THE salesman looked aghast. He mumbled and stumbled and tried his best to move on from the awkward silence that had enveloped our until then, very convivial conversation.
The poor bloke had just spent a half hour taking me through the many and varied features of our new Audi long-termer – to give it its full title, the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 200kW Tiptronic quattro – relishing the opportunity to demonstrate his intimate knowledge of the big SUV’s extensive features list.
Audi HQ was eager to have Wheels experience the handover of a new car just the way a customer would, so arrangements were made to have the striking Ink Blue wagon, with Rock Grey leather, presented in the customer pre-delivery area at Audi Centre Melbourne.
The salesman knew his stuff, patiently demonstrating everything from the Q7’s auto tailgate function, with its party trick of opening when you wave your foot under the bumper, to the electric-folding third row seats that glide elegantly into the floor at the push of a button. And the flexible 40/20/40 second row configuration that flips, slides and folds with impressive versatility.
He moved on to the removable smart tablets in the second-row – with streaming internet functionality, no less – and the customisable 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit dash that morphs at the press of a wheel-mounted button from a traditional arrangement to a reduced version of same, and on to a full technicolour nav-screen.
My Saturday morning pre-caffeine brain strained to take it all in as the presenter pressed on. I just hoped I’d remember some of it tomorrow, when the family and I planned to christen the new long-termer with a 800km interstate trip.
At the very least, I had to recall how to play a DVD and stream internet to those rear-seat screens, lest there be a kiddie rebellion of frightening proportions.
To be fair, at its launch in 2015 Audi declared the Q7 “its most advanced mass-production car ever”, so most mere mortals with an IQ south of Stephen Hawking’s would struggle to commit all of its tech-tricks to memory after a 30 minute tutorial.
Our man ploughed on patiently, despite the occasional dumb question or request to rewind from his pie-eyed student.
Then came the moment that brought things unstuck.
The bloke was whizzing through the car’s connectivity functions and suggested it might make more sense if we did it with an actual phone.
“Do you have your phone on you,” he asked, politely.
“Sure,” I said, producing the black rectangle from my hip pocket.
He grabbed the phone without looking and busily clicked away at the Audi’s sub-menus, preparing it to sync while explaining all of the many and varied functions I would soon be able to access via the retractable 8.3-inch colour screen.
Then he glanced down and a look that was equal parts dismay, confusion and sympathy scurried across his face as he stammered for the first time in what had been a peerless presentation.
“Err… that’s an old one, isn’t it,” he ventured tentatively, staring at the device in his hand as if I’d deposited dog poo there.
“Yeah, it’s an iPhone 4S,” I replied proudly, just to do his head in a bit.
Lost for words, the poor bloke got busy trying to get the old girl to sync, but I imagined he was wondering what would possess Audi to hand over $125K worth of technological tour de force to a bogan who can’t be bothered to keep up with mobile phone technology.
In my defence, ye olde 4S still makes calls, take photos, plays music, provides directions, connects to the internet and occasionally syncs temperamentally with test cars. So what’s not to like about it?
But yes, since the superbly sophisticated Q7 arrived in our lives, the 4S has begun to look a lot like grandad’s axe, so it might soon be time to scribble ‘phone shop’ on the centre console touch pad and follow the sat-nav’s plummy directions to The Future!
Audi Q7 gets put through the ultimate test, the family road trip
An eerie silence enveloped the cabin. To my left, in the passenger seat, the wife dozed peacefully behind dark shades. Through the windscreen, the dotted lines of the Hume Highway were hauled in and spat back out in the Q7’s imperious wake. The faint growl of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and the muted whoosh of 20-inch tyres on pavement provided a gently cosseting background track.
But something seemed wrong. Honed parental instincts told me that kids this quiet generally means one of two things: trouble, or an exhaust gas leak has rendered the little mites unconscious.
Adjusting the rear-view mirror I glanced back to see which it was, only to be confronted by the sight of the two wide-eyed angels, bedecked in headphones and utterly engrossed in the wonders of the inter-web, courtesy of Audi connect, which uses an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot to enable internet connection to the rear-seat smart tablets while on the road.
