2017 Audi Q7 2.0 TFSI Quattro Premium Plus
One of the best mid-size luxury SUVs available
Since then it’s been made clear there was pent-up demand for an all-new Q7, which when combined with unparalleled growth in the luxury SUV sector saw the stylish new model jump a four positions on the sales charts, last year’s record-breaking 30,563 deliveries leaving 2015’s third-best ever tally of 18,995 units in the proverbial dust (the previous best was 20,695 units in 2007), while within the first two months of 2017 it’s taken down two more rivals. Welcome back to the mid-size SUV limelight Audi.
It’s certainly a bright new year for Audi and its ever-strengthening SUV lineup, with a new compact Q5 around the next corner albeit 2016 sales of the long-in-tooth outgoing version still having held own in third place among real luxury brands, and a still fresh looking Q3 having done likewise in the subcompact luxury SUV segment. But wait, there’s more.
Last fall the Q7 took top honors in its “Premium Midsize Utility Vehicle – 3 Row” category within the 2017 ALG Residual Value Awards. Also notable, the A7 won its “Premium Fullsize Car” category outright, while many others were recognized in second and third positions for their strong resale values, Audi proving to be smart choice for those who want to hold on to as much of their automotive “investment” as possible, with the entire brand placing top-three overall.
I emphasize the word investment because most understand the purchase or lease of any new vehicle falls under the expense column on a personal or company ledger, although I must say the new Q7 is an investment in one’s quality of life. Like the model’s sudden jump in popularity, this latest three-row Audi is a major leap forward in style, refinement, quality, features, and capability over its predecessor and most others in this class.
On the latter front is a new engine, the much loved and often lauded (albeit now maligned) TDI turbo-diesel effectively replaced by Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbo-four, at least with respect to fuel economy. At 252 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque it can hardly compare with a 3.0-liter V6 producing 240 of the former and 407 of the latter, but then again the new Q7 is so much lighter than its predecessor (by up to 705 lbs) that the little four-cylinder is not only quicker than the old TDI, but also the outgoing model’s 280 horsepower 3.0-liter V6 at 7.2 seconds to 60 mph now, compared to 7.7 seconds then; the new 333 horsepower supercharged V6 currently does the deed in a mere 5.5 seconds. The 2.0 TFSI feels much like the diesel as far as immediacy of response goes too, max torque arriving at just 1,600 rpm, and it certainly can pull like a tractor when the available trailering package is added thanks to a tow rating of 4,400 lbs.
Two things that haven’t changed from old to new include standard Quattro all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual mode, steering wheel paddle shifters, and the ability to automatically shut itself down when it would otherwise be idling and then instantly reignite when ready to go, not to mention recover kinetic braking energy and reroute it through the electrical system. This helps 2.0 TFSI equipped Q7s achieve a respectable 20 mpg city, 25 highway and 22 combined, which is respectable at least until factoring in that the much more powerful V6 manages a claimed 21 mpg city, 25 highway and 29 combined. Truly, these numbers leave me flustered. How can just 1 mpg separate these two engines? To be commended is Audi for improving its V6-powered Q7 fuel economy so much since the 2015 model that was rated at 16 mpg city, 22 highway and 18 combined, and even more so the new four-cylinder actually improves on the old TDI’s 19 mpg city rating and ties the oil burner’s 22 mpg combined mileage overall, although besting a diesel on the highway would even be difficult for a hybrid, that number an impressive 28 mpg. Still, since most of us log our miles in town the new 2.0 TFSI is a winner.
The economy and performance specs are impressive, but the way it goes about its business is much more so. Starting with Drive Select, Audi’s name for its standard assortment of driver selectable modes that include Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, and Off Road, which can be modulated via two buttons on the center stack and most entertaining when its sportiest Dynamic setting is chosen, followed by a nudge of its gorgeous leather and satin metal T-style Tiptronic shifter to the right for manual, the engine takes on a much more responsive persona, really zipping along like a V6. Despite feeling powerful off the line and even more so when speed ramps up, its obvious four-cylinder soundtrack comes off a bit odd in such a large vehicle. Nevertheless its high-revving nature transforms the Q7 into a sportier SUV, but sporty in more of a European way, where smaller displacement turbocharged engines have long ruled the roost; the Q7’s 2.0-liter begging for more manual shifting via always-ready paddles. Of course there’s less weight over the front wheels too, a bonus when pushing hard through corners, something the new Q7 adheres to with even more composure than its surefooted predecessor. It’s plenty smooth when left in Comfort mode too, at which point it’s most fuel-efficient as well. Most will likely leave it in Auto for a best of both worlds’ scenario, where it is quick to react to any changes in mood or road surface.
