Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Bill Buys

CAN one call a $96,000 ve­hi­cle a 'base' model?

Es­pe­cially when the top-ofthe-range looka­like is only $7500 more ex­pen­sive? No, we don't think so ei­ther. But Audi has such a sit­u­a­tion with its sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Q7 SUV, now avail­able in 160kW /500Nm and 200/600 pack­ages.

Both use a 3.0litre V6 tur­bod­iesel with quat­tro (all-wheel) drive and eight-speed tip­tronic trans­mis­sion, and both come with a lot of op­tions that can eas­ily pro­pel the price sky­wards.

Our aris­to­cratic drive-mo­bile was the 160kW ver­sion, which has more than enough power for most needs and is ca­pa­ble of tak­ing the 2.1tonne seven-seater to 100km/h in 7.3 sec­onds.

But of greater in­ter­est to most own­ers might be the diesel's lean ap­petite.

It uses an av­er­age of 5.8litres/100km, which makes the big, lux­u­ri­ous beast a lot more fuel-ef­fi­cient than most small petrol-pow­ered hatches.

It's 20 per cent eas­ier on fuel than the orig­i­nal Q7, and alu­minium com­po­nents make it stronger and lighter as well.

The Q7 is big on lux­ury and in­te­rior space, with lots of head, shoul­der and legroom for all three rows of seats, though it's a tad more cramped in the rear­most ones, which are in­tended for chil­dren.

And if you don't need to carry pas­sen­gers, the sec­ond and third rows can be folded flat to turn the Q7 into a pre­mium car­rier of goods. And yes, of course the tail­gate is pow­ered for hands­free ac­cess.

The doors can be pow­ered too, if you wish, via a $1550 op­tion.

Stan­dard fare is ex­ten­sive, with drive se­lect, auto-on head­lights and wipers, leather trim, pow­ered front seats, au­to­matic air­con, park­ing sen­sors front and rear, re­verse cam­era with cross traf­fic view, hill hold and hill de­scent con­trol.

The test ve­hi­cle also had Audi con­nect, metal­lic paint, As­sis­tance pack­age, Park­ing pack­age, LED head­lights and brushed alu­minium in­lays, which el­e­vated its price to $111,000.

And there are many more items that col­lec­tively can dou­ble the car's price.

The As­sis­tance item is im­pres­sive, com­pris­ing adap­tive cruise con­trol and au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, plus 'traf­fic jam, col­li­sion and turn as­sist’, all so­phis­ti­cated bits of magic that add up to greater safety. The Park­ing pack also in­cludes a 360de­gree bird's eye view cam­era for pin­point park­ing pre­ci­sion.

The classy dash has an 8.3inch in­fo­tain­ment screen with great fea­tures, es­pe­cially the sat­nav, and Audi's iPhone and An­droid in­te­gra­tion. The DAB au­dio is also top class.

The ride, on 19-inch al­loys, is su­per-quiet and com­pli­ant, the han­dling ex­cel­lent for a heavy­weight and it's cer­tainly not lack­ing in per­for­mance.

It's a fine coun­try cruiser, run­ning along stress-free with just the barest of fuel needs, but with a great wal­lop of power in re­serve for quicker, safer over­tak­ing.

Ver­dict: An el­e­gant and ca­pa­ble ve­hic­u­lar state­ment.

Audi's lat­est Q7 can be tai­lored to end­less buyer de­sires.

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