"The seven-seat Audi Q7 is more about performance, space and status than it off-road ability.”
The Audi Q7 may now be getting on a bit (it first debuted in 2006), but is remains an imposing car. Inside, it offers a high driving position that gives a commanding view of the road ahead that reflects its exterior looks. Plus, there's no denying that the seven-seat interior is massive, even though the legroom in the last row of seats is a little tight. It drives along quietly, even at motorway speeds. The suspension can feels a bit stiff at times, making the ride too firm for real comfort, but the selection of V6 diesel engines all offer impressive performance. The Q7 no longer comes with a petrol option, but the 3.0-litre TDI quattro offers the best combination of performance and economy. The interior is hard-wearing and well built, as you’d expect from an Audi, and the Q7 comes in three specifications – entry-level SE, S line and top-of-the-range S line Plus.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The Audi Q7 isn’t cheap to buy, and neither is cheap to run. Frugal isn’t really the right word, but the most efficient engine is the 201bhp 3.0-litre TDI diesel, but even that falls below 40mpg fuel economy. You could argue that that isn’t bad for such a large car, but that doesn’t change the fact that road tax is hefty because all models fall into Band L or above and emit more than 189g/km of CO2.
Interior & comfort
If comfort is of any importance to you or your passengers, you should leave the Q7 in Comfort mode. In all other modes, the adjustable air suspensions can have trouble smoothing any bumps on the UK's ever-more-common rough roads. It never feels uncomfortable in Sport mode but it quickly becomes clear that passengers aren’t the top priority anymore. Given its size, there is loads of room in the front, but as is common with most seven-seat cars, it's a case of diminishing returns, with the middle not being quite so roomy and the third row really only suitable for children. Adults can just about get into them, just expect a crick in the neck and sore knees by journey's end. You can get the Q7 with only five seats as an option but this does make it less flexible in the long run. Other optional extras include four-zone climate control and a full-length glass roof.
Practicality & boot space
If any car of this massive size was impractical, that would be a crime. But space isn’t the only criteria, with the back row of the seven seats being difficult to get in and out of and only being big enough for children. This is common for seat-seven cars but the Q7 is so big, Audi should have perhaps better engineered it. However, there's no questioning the sheer quality of the interior, which is up to Audi's highest standards. With all seats in place, the boot has 330 litres of space. When the Q7 is in five-seat mode, you get 775 litres of boot space, which expands to a frankly mammoth 2,035 litres when the back seats are folded down flat. So, not matter what you need to carry, you can pretty much fit anything inside your Q7, with not even the Land Rover Discovery 4 matching it's huge boot. Plus, there are lots of cubbies inside the car, too.
Reliability & safety
Audi prides itself on producing tough and dependable cars, so the Q7 is a safe bet – even though the car didn’t make the top 150 cars in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Audi itself, however, saw a return to the top 10 after falling to 15th in 2012. It's worth noting that tyre wear has been a bit of an issue for the Q7 and there was a recall to fix an optional powered bootlid, but generally it's record is solid and reflects any car that's been on the market this long. Do make you sure you regularly check that all the equipment inside the car works, however, because if it doesn't, you could face a big bill if you spot a problem outside of your warranty period. One final note of caution – with the majority of new cars getting a maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, the Q7's four-star rating is a major black mark against other rival SUVs. Again, that might just be its age, but other cars are safer. All models do come with driver, passenger and side airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes fitted as standard, however.
Engines, drive & performance
The Q7's dimensions are huge. It weighs in at more than two tonnes and somewhat dominates any road it's driving on. The downside of that is that it's undeniably difficult to park and to manoeuvre down narrow city streets or into driveways with tight entrances. The upside is that if you do a lot of long-distance driving, it's a joy to drive, proving responsive and controlled. It corners very well, offering loads of grip and very little body roll, and you can choose between two suspension settings, Comfort and Sport. That said, neither properly irons the bumps in the road to complete satisfaction, and on twisty B-roads the Q7's enormous bulk again becomes a bit of an issue.
Price, value for money & options
Have no illusions – you are never going to get a car this big on a small budget. The Q7 is not a cheap car, in anybody's book. But the entry-level 3.0-litre V6 TDI quattro does represent good value for money as a starting point in this upmarket class of cars, where £40,000-plus is a drop in the water. And you do get a decent level of standard equipment for that money, too. Plus, when it comes to sell on the used car market, the Q7's resale values are strong and you should find a better deal than someone selling a rival such as the BMW X5 or Land Rover Discovery 4.