Helping my mid-range Premium Plus trimmed tester navigate terra firma is an attractive set of available twinned five-spoke 20-inch alloys on grippy 235/45 Goodyear Eagle Sport all-season tires. They’re visually tied together by a large satin grayish-silver body molding that spans front to rear doors, which also pulls cues from the grille surround up front. Similar satin silver-toned window surrounds and roof rails up top add to the upscale yet sporty look, contrasting especially well in my loaner’s near-black Ink Blue Metallic paint scheme. Likewise for the gorgeous new available LED headlamp clusters and equally eye-catching standard LED taillights, the new Q7 is a true head-turner no matter the angle being viewed.
The classy theme continues inside where Audi has created one of the best cabins in the industry no matter how much you pay. You won’t find a lot of glitz or glam, just extremely high quality materials organized into one of the nicest layouts in its class. You’ll be hard pressed to find any hard plastics, Audi going above and beyond what’s required in this segment to distinguish itself from mere premium wannabes. All the metals look and feel genuine because they are; the beautiful glossy Oak Gray hardwood inlays in this example only upstaged by the open-pore Layered Walnut used in my previous 3.0 TFSI tester (although that’s a personal taste issue); the leathers as soft and sumptuous as any rival; its switchgear so much nicer than the majority of challengers that it’s no contest; and finally the Q7’s electronic interfaces much father advanced than all competitors.
I can only say this for Q7s upgraded with Audi’s fabulous “virtual cockpit”, a fully configurable high-resolution color 12.3-inch TFT gauge cluster that is unlike anything else on the market. The graphical design is highly legible and thoroughly engaging, enhanced by a steering wheel-mounted “VIEW” button that decreases the diameter of both tachometer and speedometer while growing the multi-information display at center, the latter filled with features and functions you can swap out by pressing arrows on the steering wheel spokes. So set it doubles as a second infotainment display, albeit more advantageously positioned to help the driver concentrate on the road ahead. Even better, the large, high-quality 8.3-inch infotainment display at center can be neatly powered down within the recesses of the dash in order to remove distraction, especially helpful during nighttime driving, letting you glance down for navigation mapping and routing, climate and audio info, and more when needed. Navigation, for instance, looks superb within the gauges, all of which is incredibly crisp and clear with beautiful, rich colors and contrast; there’s really nothing like it in the industry.
Infotainment controls can be found at the base of the center stack on the lower console, consisting of two aluminized quick-access rocker switches and a large touchpad that you can click at each corner for features, or tap, pinch and swipe as well. A large rotating knob offers additional control, the aforementioned T-shaped shifter doubling as a palm rest. Just under the armrest is an aux plug and two USB ports, Audi providing a chord for plugging in both an iPhone and/or USB-powered device, like an Android phone. The only problem was the chords provided wouldn’t charge our Android phones, although the one we brought along worked perfectly. Of course, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming means you only need to plug a modern smartphone in for charging, while even better Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included with the infotainment setup.
The Q7’s four-zone automatic HVAC system is nicely laid out with high-quality rotating knobs featuring grippy knurled metal edges, stylish digital inserts, yet more LCD graphics in the center display, and an attractive set of aluminized toggle switches aligned below.
Features in mind, the most basic $49,000 Q7 2.0 TFSI Quattro Premium is nicely equipped with 18-inch five-spoke alloys, HID headlights, LED DRLs, aluminum exterior trim, anodized aluminum roof rails, power-folding heatable side mirrors, stainless steel doorsills, ambient LED interior lighting, three-row seating, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heatable powered front seats with four-way powered driver’s lumbar, leather upholstery, the aforementioned metal and hardwood inlays, a leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel with shift paddles, tri-zone auto climate control, a panoramic sunroof, a powered liftgate, a color multi-information display amid analog-style gauges, a 7.0-inch infotainment system, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, HD and satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Wi-Fi, rain-sensing wipers, a garage door opener, Audi pre sense basic, Audi pre sense city, Audi drive select, and much more.
