By Andrew Koch

The Q7 has launched Audi into the prestige market of large 4 wheel drives, and is Audi’s take on the big off-roader. Despite decades of building cars with four-wheel-drive, the Q7 is their first real go at something that can actually go really off-road. It squares up against the Porsche Cayenne, Volvo XC90, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML by being bigger than all of them in terms of length, wheelbase and width.

As we’ve come to expect from Audi, it is jam-packed with gadgets and technology including height-adjustable air suspension to give it the clearance to tackle boulder-strewn conditions without scraping its underside or the driver breaking a nail. Big, comfortable, safe, practical, handsome and powerful (the Q7, that is, because if it was a bloke, I’d marry it!) it also offers seven seats although five and six seat models are optional.

As with all Audis the Q7’s interior is high-quality in both construction and materials. If you have driven in an A8 or A6 the dash layout is similar, and Audi’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is standard, and, I feel, continues to be the most intuitive on the market. The Q7 has three rows of seating and accommodates six or seven passengers, depending on what is specified for the second row. As with many vehicles of this type, the third-row seat is cramped and useful for children only. With the second and third rows folded flat, the Q7 can hold a massive 2,035 litres of cargo space, which is more than what’s available from most five-passenger SUVs and competitive with other large luxury SUVs.

The Audi Q7 is available in three engines; 3.0L turbo diesel, and 3.6L V6 and 4.2L V8 petrol engines all with 6-speed auto gearboxes. The 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine pumps out 247kW and gives the Q7 strong performance despite its bulk of over 2 tonnes giving a very respectable 0 to 100km in 7.4 seconds. The 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel is a slightly more cost-effective option fuel-wise but doesn’t feel much slower on the road thanks to its slightly greater reserves of torque with 500Nm versus 440 in the petrol V8, although it gets to 100km in 9.1 seconds. All this pales into insignificance, though, when you place it up against the V12 turbo diesel version, unveiled at the Paris motor show, which reportedly hauls the Q7 from 0-100 in just 5.5 seconds.

Audi applies its quattro all-wheel-drive system across its model line, and the Q7 is no exception. All Q7s get standard quattro for optimum traction in the rough or wet.

Just cruising the freeway, the adjustable suspension made a big difference in the Q7’s ride quality, soaking up the bumps before they reached our backsides. The ride is firm, with eighteen inch wheels standard, 20s are an option.

Although Audi took its time joining the race, it’s backing a viable contender, which should make Mercedes and BM take note and Jaguar nervous. You see, the new Audi Q7 officially leaves Jaguar as the only luxury nameplate without a truck. The Q5 is not far away either.

Price: $79,900 – $118,900
Engines: 3.0L turbo diesel, 3.6L V6 petrol, 4.2L V8 petrol
Transmission: 6-speed tiptronic with manual shift
Fuel: 10.4, 12.7, 13.8
For: Interior quality and transmission glides through the gears
Against: Huge, virtually takes up a whole lane in traffic

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