Audi Q7 SUV
Price £44,995 - £65,220
- Spacious seven-seat interior
- Strong performance
- Huge boot space
- High running costs
- Cumbersome size
- The BMW X5 feels more up-to-date
At a glance
"The Audi Q7 is a vast SUV with seven seats and plenty of kerb appeal, but it is feeling dated, and its four-star safety score isn't on a par with more modern rivals."
The sheer size of the Audi Q7 might make it hard work to drive in town, but its seven-seat interior and imposing looks have made it something of a status symbol, and sales have been impressive. There's no denying you get a sense of pride as you peer down at other road users, but, the Q7 first hit the road in 2006 and its small colour infotainment screen and plastic air vents now look rather dated. A new Audi Q7 replacement model is expected in 2015.
Its running costs are also a bit old-school, with less than 40mpg and annual tax payments of between £265 and £485 making it expensive to run. The latest BMW X5 can crack 50mpg with a £145 tax bill – thanks to the addition of a frugal two-wheel drive model.
So, while the Audi Q7 is still hugely practical and has definite kerb appeal, its newer competitors are cheaper to run and it might be sensible to wait for more news about its successor, or try and bag a big discount on the current Q7 before it goes out of production.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Audi Q7 3.0-litre TDI will do almost 40mpg, but a BMW X5 will cost much less to run
Even the lightest Audi Q7 tips the scales at a not-insignificant 2,300kg, so it’s like driving two Ford Fiestas at the same time, and hardly what you’d call cheap to run. There are two diesels available, with the popular 3.0-litre TDI returning 39.2mpg and emitting 189g/km of CO2, costing £265 each year in road tax. For a more sporting drive there’s the 4.2-litre V8 TDI, but this is thirstier still, returning just 30.7mpg and emitting 242g/km, placing it in the second-highest tax band. It'll cost you £485 every year in road tax.
Still, the 3.0-litre diesel Land Rover Discovery is no lightweight either and it returns just 37.7mpg. The BMW X5 is far more frugal and can return up to 50.4mpg, albeit without four-wheel drive. If you need go-anywhere grip the X5 can do 48.7mpg while emitting 154g/km, costing £180 in annual road tax.
Audi offers fixed priced servicing for the Audi Q7, with an interim service costing £189 and a major service from £375. But, it’ll most likely cost more to maintain than an X5, as BMW offers five years/50,000 miles of servicing for a one off payment of £475 when you buy the vehicle. The Q7 also suffers most come re-sale time, retaining just under 40 per cent of its value after three years/36,000 miles compared with around 50 per cent for the Discovery, X5 and Mercedes M-Class.
Engines, drive & performance
The Audi Q7 is a big car and its bulk is unavoidable - especially on tight country roads
With so much weight to lug around, the Audi Q7’s engines are all about pulling power. The 3.0-litre diesel has 242bhp, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and Audi’s quattro four-wheel system, ensuring the Q7 has excellent grip on slippery roads. It can accelerate to 62mph from rest in 7.8 seconds, a second quicker than the equivalent Land Rover Discovery, making it feel plenty quick enough on the motorway. The 4.2-litre TDI is quicker still, hitting the benchmark in an impressive 6.4 seconds.
With huge tyres and firm suspension, there’s impressive grip and little body lean in faster bends, although the Q7 often feels too wide to drive quickly along narrow country lanes. It’s best suited to larger A roads and the motorway, where its quiet refinement pays dividends.
Like the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class, the Q7 is definitely not meant for serious off-roading, and its wide performance-biased tyres are unlikely to be much use in mud. If you are thinking of heading into the wilderness the Land Rover Discovery is in a different league. But, extra ground clearance and four-wheel drive means the Q7 can tackle rough tracks and fields, as well as poor weather conditions with ease.
Interior & comfort
The Audi Q7 is spacious, but the suspension is quite firm
With seven leather seats as standard and Audi’s typically solid and logical dashboard layout all present and correct, it’s clear the Q7 is a luxurious place to spend time. But, with a replacement model expected in 2015, the Q7 is also starting to show its age. The low-resolution infotainment screen, red LCD climate control display and slatted plastic air vents looks seriously dated compared with the interior of the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class – as well as newer Audi models.
