2009 Audi Q7 | road test

Posted on Feb 3, 2009 by

After climbing down into the squat R8, I had to climb up, and quite a long way, into the lofty Q7. ’s biggest beast looks simply immense next to the compact R8, in fact, with the Q7’s rear seats folded flat there seems every chance that you could carry your R8 home, rather than get the tyres dirty. But, that’s the thing with SUVs; road presence, and the Q7 has plenty of that.

I was a little concerned that after driving the nimble and lithe R8, that the bulky Q7 would feel, well, just that; too big and bulky, and that I was in danger of not giving the Q7 a ‘fair go.’ I’m not usually the biggest fan of SUVs; I can understand why people would want the perceived extra safety and protection of a larger vehicle, but I was always unwilling to sacrifice driving performance for bigger bumpers. And when it comes to big bumpers the Q7 certainly ticks the boxes… twice.

But, SUVs are successful sellers here in the UAE, and with a crowded competing market full of quality names like BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, it was always going to be interesting to see what another big Bavarian name could do with the SUV platform.

Well, firstly they’ve wrapped it up in one seriously large body shell, then they’ve jacked-up the suspension to sky-scraping heights, and finally they’ve bolted on a set of vast 20-inch wheels. So, the Q7 certainly delivers on quantity; does it deliver on quality, and importantly, is there quality to be found in the driving performance?

Immediately hitting the twisty Oman mountain roads with vigour and the answer is ‘yes.’ The V8 provides reasonable poke and the air suspension does a good job of keeping things all in control. The 4.2-litre petrol engine is the same unit as found in the R8, but tuned-down for subtlety of noise, fuel efficiency and increased bottom-end torque. This V8 looses 70bhp to the R8’s, but thanks to that extra torque and shorter ‘off-road’ gear ratios, the Q7 still manages to pile-on some reasonable speed quite quickly indeed, and it does it in that smooth and effortless manner you would expect from a relatively big V8 engine. The soundtrack is certainly not as racy as the R8, and that is to be expected; you wouldn’t want to be cruising around town with a howling engine drowning-out your latest Snoop Dog CD. Saying that, this V8 does make enough of a grumble to remind you that it’s there, assuring you that owning a car with a big V8 makes you are more of a man than that guy next to you at the traffic signal.

I was more concerned about the suspension side of things, as it is the driving dynamics that are usually the downfall of a big SUV; namely the extra weight and higher stance makes for a car that rolls too much around corners and cannot transfer it’s weight quickly and without drama. The 4.2-litre Q7 comes with adjustable air suspension as standard (it’s an option on the 3.6-litre car), and makes good use of that adjustability (between off-road to on-road) to both lower and stiffen the car when the surface smoothes and hardens. Take the big Q into the rough stuff and it will jack-up and soften-up, giving you the ground clearance and independent wheel movement required. I didn’t get time to really thrash this SUV on the dirt, but the road-going side of the suspension worked well enough, removing some, but not all of the roll and wallow generally associated with these pumped-up passenger cars. However, it is unlikely that most owners of the Q7 will ever really push their car, either on or off the road, so as a comfortable, happy medium the Q7 should work well for its drivers.

 

 

Space is another premium point when it comes to full-size, premium SUVs and Audi has managed to maximise the Q7’s inner space with up to seven seats, or 2038mm of lengthways stowage with the back five seats folded flat into the floor. 2038mm sounds like a lot, but if you do spend your entire weekend filling the Q7’s vast rear chasm, then it is possible that life has gotten a little dull for you already!

The seats, as usual from Audi, are beautifully crafted and full of motors to adjust them in any direction, with the softest of leather and the right amounts of padding and support. All in, the Q7 interior is quiet and comfortable; the stereo booms nice and loud, while the general opulence and lofty driving position add to that all-important feeling of SUV self-importance. I would complain that the clocks looked a little tacky with an over use of chrome plastic, but other than that it’s the usual Audi interior finesse without fuss.

Looks wise the Q7 shares the Audi family features of clean and efficient modernity, with the classy fit and finish that the Germans seem to do so well. It’s a good looking car, but I would wonder if it is quite mean enough, when compared to the top-end BMW, Mercedes and Porsche SUVs. Take a look in the premium independent dealerships, both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and you will see many modified X5s (soon to be X6s) and Cayennes wearing ultra-aggressive aftermarket body kits and big, bling rims. But, you won’t see a Q7 in a similar guise. Perhaps because Q7 owners have that little bit more class, or perhaps because even a kitted-out Q7 still can’t quite cut the tough enough mustard when compared to the rest.

 

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