Satisfied that my parental paranoia was unjustified, I settled back to enjoy the rhythm of the road, adjusting the temperature on the individual climate control a few degrees lower on the wife’s side, just to annoy her. I could snap-freeze or bake the kids from here as well, with four-zone climate control at my fingertips. Hmm, Doctor Evil drives an Audi.
With cruise set to a conservative 115km/h I admired the Q7’s ability to doggedly hold its set speed with unerring accuracy. The big Audi deftly applies throttle and brake depending on the terrain, its eight-speed shuffling seamlessly up and down the ratios without any of the uncouth kick-down or rev flaring that accompanies such moves in lesser machines.
Somewhere south of Goulburn my reverie and the trip’s relative tranquility was shattered by an indignant outcry from the back seat. The long faces and frantic stabbing at the Q7’s seat-mounted screens confirmed the terrible news: we’d lost the internet connection!
Yes, sadly, even in this day and age, Australian children are being forced to take 10-hour road trips without the guarantee of uninterrupted internet connectivity between Melbourne and Sydney.
Shame, Australia, shame.
It was former PM Bob Hawke who famously declared back in 1987 that “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.” He was wrong, but that shouldn’t stop Our Malcolm from setting his government a similarly grandiose goal of making sure every family road trip is somehow connected to the NBN. After all, watching Australia’s beautiful and ever-changing landscape through panoramic SUV windows is soooo last century.
After a brief sojourn in another exotic European car, Ged finds himself running back to his Q7 long-termer
The grass is always greener, or so the saying goes, and I was recently tempted to swap the keys of the Audi Q7 for a few days at the wheel of a bright-shiny new bauble from another renowned European brand.
It represented the car maker in question’s first foray into the automotive honeypot that is SUVs and, with the brand’s reputation forged in sports cars and performance saloons, my expectations were high.
However, after a week of enduring the leaden lump’s heavy steering, vast turning circle and lethargic diesel performance – all at a fully-optioned price tag that would have enabled me to park an S3 Sportback alongside the Q7 for similar money – I practically hugged the big Audi when the time came to reunite.
The incident reminded me that, a few months earlier, I’d run into a mate who’d purchased a Q7 and was eager to tell me how happy he was with his decision.
I was steering a Volvo XC90 diesel at the time, which said-friend had run the rule over during his due-diligence, but had chosen the Audi on the basis of its superior refinement.
I considered the XC90 a decently refined proposition, and thought him a bit harsh on what is arguably the Swedish marque’s most impressive product. But, having now spent decent wheel time in both seven-seaters, I have to concede he was spot-on.
It’s not so much that the XC90 is lacking in refinement; more that Audi has taken the whole noise-vibration-harshness business to another level, practically banishing unwanted diesel drone from the Q7’s cabin.
No doubt there’s plenty of noise-supressing cladding beneath the Q7’s handsome alloy skin, but at the heart of the matter is Audi’s remarkably responsive and free spinning turbo-diesel V6.
Hitched to a seamless eight-speed auto, this drivetrain combination ensures the Audi SUV is not just a refined and supremely relaxed tourer, but also an impressively engaging drive, with brisk off-the-mark acceleration and crisp throttle response.
Of course the Q7 isn’t exactly petite, so it’s understandable that it might seem an easy target for a spotty-faced P-plater in a rorty hatch seeking
to make his mark at the lights.
But drop the hammer and the usually relaxed V6 springs to life, pouring on its 200kW and 600Nm in a relentless wave that surprises and delights as it propels
the 2135kg wagon to a hot-hatch bettering 6.5 second 0-100km/h sprint.
Of course, all of this good drivetrain work might have been brought undone, had Audi’s chassis engineers bundied off and gone for an early bratwurst and pils.
Fortunately, they’ve also aimed up, with the result that the Q7 also tackles corners with a sure-footed fluidity that makes it a pleasure to drive.
All of which explains why the Q7 and I have renewed our vows, and I’ve promised never to stray again.
Audi's Q7 may make you feel like you can take on the world, just be wary of any volcanic rock.
It was a dark and stormy night... No, seriously...
A band of wild weather had thundered in over Port Phillip Bay and rolled on across the city and suburbs, filling gutters with flooding rain, felling trees and generally announcing that Melbourne’s notoriously fickle winter had arrived.
I was late for dinner at the in-laws and might, perhaps, have slightly rushed my well-practiced reversing routine down our long, dog-legged driveway.
