When Audi unleashed the first Q7 back in 2005 as part of VAG’s triple attack on the luxury SUV market, there weren’t many other options to choose from. The other two stable mates within VAG included the mass-market VW Touareg and the fire-breathing Porsche Cayenne under a shared PL71 platform. The Touareg and Cayenne came first in 2002 before the Q7 was finally unveiled. Coming in 3 years later than its other siblings meant that Audi had more time to fine tune the chassis and other components, an advantage which Audi put to good use.

The original Q7 was bequeathed Audi’s famous Quattro permanent four-wheel drive configuration as well as Adaptive Air Suspension that gave it a magic carpet ride quality largely unrivalled at the time. The range topper came with a V12 turbodiesel engine, the world’s first mass production vehicle to ever come equipped with a state of the art 6-liter 12-cylinder powerplant capable of 500PS of sheer brute power and 1,000Nm of mind-blowing torque that allowed this behemoth to complete the century sprint in 5.5s flat!

So in 2015 and after a facelift in 2010, the second generation Q7 finally launched in US, before making its way to local shores at the end of the same year, which is quite a feat considering the number of customizations that had to be made for our extreme weather and road conditions. According to sources, every Audi that comes out of an authorized Audi Malaysia dealership costs much more to build than a generic model meant for other markets.

The wiring harnesses used in the made for Malaysia Q7 were specifically tailored to withstand extreme weather without premature degradation, for starters. Then there is the suspension system that needs to withstand our unusually exciting tarmac; the suspension components within a local Audi are specced differently for long-term reliability. Let’s not also forget about the fuel. Since we are still bound by Euro 2M as a bare minimum, adjustments to the fuel system and related combustion components are also different. In other words, to truly enjoy a fuss-free Audi experience means you can forget all those grey imports which spell trouble in the long run.

Audi Q7: Leaner, Meaner, Fiercer

This new second generation Audi Q7 has lost quite a bit of the bulk and mass of the original model, weighing in at a trim 2,030 kilos as opposed to the older model that had to carry an additional 325 kilos (the equivalent of around 5 average sized adults). Because of that, the lone model introduced for Malaysia, a V6-equipped 3.0 TFSI QUATTRO variant is able to power the Q7 from nought to sixty miles per hour in 6 seconds (6.3s to reach 100km/h), a mere half a second slower than the previous generation’s top dog. This is an incredible leap forward, seeing that this new petrol engine only has 6 cylinders and with less than half the torque of the former. More on that later.

Coming back to the exterior design, the new Q7 sports a mean demeanor, with muscular shoulder lines and lots of angular accents everywhere to bring the large SUV back in line with Audi’s sedan and hatch offerings. This new SUV looks more “Audi” than its predecessor in a good way, but the verdict is still out there as to which model looks better, this or the 2010 facelift. Traditionalists used to the ways of old may lean towards the older model for its smoother and curvier lines and overall friendlier demeanor while trendsetters and futurists may opt for the clean cut German aristocratic charm of the latter. While the 2010 Q7 appealed more towards affluent soccer moms, this 2015 Q7 will draw in the perfectionists and avant garde brigade with its sharp, cutting edge design character and unwavering stance.

The frontal assault is held together by the large, trademark Audi Singleframe grille that embodies the new, more refined Q design language that is both powerful and imposing, while the new LED headlights and distinctive daytime running lights flank the bold new grille with a sense of total authority to dominate almost any terrain. The muscular shoulder line from the first generation was retained but sculpted further to complement the aggressiveness of the frontal design. Another welcome reprise are the flared wheel arches that gives off a hint of the power lurking within the engine bay, while the door under guards proudly announce the car’s Quattro lineage.
The rear is very signature Audi, looking more like a raised RS6 Avant than a Touareg or Cayenne. This second generation represents a huge departure from the original triad, and the rear design tells that story best. Diehard Audi fans who disliked the association of their beloved marque to its holding company’s other more pedestrian German household automotive company, will surely welcome the departure and the return to its Ingolstadt roots.

Audi Q7: What Lies Beneath

Under the hood of this luxury SUV sits the company’s tried and tested 3.0 TFSI V6 turbocharged powerhouse that puts out an impressive 333PS between 5,500-6,500rpm and a flat 440Nm of twist between 2,900-5,300rpm, which is good for a century sprint performance of 6.3 seconds and an electronically limited 250km/h top speed. How technology has gone forward, where the first generation Q7 with a 4.2-liter FSI engine with 350PS and 440Nm only managed to hit 100km/h in 7.4s! Aside from evolutionary enhancements to the engine management system, the new car also boasts stronger yet lighter steel for a weight savings of some 325kg, while the latest 8-speed tiptronic automatic transmission is employed to make full use of the engine’s superfluous output.

