Fuel costs  £48.04  
Extra costs £0

By Ben Oliver

Read more Audi long-term tests here

2016 Audi Q7 long-term test

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features

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