DRIVEN: Audi’s upgraded (2020) Q7 3.0 TDI will have you craving for the Autobahn
CAPE TOWN - The Audi Q7 has been around for almost half a decade and considering what we've been through this year it's pleasing to see a refreshed face every now and then.
Well, it's more than just a refreshed face, it's actually a reasonable makeover, over the previous model.
And while Audi admits to more customers "buying down" into its Q SUV range there's still a place for the Q7, especially if you need seven seats which are optional, tow a big caravan or boat and also enjoy top-class connectivity and a premium cockpit.
In order to do that you need a bit of grunt under the hood and while there's only one diesel option available, to be honest you don't need anything else. The Q7 TDI V6 3.0 litre turbo-diesel quattro tiptronic gives you 183kW of power and 600Nm of torque and drives all four wheels via the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Audi says it will get you to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds and will even out at 225km/h which gives you an indication of what it's capable of and why you really don't need anything else.
If you have to though you can wait around till January next year and opt for the SQ7 quattro which will give you 310kW and 900Nm.
Audi has also introduced all wheel steering to provide better handling especially in tight corners.
Externally, the new package is 11mm longer at 5.063m but it's still the same height at 1.74m and a wheelbase of 2.995m.
The horizontal grille slats have been replaced by vertical ones and the front end has been reshaped with a sharper, more intense look especially in optional S-Line trim with a chrome blade across the front bumper and blacked out radiator grille.
Round back there's also a chrome blade across the tailgate and while the front is quite striking, opinion of the rear was a little divided especially with the tailgate open.
The biggest change though is on the inside and with virtual cockpits and the latest connectivity being the new buzzword, Audi has delivered in dollops.
The digital cockpit with two large touchscreens has fantastic resolution, providing haptic and acoustic feedback when clicking on the touch controls. And despite the serious standard high-tech it's pleasing to see a good old-fashioned volume control button on the centre console.
The MMI navigation plus infotainment system is equipped with an embedded sim card, which enables live apps such as real-time traffic updates and weather updates along your route. It can also call Audi services or emergency services if you’re in an accident or require assistance.
It's still big inside with a load bay of 865 litres and 2 050 litres when you fold down the rear seats.
The cars we drove on the launch were fitted with the optional adaptive air suspension, something I would highly recommend not only because you get to lift it to 270mm should you decide to take a Q7 a little off the beaten track but also because the drive is immensely comfortable not to mention stable even at speed.
There's very little lag when you pull away before you get to experience what in my view, is one of the best diesel engines on the market as it grabs the torque and pushes it through the almost seamless auto box. Even in Dynamic mode there's virtually no interior noise or any major body roll should you give it a bit of a hard right foot.
It was fitted with optional 22-inch wheels so there was a bit of a rougher ride over bumpy bits but I reckon the standard 20 inch provides a happy medium.
For a big car it handles well and pushing it hard through hairpins and sharp corners at the local launch in the Western Cape, I came away suitably impressed even with a bit of tyre squeal you feel totally in control.
The drive is made more comfortable with it's raised driving position, direct steering and lofty (cricket) leather seats.
Once you get to understand the Q7's driving dynamics you really want to be driving it on the Autobahn because it seems its happy cruising place is about 40 to 50km/h faster than the national speed limit with the rev counter still under 2000rpm.
As with other new Audi models launched in South Africa the package concept is also valid on the Q7 so you get to choose between Comfort, Black styling or S-line interior.
The exterior design changes, improved connectivity and tech inside the Audi Q7 have given it more stature and coupled with a very comfortable drive, decent performance and driving dynamics it's a serious contender in its category.
While pricing may make you look twice it's still very much in line with the competition. For an additional R60 000 you get to drive the S-Line over the standard model and in that context, it would be money well spent.
AUDI Q7 PRICING
45 TDI quattro tiptronic - R 1 328 500
45 TDI quattro S line tiptronic - R 1 388 500
Both models come standard with the five-year/100 000km Audi Freeway plan.