All in good time
What is Audi's top model? The most logical answer is: the A8. Whenever Audi develops new technology, it is first available on the A8. Moreover, the A8 is a large, downright prestigious sedan and thus Audi's flagship. Yet the Q8 goes one step further: this is a large SUV that offers everything the A8 offers, plus even more interior space and (limited) off-road capability.
Judging by its name, the Q7 seems to be a step down in the pecking order, but in fact the Q7 and Q8 are on the same level. The difference between the two cars lies in their character. With the Q8, the emphasis is on sportiness at the expense of off-road ability, while the Q7 emphatically opts for comfort and gets by better off-road. It is therefore only logical that the Q7 will be fitted with all the Q8's new features for the 2020 model year.
And that starts with the looks, of course! The headlights (with LED or matrix LED lights) were given a sharper look, while the grille with vertical slats emphasises the height of the car even more. At the rear, the width is actually emphasised with an aluminium strip running from one taillight to the other.
Space and equipment
The interior space in this 506 cm long SUV is as generous as ever. In the front, the dashboard extends far in front of the seats, while the driver and passenger are separated by a very wide centre tunnel. The driver sits high up and, thanks in part to the regal front seat (with massage function), has the pleasant feeling of being the king of the road. The space in the back seat is also regal, provided it is pushed all the way back. This is because the Q7 is available with a third row of seats, which is only really usable if the other passengers give in substantially.
New for the Q7 for the 2020 model year is the "virtual cockpit", or the digital dashboard from the Audi A8 and Q8. From now on, all buttons and gauges have been replaced by screens, which are mounted roughly where those same buttons and gauges used to be. As a result, the system can be operated intuitively. To some extent, however, the driver can choose which data is displayed where and how. With the arrival of the virtual cockpit, the Q7 will have an internet connection, greatly expanding the possibilities of the infotainment system. For example, the car can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot, current traffic information is available, voice commands can be given (which are interpreted by an Audi server) and addresses from the Google database can be consulted (a company name is sufficient, the system looks up the address itself).
The arrival of the Internet in the car also improves safety. Audi cars can exchange information among themselves about dangerous traffic situations or extreme weather. During the test drive in Ireland, this actually happened. There, the weather can completely change every few minutes and a car driving a few kilometres ahead of the test car warned (rightly) that visibility would soon be reduced. The Q7 could already assist with steering, acceleration and braking, but now does this better because it has more information about how the route will develop. In this case, there was precisely no sign of that, and that's as it should be: the semi-self-driving functions should make daily life easier.
Not only is the Q7 more modern than before, it actually drives differently. From now on, Audi offers a choice between a standard suspension with electromechanically controlled torsion stabilisers, air suspension or sporty air suspension. In addition, all-wheel steering is available.
The result of the latter feature is obvious: it reduces the turning circle by about a metre and provides extra stability at high speed. How much influence the choice of suspension has depends very much on the road surface and driving style. Those who drive calmly with the flow of traffic and mostly on good road surfaces will have more than enough with the standard suspension.
On poor road surfaces and with a more dynamic driving style, it is noticeable that the air suspension has more control over the car. Uneven road surfaces are absorbed more effectively, while the bodywork returns to balance faster after a corner. Because air suspension can also change the ride height, it provides a lower centre of gravity on public roads and more ground clearance off-road. With air suspension, the Q7 feels less big and heavy than it actually is. Even when braking hard, the Q7 does not betray its enormous weight, which is exceptional for a behemoth like this.
Along with the facelift, "mild hybrid" technology also makes its appearance in the Q7. During braking and coasting, kinetic energy is converted into electricity. Unlike a full hybrid, this does not feed an electric motor that provides propulsion. Instead, the electricity is used to power the start/stop system. Moreover, the Q7 can switch off the engine during coasting at speeds between 55 and 160 km/h. Then all electric systems are powered by the "free" energy from the hybrid system. According to Audi, this can reduce consumption by up to 0.7 litres per 100 km. And rest assured: in practice, nothing is noticeable from both energy recovery and engine shutdown.
All engines have become more powerful for the 2020 model year. The "50 TDI" (formerly "3.0 TDI") now delivers 286 hp, which is 14 hp more than before. With this diesel engine up front, the Q7 performs with the ease and supremacy that can be expected in this price range. While it is noticeable that the Q7 is big and heavy, it is also noticeable that the engine power is more than up to this. When throttle is firmly applied, this large SUV is even reduced to a plaything of the six-cylinder and the Q7 shoots off. Because the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic learns from the driver's driving behaviour, after a few sudden sprints it can also react aggressively when driving calmly. Test consumption of the "50 TDI" came to 7.7 litres per 100 km on a demanding course with a calm driving style. With a firmer driving style, expect 9 litres per 100 km.
The only petrol engine on the price list is the "45 TFSI". This is good for 340 hp / 500 Nm and whisper-quiet running. With the 45 TFSI, the Q7 is more refined when driving calmly, while bursts of power at high speed are even more explosive than with the diesel engine. Once at speed, every pace seems to be walking pace, that's how easily the 45 TFSI performs. Moreover, the automatic shifts completely imperceptibly. If the Q7 is bought to travel big and comfortable, this petrol engine is definitely preferable to the diesel engine.
For even more peace of mind and comfort, Audi has now announced a plug-in hybrid engine, but all in due time. For now, the looks, equipment, infotainment and conventional engines are all back to normal.
There was nothing wrong with the Audi Q7 at all, but with the new A8 and Q8, Audi showed it can do even better. And that is still a nasty feeling when someone thinks they have bought a top-of-the-range model. That's why the Q7 underwent a facelift for the 2020 model year, with all the technology from the latest models coming to this large SUV.
In practice, this means nothing but good. The exterior has become sharper and, as a result, the Q7 now fits in even better with Audi's other (top) models. The digital cockpit allows the driver to choose which information is displayed how and where. Thanks to an Internet connection in the car, control (voice recognition), safety (communication between cars) and convenience (wifi on board, navigation by name instead of address) have been improved. The engines now perform even better.
With this, Audi now has three top models. The A8 is the classic sedan. The Q8 is an SUV with sporty undertones. The Q7 is a comfortable SUV with (limited) off-road capability. In terms of design, mechanics and electronics, all three of these models are now on the same level.
- Modern equipment
- Spacious and comfortable
- Above-average handling for a large SUV
- Only complete with (expensive) options
- Third row of seats only usable when second row of seats is moved forward