You can’t argue with space for front and middle row passengers, this is a seriously large SUV, with so much shoulder room three adults can sit along the central bench. The rearmost two seats are only really suitable for children, but can be used by adults for shorter trips. Handily, legroom for the third row can be improved by sliding the middle seats forward, still leaving enough room for central passengers to sit in comfort.
Most owners will probably want to leave the Q7’s adjustable suspension in comfort mode, because in other settings it’s too stiff for the UK's pockmarked roads, particularly at the rear where your passengers can find themselves bouncing over speed bumps. Even the entry-level SE model comes with huge 19-inch wheels as standard – doing nothing to improve ride comfort.
Practicality & boot space
Even with seven passengers, the Audi Q7 offers a decent-sized boot
The enormous size of the Audi Q7 is both a blessing and a curse. The good news is the sheer space inside, because even with all seven seats in use, there’s still 330 litres of boot space available. Lower the rear seats and you’ll see they fold flush with the boot floor – revealing 775 litres, or 2,035 litres of space with the middle row folded too. This is larger than the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class, but the Discovery is even bigger, with a van-like 2,558-litre maximum carrying capacity. Its large hatchback boot and wide loading lip also makes it easy to slide large boxes into the boot.
The Q7’s disadvantages come in town driving, where the Audi feels wide and long. All models have parking sensors, but the reality is lots of spaces simply aren’t big enough for Audi’s largest SUV. Narrow roads with width restriction bollards can be a particularly fraught experience and many Q7’s wear battle scars including kerbed wheels and scraped wing mirrors.
But for some, the ample head, leg and shoulder room, and the Q7’s ability to carry seven passengers, will outweigh its bulky size.
A space saver spare wheel is standard with 3.0-litre TDI models, unless you choose the optional Rear Seat Entertainment System Plus package, in which case it comes with the same tyre repair kit provided with 4.2-litre TDI equipped versions.
Reliability & safety
The Audi Q7 is well built with a durable interior, but the Mercedes M-Class is safer
The Audi brand dropped from tenth to 12th position out of 33 manufacturers in the 2014 Driver Power survey, behind Mercedes and BMW, but ahead of Land Rover. The manufacturer scored well for build quality and performance but poorly for ride quality, and worryingly also came 20th for reliability. But, there are few reported issues with the 3.0-litre TDI engine and most production faults with the Audi Q7 should have been ironed out by now.
Surprisingly given its size, the Q7 was only awarded four stars by Euro NCAP, even though it was crash tested before the procedure was made tougher in 2009. Points were lost because the dashboard presented a potential risk to the driver’s knees in a front impact. The latest versions of the BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery haven’t been tested yet, but the Mercedes M-Class scored very highly, so is currently the safest choice.
The Q7 is fitted with front and side airbags running the length of the side windows, as well as electronics to help prevent skids and a tyre pressure loss indicator to warn of a puncture.
Price, value for money & options
The Audi Q7 is competitively priced, but avoid pricey and unusual options
Every model in the luxury SUV class has a starting figure of £40,000-plus, so these are certainly not cars for a small budget. But, the entry-level Audi Q7 SE is competitively priced and comes with equipment like adaptive air suspension, cruise control, parking sensors, seven seats, leather upholstery and a 6.5-inch colour screen as standard.
The S line trim costs around £1,600 more and includes extras like larger wheels, sports seats, xenon headlights and a body styling kit, so represents good value. S line Plus is an eye-watering £4,500 jump up and brings sat-nav, a powered tailgate, Bluetooth and a reversing camera. Style and Sport versions are also available in addition to the S line Plus trim, giving the Q7 either a more rugged or sporty appearance.
So it’s well-equipped in some respects, but no standard Bluetooth connectivity or sat-nav on a car costing more than £40,000 seems particularly stingy. There are plenty of options though, including the mind-boggling Audi exclusive carpets, which comprises four floor mats with leather piping for £1,430. Other dubious items include a part-wood steering wheel for £665 and rear reading lights, a snip at £920. The Technology package is more likely to improve resale values and usability, costing £2,200 for sat-nav, a colour trip computer, power operated tailgate, and Bluetooth for your mobile phone.