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Review of The all new Audi Q7 : better than a Volvo XC90?

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A great choice for large families

While the new Q7 is slightly smaller on the outside than its predecessor, it’s also more spacious for passengers. The third row of seats power out of the floor on electric motors and, once raised, provide enough room for two small adults to travel in reasonable comfort.

The three individual middle row seats slide and tumble forwards to allow for good access to the third row, and when back in place offer lots of room; three adults will fit comfortably, although the person in the middle will need to straddle a wide lump in the floor.

The Q7 feels equally as vast in the front, with plenty of storage.

Indicative of its size, the Q7 also offers a decent boot (equivalent to a Ford Fiesta’s) even when the third row of seats is in use. Fold them away meanwhile, and the 770 litres on offer trumps even the biggest estate cars. The loading lip is 5cm lower than that of the previous Q7, while in the event of needing yet more room, you can also fold the middle row seats completely flat.

The only oversight is a lack of anywhere to store the parcel shelf when the third row seats are in use.

Eats up the miles without a problem

You’d expect a top-of-the-range Audi to offer a luxurious driving experience, and for the most part the Q7 doesn’t disappoint. The 3.0-litre diesel engine is incredibly smooth and quiet, and there’s little in the way of wind or road noise to trouble you, making this a great car for long journeys.

At present, we have only driven the Q7 on the optional air suspension, which does a good job of smoothing out bumps in the road, whilst also preventing the car’s body from leaning or lurching too much through corners.

The driving position offers a commanding view over traffic, and all seats are large and comfortable – even those in the third row, where our only criticism is that your knees are forced above your hip point, although the same can be said of rival seven-seater SUVs.

Great to look at and easy to use

Until the arrival of the new A8 luxury saloon, the Q7 represents the pinnacle of Audi interior design, including the stylish and beautifully constructed dashboard. The main central screen glides on motors out of the top of the dash when you switch on the ignition, and can be controlled via a combination of rotary knob, buttons and touchpad. It sounds complicated, but in fact is for the most part intuitive to use, giving access to satnav, telephone, music and internet functions.

The standard analogue dials can be upgraded to Audi’s 12-inch “Virtual Cockpit” display, which allows you to place the satnav instructions and map within the instruments. While a great system on the TT, it seems a little bit superfluous on a car that already has a large central screen showing the same information.

Four-wheel steering available as an option

On the open road the Q7 is a breeze to drive, thanks to its smooth shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox. We are yet to try the entry-level 218bhp diesel engine, but the more expensive 272bhp version offers effortless acceleration, making it easy to overtake slow-moving traffic.

Where the car struggles is in narrow lanes or busy town centres, where its sheer size can make it feel rather intimidating. Visibility over your shoulder is also restricted, so you have to rely on the proximity sensors when parking.

Audi does have one trick up its sleeve that should make the Q7 easier to drive, and that is an optional four-wheel steering system, which provides a smaller turning at low speeds and improved stability when travelling quickly. In reality though, it’s difficult to gauge how much effort you need to put in, particularly at low speed, making it all too easy to take a tighter line than intended. Stick with the standard steering set-up – it’s cheaper and far more intuitive.

Great engine, but this is still a heavy car

With the ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in just 6.5sec, and correspondingly brisk acceleration above that point, the 272bhp version of the Q7 certainly doesn’t hang about. But fast alone doesn’t necessarily mean fun, and the fact is that as much as this 2.1-tonne leviathan tries to hide its mass, you can’t bend the laws of physics.

So driven quickly you tend to feel as though you are crushing a road into submission as opposed to enjoying the natural flow of its corners; a rather soft brake pedal doesn’t always instil the utmost confidence when slowing down either.

Warranty could be better

The latest Audi Q7 is too new to have been included in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but Audi as a manufacturer only managed a middling result in 2014, finishing 12th of 26 brands.

It’s also worth noting that Audi’s warranty last for three years or 60,000 miles – whichever comes sooner – whereas Mercedes and BMW both offer three-year, unlimited-mileage warranties.

The other note of caution we’d sound here is that Audi’s score in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, which is based on actual warranty claims, is pretty low.

Performs well considering its size and weight

In EU tests the Q7 in top-spec 3.0-litre diesel guise managed 47.9mpg, while the lower-powered version of the same engine achieved 52.3mpg – that’s better than any other big, seven-seater diesel 4×4, including the new Volvo XC90 (48.7mpg) and the two-wheel-drive version of the BMW X5 25d (50.4mpg).

Don’t, however, expect such high figures in normal driving. Our test resulted in economy of about 35mpg over a long route that included towns, villages, A-roads and motorways.

Can’t match the Volvo XC90 here

The Q7 is an expensive car to buy or lease, although CO2 emissions are competitive. It’s worth noting though that CAP, which monitors residual values and running costs, predicts that a Volvo XC90 will be slightly cheaper to run, primarily because it costs less to buy in the first place.

A plug-in diesel-electric hybrid will join the line-up later in the year to take on similar models from BMW and Volvo in the battle to secure the most company car parking spaces.

Available with all the latest systems

The Q7 is yet to be crash tested by EuroNCAP, but as one of the top models in Audi’s range it contains a lot of active safety equipment to go alongside its very stiff bodyshell and four-wheel-drive running gear.

There’s adaptive cruise control that’ll hold a set distance to the car in front, while traffic jam assist goes one better by taking over the steering and brakes at speeds up to 37mph.

As an option you can order numerous cameras and sensors that warn you of approaching vehicles when, for example, pulling out on to a busy road or reversing out of a parking space. There’s even a system that monitors space around the car and warns you of approaching cyclists or pedestrians before you open the door.

While many of these systems cost extra, Audi does fit all models with an autonomous emergency braking system that will slow or even stop the car if it senses and impact is imminent with a car or object in front.

A couple of numbers of note are the eight airbags and six Isofix child-seat mounting points.

Prepare to open your wallet for a few essential extras

While at first glance the entry-level SE appears to include most things – 19-inch alloy wheels, two-zone climate control, an 8.3-inch central screen, LED headlights, parking sensors, Bluetooth, satnav, DAB radio and heated seats – it’s still worth upgrading to S Line.

This adds 20-inch wheels, four-zone climate control, Xenon headlights and sports seats, as well as sportier styling.

In addition, many of the optional extras are bundled into one of three packages: Technology (Virtual cockpit, head-up display and internet connection); Dynamic (air suspension, traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition and lane assist); and Parking Pack Advanced (surround view camera, rear traffic crossing and blind spot monitor).

The verdict

The Audi Q7 is a large and luxurious seven-seater SUV with a superb engine and solid safety credentials. However, add a few optional extras and it begins to look very expensive, particularly when compared with our class favourite, the Volvo XC90.