Audi Q7 SUV
Price £44,995 - £65,220
- Spacious seven-seat interior
- Strong performance
- Huge boot space
- Cumbersome size
- High running costs
- 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 feels dated and its four-star safety score isn't on par with more modern rivals."
The sheer size of the Audi Q7 makes it hard work to drive in town, but its seven-seat interior and imposing looks have made it a popular choice and sales have been impressive. However, 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 is expected some time in 2015.
Its running costs are also a bit old-school: the Q7 returns less than 40mpg and your annual road tax bill will be between £265 and £485. The latest BMW X5 can crack 50mpg and has 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. It might be sensible to wait for more news about its successor or try to bag a big discount on the current Q7 before production ends.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Audi Q7 3.0-litre TDI will return 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 weighs as much as two Ford Fiestas and is hardly what you'd call cheap to run. There are two diesel engines available, with the popular 3.0-litre TDI returning 39.2mpg, emitting 189g/km of CO2 and costing £265 a year in road tax. For a more sporting drive, there's the 4.2-litre TDI, but this is thirstier still, returning just 30.7mpg and emitting 242g/km of CO2. This places it in the second-highest road tax band. so it'll cost you £485 a year to keep on the road.
Still, the Land Rover Discovery 3.0-litre diesel is no lightweight either and returns just 37.7mpg. The BMW X5 is far more efficient and can return up to 50.4mpg, albeit without four-wheel drive. If you need go-anywhere grip, the four-wheel-drive X5 can return 48.7mpg while emitting 154g/km of CO2 and costing £180 a year to tax.
Audi offers fixed-price servicing for the Audi Q7, with an interim service costing £189 and a major service starting at £375. But it'll most likely cost more to maintain than an X5, as BMW offers five years or 50,000 miles of servicing for a one-off payment of £475 at the time of purchase.
The Q7 also suffers more come resale time, retaining just under 40% of its value after three years or 36,000 miles, compared to around 50% 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-drive system, ensuring the Q7 has excellent grip on slippery roads. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds – a second quicker than the equivalent Land Rover Discovery – making it feel plenty quick on the motorway. The 4.2-litre engine is quicker still, doing 0-62mph in an impressive 6.4 seconds.
With huge tyres and firm suspension, there's impressive grip and very 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 motorways, where its excellent refinement really shines.
Like the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class, the Q7 is definitely not meant for serious off-roading; its wide performance-biased tyres are unlikely to be much use in mud. If you're thinking of heading into the wilderness, the Land Rover Discovery is in a different league. But extra ground clearance and four-wheel drive mean 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, as well as Audi's typically solid and logical dashboard layout, the Q7 is a luxurious place to spend time. But with a replacement model expected in 2015, it's also starting to show its age. The lo-res infotainment screen, red LCD climate-control display and slatted plastic air vents look seriously dated compared to the interior of the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class – as well as newer Audi models.
You can't argue with the amount of space given to front and middle-row passengers in the Q7. This is a seriously large SUV, with so much shoulderroom that three adults can comfortably sit in the middle row. The third row of seats is only really suitable for children, however, but can accomodate adults on shorter trips. Handily, legroom for the third row can be improved by sliding the middle seats forward – still leaving enough room for passengers in that row 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 passengers can find themselves bounced around over speed bumps. Even the entry-level SE model comes with huge 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, and these do 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: even with all seven seats in place, there's still 330 litres of boot space. Lower the rear seats and they fold flush into the boot floor, freeing up 775 litres, while you can enjoy 2,035 litres of luggage room if you fold the middle row, too.
This is more than either the BMW X5 or Mercedes M-Class can hold, but the Discovery's boot is bigger still, with a van-like maximum carrying capacity of 2,558 litres. Its large hatchback boot and wide loading lip also make it easy to slide large boxes into the boot.
The Q7 is less impressive at town driving, where it feels excessively wide and long. All models have parking sensors, but the reality is lots of parking spaces simply aren't big enough for this car. Narrow roads with width-restriction bollards can be a particularly fraught experience, and many Q7s wear battle scars, including kerbed alloy wheels and scraped wing mirrors.
But for some buyers, the ample shoulder, head and legroom, plus the Q7's ability to carry seven passengers, are worth the inconveniece.
A space-saver spare wheel is standard on 3.0-litre TDI models, unless you choose the optional Rear Seat Entertainment System Plus pack, in which case it comes with the same tyre-repair kit provided with the 4.2-litre TDI version.
Reliability & safety
The Audi Q7 is well built and has a durable interior, but the Mercedes M-Class is safer
The Audi brand dropped from 10th 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 did poorly for ride quality and worryingly only finished 20th for reliability. But there have been few reported issues with the 3.0-litre TDI engine and any early 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 in this class.
The Q7 is fitted with front and side airbags running the length of the side windows, as well as electronic stability control to help prevent skids and a tyre-pressure monitoring system that warns you of slow punctures.
Price, value for money & options
The Audi Q7 is competitively priced, but avoid expensive and unusual options
Every model in the luxury SUV class starts at more than £40,000, so these are certainly not cars for buyers on a budget. But the entry-level Audi Q7 SE is competitively priced and comes with equipment such as 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, bright xenon headlights and a bodykit, so represents good value for money.
The S line Plus costs an eye-watering £4,500 more and brings sat nav, a powered tailgate 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 sportier appearance.
So the Q7 is well equipped in some respects, but no sat nav on a car costing more than £40,000 seems particularly stingy. There are plenty of options though, including Audi exclusive carpets, which comprises four floor mats with leather piping for a crazy £1,430. Other dubiously pricey options include a part-wood steering wheel for £665 and rear reading lights for £920.
The Technology package is more likely to improve resale values and useability. For £2,200, this adds sat nav, a colour trip computer, a power-operated tailgate and Bluetooth phone connectivity.