Fringed by overhanging trees and shrubs that a keener gardener would have pruned, and lined with abrasive volcanic rocks, a swift, smooth reverse down the drive is a badge of honour that I wear with pride.
What I hadn’t allowed for was the extra degree of difficulty, due to the night being as black as tar and the total lack of illumination in the driveway itself.
So, I’m whizzing backwards on a wing and a prayer, trying to patch together a picture of what lay behind, through a combination of memory, murky reversing camera and rain-splattered wing mirrors when, WHUMP!
The rear end of the Q7 kicked skywards and I instantly cursed myself for not proceeding a tad more slowly.
Within moments the Q7’s dash was illuminated with warning alerts indicating a dramatic loss of that which tyres are meant to be full of.
Donning the Drizabone, I popped the boot, not really expecting to find a full-size spare in there, but wondering: is there, perhaps, a space saver?
Instead, Audi offers Q7 owners an inflation kit neatly stowed in the space beneath the cargo floor where a spare would otherwise reside. I whipped it out and proceeded to read the fine print, before taking a closer look at the tyre.
That volcanic rock is hardy stuff regurgitated from the earth’s churning gizzards a gazillion years ago, so a 285/45R20 Goodyear Eagle F1 is really no match. A hole in the sidewall big enough to poke my thumb through instantly told me the natty inflation kit was all-but useless, so I cancelled dinner and called AudiCare 24-hour Roadside Assistance.
After taking a few details, the pleasant woman on the end of the line advised that she’d send a flatbed as soon as possible.
A flatbed! I’ve blown a tyre, not a bloody head gasket! But the truck duly arrived the next morning, the Q7 was retrieved, the tyre replaced and the car returned, all within the day.
Aside from the cost of a replacement tyre, it’s all covered under Audi’s standard three-year warranty with roadside assistance, which proved an efficient and relatively seamless service.
The whole thing seemed like a lot of unnecessary drama, however, and gave me pause to reconsider a planned trip to show the kids a cattleman’s hut atop a high country peak. I can’t see Audi getting a flatbed up there if I have another puncture, so guess I’ll just stay home and prune shrubs instead.
It was Al Pacino’s character Tony D’Amato, in the classic gridiron flick Any Given Sunday, who told his hapless Miami Sharks how “life is just a game of inches.”
He was referring to the footy field, in a spiel that’s regarded as one of the most rousing sporting pep-talks ever filmed, but I recently found myself mouthing his immortal lines as I grunted and gasped, trying to find just one more inch in our Audi Q7’s densely-filled luggage bay.
Pacino’s growling Coach D’Amato may have believed “the inches we need are everywhere around us,” but even with the Q7’s third row folded to liberate no less than 770 litres, I was struggling to find them.
Shouldering the electronic tailgate shut, I prayed it wouldn’t burst back open in protest, and willed that the locksmiths of Ingolstadt were up to the challenge of restraining this lot over a three-hour road trip. One slip here and the road north would look like a drunken Pro Hart had been let loose on it with a cannon, a carton of baked beans and the contents of a Vinnies bin. Again.
Fortunately, the latches held and, with the detachable mesh cargo net snicked in place behind the second row, the kids (or what I could see of them beneath the doonas and pillows), appeared comfy.
Motoring along to the muffled strains of ‘Kumbaya’ from the general vicinity of the back seat, I was reminded again of the quiet competence of the Q7’s suspension tune; supple but disciplined, the Audi’s ride quality and steering precision didn’t suffer much, if at all, from the added burden of four humans and their extensive accoutrements.
It helps that our Q7 boasts the optional adaptive air suspension and continuously variable electronic damping ($4690) that self-levels to ensure the body sits nice and flat even when loaded.
The air suspension also enables a choice of several ride-height modes, selected via the Audi’s MMI controller, encompassing lift, off-road, comfort, auto and dynamic.
Switching between dynamic and lift when stationary is a bit of a party trick as the car gently raises or lowers in stages. From the outside, there’s a good hand-width’s difference between the two beneath the wheelarch, but out on the road we preferred leaving it in auto, as dynamic tends to make the ride and the transmission response just a little too edgy.
When it came time to unpack, the Q7’s loading mode, accessed via a switch in the luggage bay, drops ride height a handy 45mm from standard.