On top or in place of these, $53,000 Premium Plus trim adds proximity access and hands-free liftgate access, auto high beams, a power-adjustable steering column, auto-dimming side mirrors, the larger 8.3-inch infotainment display with enhanced smartphone capability, MMI Navigation plus with MMI Touch, the Audi Music Interface for connecting Apple and USB devices, and a stainless steel sill for the cargo compartment.
Of note, moving up to $65,000 Prestige trim necessitates the V6, while also adding 20-inch rims and rubber, LED headlamps, the Audi virtual cockpit TFT gauge cluster, a head-up display, four-zone auto HVAC, a 360-degree surround parking camera system, Bose 3D audio with 19 speakers including a center speaker and sub, four-way powered lumbar support to the front passenger seat, front ventilated seats, plus Audi side assist and Audi pre sense rear active safety systems.
My tester’s LED headlights came as part of a $2,000 Vision package that also included the virtual cockpit and 360-degree camera, while the 20-inch rims and rubber added $1,800 to the bottom line. Additionally, a $500 Cold Weather package added a heatable steering wheel and rear seat heaters, a $1,600 Warm Weather package added four-zone auto HVAC, front seat ventilation, rear window sunshades, four-way lumbar support and more, and a $550 towing package with a seven-pin wiring harness.
That was it for upgrades, although my tester could have included any one of nine alternative exterior color choices, some at no charge and others adding $575, and/or four different interior upholstery hues at no charge, plus a variety of metal and wood inlays at $350 apiece, as well as the Bose audio upgrade at $1,100, a Driver Assistance package at $2,400 that adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go as well as traffic jam assist, Audi pre-sense plus/pre sense city and more, and lastly a $350 set of rear side-thorax airbags.
While all of these features would have been nice, I was very satisfied with my tester the way it came. Again, the quality of materials, fit and finish, and overall spaciousness sets the Q7 apart, as does its standard seven-passenger layout. On that note the second row moves fore and aft easily to increase legroom in the SUV’s rearmost quarters, while the panoramic sunroof overhead added to the feeling of openness even when seated in the very back. Yes I made my way back there, which was relatively easy with one side of the second-row slid out of the way, my five-foot-eight body never growing past the point of a midsize teen, which makes such endeavors possible. While some critics slight the rear row as only being suitable for kids, I disagree. When the second row is pulled mostly forward, which still leaves comfortable space for folks my size and larger, I had approximately two inches ahead of my knees, three over my head, lots of hip and shoulder room, and good comfort from either of the two rear seats. I didn’t feel hemmed in either, the Q7’s large rear quarter windows and that big sunroof overhead providing plenty of visibility and light.
If all the kids want to come along to greet the grandparents at the airport, you’d better tell them to pack light or strap on a rooftop carrier as there’s only 14.8 cubic feet of luggage space in behind the third row, although that’s still similarly proportioned to a compact to mid-size car’s trunk (the A4, for instance) and therefore should be enough for a couple of sizable suitcases and another two carryon bags. Get rid of the kids and parents altogether and there’s 71.6 cubic feet of potential cargo capacity at your disposal, and as you might expect from Audi the Q7’s stowage area is nicely carpeted on the floor and sidewalls and features chromed tie-down hooks at each corner. There’s also a hidden storage compartment under the rearmost portion of the load floor, which houses a scrolling retractable cargo cover when not in use. The third row folds 50/50 via powered seatbacks, while you’ll need to walk around to each side door to lay the second row seats completely flat, the result being a cavernous load area.
It’s such practicalities that have long endeared the Q7 to its loyal owner base years after purchase, this new model so much better than the already good outgoing one that it should only go to strengthen customer satisfaction. Its renewed style, much better interior, superb feature set, much lighter weight, improved driving dynamics, and impressive base turbocharged four-cylinder engine with superb fuel economy set it apart from the previous Q7 and all competitors. I believe the Q7 will only become more popular as word about its many attributes gets out. It just might be the best mid-size luxury SUV available today.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press