 

All this performance, in spite of its four wheels being harnessed together by Audi’s legendary Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system and being shod with massive 20” cast aluminum wheels in 285/45 R20 configuration, the new Audi Q7 feels sprightly and light on its feet, with hardly any evidence of fatigue or giving away any of its bulk in the handling department. To this end, I feel that the investments made in the chassis department have paid huge dividends in how the car drives and behaves. Sources also revealed that the new car has undergone a lot of enhancements in the soundproofing department as well, which goes hand in hand with the new lighter chassis to deliver a driving experience that is both dynamic and luxurious all the same.
Aside from the usual Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency, Comfort and Individual settings for Audi’s famed Drive Select, the new Q7 also comes with Allroad mode that raises the ride height by 25mm and a Lift/Offroad mode that lifts the car a lofty 60mm higher in the unlikely event an owner of a RM600,000 car decides to take his Q7 off the beaten path. Thanks to its air suspension, there’s also a new loading mode where you can conveniently lower the rear by 45mm to make it easier to load and unload the trunk. Amazing innit?

Audi Q7: Total Luxury Inside

If you ever need a justification for parting with a smidgen under 600 Grand for a 7-seater lux-mobile, then the interior is where you’ll whip out that cheque book or Ultimate credit card to place a booking. Just looking at the interior will make you wanna take it home right away, payment notwithstanding. The beautifully sculpted powered front seats are wrapped in black, a mix of both suede and Nappa leather. Once seated, you wouldn’t ever want to go anywhere in a hurry, which is kinda paradoxical considering how quick it is on its feet.

That beautiful leather-wrapped steering wheel is best appreciated in the flesh, with just the right amount of weight and grab to convey a sense of luxury while not losing the edginess of an Audi’s signature sporty temperament. While not exactly pure sports, the steering wheel has just the right amount of turns that are required to tame adventurous terrain without feeling jittery. You don’t get that sort of feeling in lesser SUVs, not even in luxury Japanese SUVs for that matter.

Audi’s lovely Virtual Cockpit takes center stage on the dash, presenting a plethora of information allowing you to monitor and micro-manage a host of settings and preferences, which I daresay exceeds what most people would ever care to play around with, but it’s there for rich engineers perhaps? An 8.3” high resolution screen relays all that information to the driver in a well laid out manner, allowing you to switch between two large dials (tacho and speedo) or two smaller dials with an expanded information display or even as a map display for your navigation. Since the meter cluster is now a huge color screen sans physical needles and markings, this could open up many possibilities for further customization down the road.

With its fully electronically governed gearbox as is the norm with most of today’s continental makes, the Q7’s gear lever is now a space-age leather-wrapped rectangular knob that isn’t directly coupled to the gearbox, but instead acts more like a control lever that effortlessly controls motivation with a simple flick of the wrist. Inasmuch as the meter cluster is now a virtual cockpit, the rest of the center console and driver-oriented dash are just as spacecraft-like, with everything you ever need to control within your grasp. Anyone with a penchant for space travel would surely take to the Q7’s cockpit like a duck to water. There are also accent lights that you can control to set the mood for night drives. Just perfect if you’re out on a date with the girl you’re trying to impress.

Audi Q7: How Does it Drive?

Sometimes, less is more. By that I mean the less we can mess with the car, the more we can concentrate on driving it. But the Audi Q7 is so customizable that for the first two days of testing I couldn’t help but play around with all sorts of combinations just to see what the fuss was all about. I daresay it would take some time for any new owner to fully come to grips with all that this car has to offer; it’s just fantastic.

With a paper timing of 6.3 secs, I did try to replicate the published figure with repeatable results that are quite close to what was advertised, but I do have to say that due to the super smooth 8-speed autobox, said acceleration can hardly be described as earth shattering or seat of the pants, but a quick glance at the speedo after 7 seconds does reveal that indeed the car is going places in a hurry; the turbocharged V6 is so smooth and silent, the gearbox so cosseting and the sound proofing so meticulously done that oftentimes the only way to know how fast we were going was to check the speedo.

Not forgetting, the car is equipped with a Bose 3D in-car entertainment system complete with a 15-channel amplifier and 19 speakers to deliver a concert-like performance within the cabin. Said sound system lived up to its billing by delivering an astounding performance regardless of the material thrown at it. Naturally, at a touch under 600 big ones, I would expect nothing less.

If I were to nitpick, I’d have to say that the 8-speeder autobox is too smooth and lacking feedback unlike other Audis equipped with an S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox. The latter features lightning quick gearchanges and near instantaneous engine braking while downshifting, something I just couldn’t do with the Q7. Having said that, Q7 owners aren’t your typical petrol heads and there’s really no need for instantaneous engine braking in a massive people-mover like the Q7, which at slightly above 2 tons isn’t exactly built to set the fastest lap times around the Nordschleife.

600 Grand is quite a lot of coin to cough up, especially in these trying times. But this isn’t your typical soccer mom people mover we’re talking about here but is your gate pass into the world of luxury SUV commuting, a pass that only the top 5% of the populace in this country can ever dream of owning. Squaring off against other luxury SUV makes, the Audi Q7 represents a truly unique proposition in a small but growing marketplace that deserves a keen audition if you’re in the market for one.

Text and images: Greg Yang