2021 Audi Q7 Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Nov 09, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Audi deals!

Audi arrived late to the German midsize luxury SUV game when it debuted the first Q7 for 2006. To help the Q7 stand apart, Audi made a third-row seat standard rather than optional, as it was in the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Now, 15 years later, both BMW and Mercedes offer larger SUVs with standard third-row seats of their own. But the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS-Class are also significantly more expensive than the Q7. So are the 5-passenger BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE, for that matter. This pricing situation, believe it or not, makes the 2021 Audi Q7 a genuine value when measured against its primary competitors.

In addition to a standard third-row seat, every 2021 Q7 includes Quattro all-wheel drive. Buyers choose between a turbocharged 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder engine, and Audi offers this SUV in a performance-tuned SQ7 model featuring a turbocharged V-8. Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels add equipment, along with options and packages.

2021 Audi Q7 White Front View

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated an Audi Q7 Prestige, and all commentary pertains to the Q7 lineup and not the SQ7 model. Our test vehicle had extra-cost paint and the Laser Headlights Package, bringing the price to $75,340, including the $1,095 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Audi deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2021 Audi Q7, it is helpful to understand who buys this upper midsize premium SUV and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 61% of Audi Q7 owners are male (vs. 63% for the segment), and the median age of a Q7 owner is 50 years (vs. 56).

Owners say their favorite things about the Q7 are (in descending order) the driving feel, exterior styling, feeling of safety, powertrain, and driving comfort. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the upper premium midsize SUV segment:

  • Power of engine/motor
  • Sound of engine/motor
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Vehicle protection
  • Operating vehicle remotely

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Q7 are (in descending order) the setting up and starting, infotainment system, interior design, getting in and out, and fuel economy. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the upper premium midsize SUV segment:

  • Ability to hold personal items
  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Ability to carry everything
  • Getting in and out of the third row
  • Driver’s seat comfort in a tie with effectiveness of headlights

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Q7 did not rank in its segment due to low sample size.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Audi deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides his perceptions about how the 2021 Audi Q7 measures up in each of the ten categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Audi subscribes to the “Russian doll” theory of design. Small, medium, or large, its lineup of sedans and SUVs looks cut from the same mold. And so, the 2021 Audi Q7 looks like a longer and wider copy of the Q3 and Q5

2021 Audi Q7 White Rear View

This approach isn’t a bad thing, and Audi provides enough in the way of exclusive detailing to position the Q7 as the premium choice. Paint colors include white, black, and shades of gray, with Barrel Brown, Navarra Blue, and the unusual Galaxy Blue thrown in for variety. Wheel sizes run up to 22 inches in diameter.

Interior

Inside, the Audi Q7 is elegantly high-tech with a total of three display screens, two of which are touch-responsive. Air vents are deftly integrated into the dashboard, and the overall theme is one of simplicity, even if the technology defines complexity.

2021 Audi Q7 Okapi Brown Interior Dashboard

Audi renders the Q7’s cabin in quality soft-touch materials, genuine wood trim, gloss-black panels, and aluminum accents. What’s lacking is usable space for storage, and not just the everyday personal items you carry with you. My family took an 800-mile road trip in the Q7, and the few storage areas overflowed with the things that tend to accumulate while traveling.

Getting In and Out

Used as a four- or five-passenger SUV, the Audi Q7 is accommodating. The third-row seat is difficult to access and uncomfortable for adults, even with the second-row seats moved forward to create extra room.

Cargo space behind the third-row seat measures 14.2 cubic feet. That’s not much, and since the rearmost seat is not at all comfortable, you’ll likely keep it folded down to enjoy 35.7 cubic feet of cargo space. That amount of volume easily accommodated a family road trip.

Maximum cargo volume with the second-row seats folded down measures 69.6 cubic feet.

Setting Up and Starting

Audi loads the 2021 Q7 with showstopping technology. Three display screens illuminate with a push of the engine start button and dazzle the driver and passengers with impressive graphics and plenty of ways to custom-tailor the SUV to specific preferences.

For the most part, the technology is intuitive if you’re comfortable using modern smartphones and tablet computers. However, the 10.1-inch upper and 8.6-inch lower touchscreens do not always respond to dry fingertips.

Setting up takes a long time, but once you’ve configured the Q7 to your preferences, you don’t often need to use the screens thanks to physical stereo controls on the center console and an impressive natural voice recognition system.

Infotainment System

Featuring satellite radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Audi Connect services with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, the Q7 offers numerous infotainment choices. The available Bang & Olufsen premium audio system supplies rich sound, and the natural voice recognition technology is genuinely useful to use.

