2017 Audi Q7 Review
Ten years is an eternity in the automotive industry, yet that's how long it took Audi to redesign the original Q7, the company's 7-passenger, 3-row SUV. Perhaps a testament to the first-generation Q7's timeless styling, the long-lived model's first decade was mostly but not entirely without change. Audi made steady improvements to the Q7, which continued to appeal to luxury SUV customers right to the very end of its first-generation run.
However, customer demand for new infotainment technologies and modern safety systems, coupled with a need to meet stricter fuel economy standards, encouraged Audi to roll out an all-new 2017 Q7, which went on sale during the first quarter of 2016.
Adopting new styling details that are instantly recognizable as an Audi, the new Q7 remains a conservative choice, a quietly capable machine that straddles the line demarcating crossovers like the Acura MDX and traditional SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade. Initially, the Q7 is offered with a supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels, but a lower-priced version with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is planned, and we could also see a turbodiesel variant and a performance version in the future.
For this review, our expert evaluated a 2017 Audi Q7 Premium Plus with Graphite Gray metallic paint, 20-in. aluminum wheels, Bose 3D sound system, and multiple option packages. They included the Driver Assistance package, Vision package, Cold Weather package, and the Warm Weather package. The price came to $68,925, including the $950 destination charge for shipping from Audi's Bratislava, Slovakia, assembly plant.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 Q7, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this luxury SUV and what they liked most and least about it.
Despite the design's age, between 2011 and 2015 the previous Q7 increased its overall score in the J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,SM ranking third among 16 models in the Midsize Premium SUV segment in the 2015 study. Skewing younger-than-the-segment average at 47 years of age compared with 57, Q7 buyers are 60% male and earn $35,000 more per year than the segment average, with a median household income of $209,000.
According to J.D. Power psychographic data, Audi Q7 owners more frequently identify themselves as both price and performance buyers, compared with the Midsize Premium SUV segment average, demonstrate reduced preference to buy a vehicle from a U.S. company, and are less likely to avoid vehicles that might have high maintenance costs. Additionally, compared with the segment average, Q7 owners are more often considered people who know about autos, according to their friends and family members.
J.D. Power research data also shows that people who own the first-generation Q7 say that their favorite things about Audi's midsize SUV are (in descending order) engine/transmission, driving dynamics, interior, exterior, and visibility and safety. Their least favorite things (in descending order, lowest-rated first) include fuel economy (by a wide margin), storage and space, the climate control system, the infotainment system, and the seats.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2017 Audi Q7 performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2015 U.S. APEAL Study.
Audi sold the original Q7 for 10 years, making few changes along the way. Nevertheless, the design aged particularly well. In fact, right to the end, it boasted a modern, sleek, and attractive appearance.
By comparison, the new 2017 Audi Q7 looks drab. Sharp creases and clean flanks may slip through the atmosphere with less aerodynamic drag, but little about the look conveys personality. The test vehicle's optional 20-in. wheels lend the SUV much needed character, and though the new design is balanced and cohesive, the eyes feast upon little outside of the fastback roofline and the intricacies of the grille.
Conservative and modern design themes continue within the cabin, which is rendered in premium materials and upscale textures to convey an appropriate level of elegance without compromising its purposefulness.
Dominated by available 12.3-in. Audi Virtual Cockpit instrumentation and a widescreen infotainment display, the upper part of the dashboard is clean and uncluttered to help focus driver attention. Separating the displays from the controls, an elegant row of air vents provides a clear demarcation line and visual reference point, helping to guide and orient the driver. Beneath this, a row of secondary controls sits above the knobs and buttons used to manage the optional 4-zone automatic climate control system.
As is increasingly customary, Audi groups infotainment system controls on the Q7's center console, which also contains the electronic shifter, electronic parking brake, and the cupholders. Eventually, the Q7's driver learns how to navigate this landscape by touch, though it is tempting to regularly glance down and double-check inputs.
Audi's Virtual Cockpit display is slick, but depending on the position of the driver's seat and the power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, the fuel gauge is difficult to view, obscured by the steering wheel rim and the driver's right hand.
Feeling like they're not even there, the Q7's front seats deliver outstanding comfort, and outward visibility is excellent. Combine 12-way adjustment with heating and ventilation and this Audi is a perfect companion for long trips and brutal commutes alike. Note, however, that while the steering wheel is wrapped in soft, smooth leather and offers a wide range of adjustment, it also has a sharply defined leading edge, which could make it uncomfortable to grip.
Second-row seats sit tall with good thigh support, and they give passengers an impressive view out. Three adults can sit across the 40/20/40 split-folding bench seat, and the center section independently slides forward to make it easier for parents to tend to children. All three sections slide forward to help make room for third-row occupants.
Large adults who are asked to ride in the third-row seat will not remain friends with the Q7's owner for long. Teenagers will also be upset, with Snapchat unlikely to distract them from their pain, suffering, and meal of kneecaps. Therefore, this seat is suitable only for younger/smaller children, and only when absolutely necessary because the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the safest place for young children to ride is in the second-row seat.
Climate Control System
With the previous Q7, owners said that Audi could improve the climate control system. The test vehicle had a 4-zone system, providing a family of four with the ability to tailor temperatures for each primary outboard seating location. Warm and sunny spring days challenged the Q7's air conditioning, though, and it took a while to cool the cabin.
