We flew to Switzerland for the world premiere and even a relatively brief experience with the vehicle made it clear that the Audi engineers had been hard at work improving what is now the lightest vehicle in its class.
The brevity of the drive was not due to any reluctance on the part of Audi to show their new baby off, but rather a result of global warming I suspect. The weather conspired to change from summer, as it should be, to winter complete with snowfalls, as it should not be, and then back to summer all in the space of 24 hours. As a result planes could not take off, never mind land, during the time allocated to the South African contingent.
All the same much of the improvement to the Q7 is obvious and quickly apparent. The Q7 is 325kg lighter than the outgoing model and, although this is largely due to the use of a multi steel body than aesthetics, its lines reflect a more sleek and athletic SUV than before. Audi are claiming that their trimmer, but still very spacious all-roader is up to 28% lighter on fuel than before as well. There was no way to test this claim on the brief drive, but even a part of that result will be very welcome for both the pocket and the planet.
The version coming to South Africa is powered by a 3.0 TDI produces 200 kW, although this may be trimmed due to poor fuel quality, and 600 Nm. It is coupled to a new eight-speed tiptronic torque-converter transmission. The combination seems close to perfect making for a silky smooth experience even when using the paddle shifts to change gears manually.
Once inside the Q7 you are faced with, predictably for an Audi, a host of technology and driver assistance systems. Despite this the interior is cleaner and feels even roomier than before. The seating position is fairly tucked in by SUV standards which makes you feel you are in the seat rather than on it. One of the outstanding features was that the head restraints can be adjusted not only vertically, but optionally also in the distance to the back of the head.
On the console of the center tunnel lies the newly developed and optionally available MMI touch. Driver and front passenger can write, pinch-to-zoom, or scroll through lists on the system’s large glass surface at the touch of a finger. The voice control system can recognize input made using everyday language, such as: “Where can I refuel?”
The top-of-the-line infotainment system in the Q7, MMI navigation plus, In conjunction with the Audi connect module allows passengers to surf the web with mobile devices via an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot. With the bandwidth available in Switzerland it was possible for the two passengers to check-in for flights online within seconds.
Each of the front seat backrests is designed to take an Audi tablet, which functions as a versatile Rear Seat Entertainment system. The Audi tablet has a high-resolution 10.1-inch screen (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) and is connected to MMI navigation plus via Wi-Fi. It affords access to the Radio, Media, Navigation and Car Functions menus. The data transfer runs in both directions – for example, the rear passengers can send a planned route to the driver, and conversely the driver can start a radio or media program for them from MMI navigation plus.
The Audi tablet, which uses the Android operating system, supports NFC technology (NFC = Near Field Communication) for transmitting data from the smartphone by proximity. It has 32 gigabytes of internal memory and can be expanded by a microSD card for additional memory. The technical core is the new, super-fast Tegra processor 40 from NVIDIA. After the trip, the user can take along the Audi tablet from the car for operation offline or in an external Wi-Fi network.
Of particular interest, given that as of this month all children under the age of three years must be strapped into a child seat, is that all seats in the second and optional third rows have Isofix/i-Size fixtures for child seats. Together with the front passenger side up to six child seats can therefore be installed in the new Audi Q7.
Standard within the driver’s field of vision is an instrument cluster with analog circular instrument dials for the engine and vehicle speeds. Between them is the seven-inch color display belonging to the driver information system. Together with the optional MMI navigation plus with MMI all-in-touch, the Audi Q7 optionally has the Audi virtual cockpit on board. The seven-inch screen grows to a 12.3-inch TFT screen with a resolution of 1,440 x 540 pixels, making map reading a breeze.
The driver can switch between two different user interfaces. In “Infotainment” mode, a central window dominates the view, providing a large stage for the navigation map or for lists in the phone, radio and audio areas. The tachometer and speedometer are displayed as small dial instruments on the right and left. When combined with the optional head up display which projects vital information onto the windscreen this system is fantastic. Having the navigation information right in front of you on the TFT might not sound like much compared to glancing to the centre of the dash, but the difference is significant.
In the classical view, the central window is smaller, and the instruments appear about as large as analog displays.
Highlights of the driver assistance packages include Traffic Jam Assist. In the speed range of 0 to 65 km/h the feature can even take over the steering on well-paved roads, as long as the traffic is moving slowly. The system uses the radar sensors and the video camera. It guides the car through gentle steering interventions and follows the preceding convoy of vehicles within the system limits, braking and accelerating accordingly. The traffic jam assist orientates itself by the lane markings and the other vehicles on the road.
The adaptive cruise control system works in close coordination with the MMI navigation plus, camera-based recognition of traffic signs and the predictive efficiency assistant, to automatically adjust the preselected speed to the conditions – the route topography, speed limits and road users ahead.
Even if the route guidance is disabled, the predictive efficiency assistant uses the route data to alert the driver about situations where it’s advisable to slow down. The system recognizes curves, traffic circles and intersections, town limit or speed limit signs – in many cases long before the driver sees them. The instrument cluster or Audi virtual cockpit then displays an appropriate message.
For those Q7 Drivers that tow trailers of any kind the trailer maneuver assist will spoil them for life.