My kids could attend their remote learning classes via Zoom thanks to iPads and the Q7’s active Wi-Fi subscription. It certainly was a sign of the times to witness them engaged with teachers and classmates while we drove north on California 395 toward Lake Tahoe, both in terms of the ongoing pandemic and the practical application of and flexibility afforded by modern in-vehicle technology.

Keeping You Safe

Road trips can reveal vehicle flaws that aren’t as apparent during local drives. That was true during our travels, during which we encountered problems with the Q7’s lane-centering assistance and traffic sign recognition systems. The former sometimes behaved in unexpected ways, while the latter committed occasional errors. In one situation related to a 35-mph posted speed limit for large trucks going down a mountain grade, the Q7 suddenly began decelerating even though the limit did not apply to personal vehicles.

The rest of the Q7 Prestige’s easily sampled advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) worked well. And during a nighttime trip to Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay turnout for star gazing, the HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi Laser Light proved nothing short of phenomenal on the narrow mountain roads of the region. A Night Vision Assistant is an option, featuring both pedestrian and large animal detection.

From a driver’s perspective, the Q7’s extra-cost headlights are fantastic. Apparently, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), they cast too much glare at oncoming vehicles, receiving a Poor rating for their performance. This assessment prevents the Q7 from earning the highest safety rating from the IIHS, even though the SUV does a terrific job protecting the driver and passengers in collision protection tests.

Powertrain

For the Q7, Audi offers a choice between a turbocharged 4-cylinder and a turbocharged V-6 engine, each using an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard Quattro all-wheel drive.

Prestige trim includes the V-6, which makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque. A 48-volt electrical system powered by a 9.6Ah lithium-ion battery supports the powertrain to conserve fuel, making this a mild-hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV). 

Audi Drive Select provides multiple driving modes, including Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual, and Allroad. Audi says the Q7 MHEV accelerates to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, achieves a top speed of 130 mph, and can tow up to 7,700 pounds.

Thanks to turbocharging, the Q7 remained responsive at elevation as we drove over the mountain passes leading to Lake Tahoe. In Comfort and Auto modes, the SUV can feel a little lazy when accelerating from a stop but switching to Dynamic resolves that. Passing power is robust.

Fuel Economy

The EPA says the Q7’s MHEV powertrain should return 20 mpg in combined driving. During our road trip, the SUV averaged 21 mpg. On a local driving loop, including a mix of city and highway miles, the Audi returned 18.1 mpg.

Using the latter figure and considering the Q7’s 22.5-gallon gas tank, you should achieve 407 miles of range during typical daily driving conditions. Call it 375 miles between fill-ups since you’re not going to drain the tank dry.

Driving Comfort

Though our test vehicle did not have the Q7’s optional Luxury Package with massaging front seats, its heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and four-zone automatic climate control kept everyone happy for hundreds of miles at a time. 

Additionally, this is a remarkably quiet vehicle, even for a luxury SUV. Credit goes, in part, to the Prestige trim’s dual-pane acoustic side window glass.

When it comes to the Q7, “third-row seat comfort” is an oxymoron. This seating location is suitable only for children, and only on occasion. If you need to use a third-row seat regularly, the Audi Q7 is not the right SUV for you.

Driving Feel

With 20-inch wheels and tires and an adaptive air suspension, the Q7 Prestige is at home on both twisty mountain roads and city freeways. Ride and handling qualities adjust depending on the Audi Drive Mode Select choice, and the Individual setting allows a Q7 owner to program a softer and more relaxed ride with a more dynamic powertrain response, or vice versa.

All-wheel steering is an option for the Q7, but given the test vehicle’s standard handling traits and maneuverability in parking lots and on narrow forest roads, you’re unlikely to require it. With Quattro, the Allroad drivetrain setting, and an Off-Road suspension setting, the Q7 is up to tackling moderately tricky terrain, though the tires are meant for pavement.

Final Impressions - Find the best Audi deals!

Audi Q7 owners express displeasure with this SUV’s interior storage, third-row seat comfort, and cargo space. After all, when you choose a three-row SUV, the expectation is that the third-row seat will be useful and that the vehicle will accommodate a family in terms of utility and practicality.

Approach a Q7 purchase with the mindset that it is a midsize SUV best used by families of four or five, and you’re likely to be more satisfied with your decision. Aside from these primary deficiencies related to space and utility, and some of the challenges we experienced with the ADAS, the 2021 Audi Q7 is easy to recommend.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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