Audi's next-generation Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is better than ever, but still takes getting used to. Located just forward of the flat-topped gear selector, which acts as a resting place for the driver's wrist, a round knob, primary function buttons, and a large touchpad with handwriting-recognition technology are used to reference and control the data displayed on the MMI screen at the top of the dashboard. Additionally, the Q7 supplies voice-recognition technology, which is accessible using a button on the steering wheel.
Over time, owners will determine their favorite ways to control the MMI, and the system becomes easier to use with experience. The learning curve, however, is fairly steep. Also, it does not help that the volume and stereo mute control knob is located to the right of the shifter, away from other MMI controls.
Pairing an iPhone 6 to the MMI was easy, but once underway the system did not identify the paired (but not USB-connected) phone as a media source. The system is equipped with music-storage capability and can hold a lengthy number of the owner's favorite tracks. The upgraded Bose audio system in the test vehicle produced rich sound.
Audi Connect subscription services are available for the Q7, providing a number of useful features including Google Maps and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection. Referencing the imagery supplied by Google Maps is especially useful when navigating unknown areas.
Storage and Space
In the 2015 U.S. APEAL Study, J.D. Power identified the Q7's cupholders and center console storage space as prime opportunities for improvement. Audi, apparently, did not pay much attention to such findings.
Small and shaped to best accommodate tapered beverage containers, the front cupholders securely accommodate the largest iced coffee cup and the smallest hot coffee cup from McDonald's, neither in ideal fashion. The rear cupholders deploy from the center armrest and are constructed of inexpensive plastic inappropriate for this price class.
Storage space is nearly non-existent. Aside from the modestly sized front door panel bins, a tray at the base of the center control console, and a small covered space beneath the center armrests, there is nowhere to conveniently stash your stuff aside from the glove box.
Cargo space behind the third-row seat is tight, underscoring its status as occasional-use seating. Power the third-row seats down and space expands from 14.8 cu. ft. to 37.5 cu. ft. The resulting cargo area accommodates four full-size suitcases while leaving room for duffel bags, or a compact folding stroller, or other items. Maximum cargo volume with the second-row seats folded down measures 71.6 cu. ft.
Visibility and Safety
Thanks to thin roof pillars, tall seating positions, large side mirrors, a reversing camera, and an available 360-degree surround-view camera with a forward viewing function, outward visibility in the Q7 is excellent. If you want to see what's outside of the SUV, you can, effortlessly.
Weighing nearly 5,000 lbs., the Q7 is also quite safe. The IIHS calls it a "Top Safety Pick+" and, in video taken of the testing, it is easy to see how little of the crash-force energy is transmitted to the cabin during the small overlap frontal-impact test. This bodes extremely well for survivability in a collision.
During testing, it was more difficult to adjust the sensitivity level for the adaptive cruise control than it is in other vehicles with this feature. Adding a button for this to the steering wheel or the dashboard would be a good idea.
Behaving like Clark Kent when you want it to and transforming into Superman when you need it to, Audi's supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine is fantastic. Making 333 horsepower from 5,500 rpm to 6,500 rpm, and 325 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,900 rpm to 5,300 rpm, the engine helps the 2017 Q7 to roar down the road when you rev it. Audi says the SUV can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
Capitalizing on the abundant acceleration and thrilling thrust, the Q7's 8-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive system deliver incredible all-around performance and handling. The powertrain is imperfect, though, equipped with an aggravating engine start/stop system and a silly transmission shifter design.
Selecting a gear is unnecessarily difficult, unless you are shifting from "Reverse" to "Drive." Drivers choose "Reverse" by pushing the gear selector forward and choose "Park" by pushing a button. On two occasions, I thought I had shifted into "Park" but had instead selected "Reverse." One of those times was after pulling into a parking space to check a voice message, and I did not immediately notice that the Q7 was rolling backwards until it was halfway out of its space.
As far as the automatic engine start/stop system is concerned, it is quick to shut the engine off and is slow about re-starting it. Mainly, this aggravated me at stop signs, the system shutting the engine down just as I was pushing on the accelerator in order to continue my journey. Fortunately, a button on the dashboard turns this feature off.
According to the EPA, the 2017 Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro should return 21 mpg in combined driving. Based on the Q7's performance on the test loop, this appears to be optimistic, as the test vehicle averaged 19.4 mpg. Nevertheless, this is a good result for a vehicle of this size, weight, and performance.
Driving the new Q7 is enjoyable, thanks to a quiet cabin, sublime steering, and a ride quality that clearly communicates a sense of solidity. Surface irregularities are beautifully managed, the optional 20-in. wheels and the 5-link front and rear suspension systems soaking up holes, bumps, and patched pavement like they're not even there. The Q7 also delivers decent off-road capabilities, though this likely isn't going to be someone's first choice for an abusive ride down a rock- and brush-strewn trail.
Testing revealed a brake pedal that is occasionally difficult to modulate when attempting to execute a smooth, jostle-free stop. Like many German vehicles, the brakes are effective but feel a bit sticky and grabby at times. Also, because the Q7 is so remarkably quiet inside, it is easier to identify road rumble when traversing imperfect road surfaces at low to medium speeds.
Handling is extraordinary given the Q7's weight and taller center of gravity. Pitch this Audi down a mountainside on a twisting, two-lane road and the Q7 instills instant trust, proving precise, tossable, and lots of fun to drive.
An impressive effort from its inception, the original Audi Q7 is a tough act to follow. With the redesigned 2017 Q7, Audi does its best to build and improve upon its midsize SUV, making it safer, more efficient, and more technologically advanced than ever. By definition, that makes it better. But is it more desirable? Perhaps not.
Audi of America supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Audi Q7 review.