By my reckoning that’s just shy of two inches, which is about the extra space I needed when it came time to pack it all back in again two days later.
Yep, Coach D’Amato was right: life really is a game of inches.
Even better than the real thing
Audi’s digital dash display is one of, if not the best in the business, both in terms of graphics quality and ease of use.
I find having the navigation system enlarged in the customisable 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit (that’s the instrument cluster by another name), and flanked by minimised speedo and tacho, an excellent alternative to reading the retractable 8.3-inch colour screen in the centre of the dash.
Sometimes the writing is on the wall, at other times it’s right there on the dash in front of you.
The prompt to add a drum of the urea-based liquid to the turbo-diesel’s auxiliary tank was a sure sign that the end was nigh; the Q7’s 15000km service mark was fast-approaching and, with that, retirement from the Bulmer household.
The kids took the news hard, grumpily collecting the crayons, dolls heads and other detritus of a half-year’s ownership, and grumbling about whether they’d ever again find a Wi-Fi-enabled car with internet connectivity that can stream their favourite shows to rear seat smart tablets.
“Probably not, but harden up you little beggars and scrub that carpet!” I thought to myself while cooing gently in their ears that it would all be okay and daddy would make it better by buying them a new iPad.
Mrs. Bulmer was also bereft. Despite having complained from time to time about the Audi’s bulk while threading the needle of abandoned shopping trollies and wild-eyed grannies in dinged Nissan Tiidas, she knows a good thing when she drives one.
And the Q7 is certainly a very good thing, indeed.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s as close as we’ve come to finding automotive utopia in modern family guise.
The latter is a world where 0-100km/h splits and ‘tendency to understeer at the limit’ take a distant back-seat to mundane considerations like cargo space, seating flexibility and ride comfort.
Space, for instance, is a big deal for families such as ours and any lack thereof can be a real deal-breaker.
Here, the Q7’s standard 295-litre boot with three rows in place is okay, but flicking the switch to fold the electrically operated third-row liberates a whopping
770-litre usable space.
The detachable cargo net, which we deployed often when we travelled, provides peace of mind by safely separating luggage from passengers. Other neat touches include the Q7’s auto tailgate function, with its trick of opening when you wave your foot under the bumper; and the ability to automatically lower the air-sprung wagon’s ride height by 45mm when loading or unloading.
The above would be enough to earn the Q7 a handful of gold stars alone, but Audi has also endowed its family SUV with great dynamics, an excellent drivetrain, and superb refinement.
A responsive and free-spinning 200kW 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 mates seamlessly to a fluid-shifting eight-speed auto, creating a drivetrain that’s among the smoothest and most responsive in this category.
Disciplined handling matches the fluidity of the drivetrain, marking the Q7 as an above-average SUV to drive enthusiastically. Our test car’s optional adaptive air suspension and continuously variable electronic damping ($4690) played a major part here.
As for the inevitable downsides, the Q7’s circa $105k list price will present a formidable barrier for some, but measured against luxury SUV segment rivals like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, the Audi is absolutely competitive. Certainly my wife had few complaints (about the car at least), and that’s as good as winning COTY in my experience.
Roomy, well built, luxuriously appointed, and superbly refined, the Audi Q7 delivers a superb blend of prestige, pragmatism and performance that we’re really going to miss, right kids?
A wee additive
Like many modern diesels the Q7 relies on Adblue to help reduce its exhaust emissions and meet Euro 6 standards. The high-purity urea solution is added to a separate tank alongside the fuel filler and is continuously sprayed into the exhaust, upstream of the Selective Catalytic Reduction system (SCR).
The additive helps convert diesel exhaust gases and their harmful NOx, or oxides of nitrogen emissions, into harmless gas and water vapour.
Over the course of 12,555km and some 14 refuels, the Q7 consumed a total of 1319L of diesel for an overall average of 10.5L/100km. Its best of 7.8L/100km was on a Sydney-Melbourne run down the Hume. Its worst, in stop-start urban traffic, climbed to 11.8L/100km.
As for servicing, those costs are always higher with luxury vehicles and Audi advises that the 15,000km fettling the Q7 is due to cop upon return should run to around $600, but owners will no doubt be up for more than that at the 30,000km major service.