Go find forgotten places
Audi has thrown down the guantlet for any big SUV owner. BRIAN BASSETT drove it
AUDI in Pietermaritzburg has come out with a challenge to all owners of big sport utes to compare the power and drive in the new Q7 on a scenic route above KZN’s capital.
The verify that the test route is indeed only for SUVs that can do offroad, Audi staff invited
Wheels editor Alwyn Viljoen and myself to drive up a very muddy mountain in the new Audi Q7 3.0TDI Quattro Tiptronic during the weekend’s welcome rain.
After Viljoen got us all sideways and a tad too close to an embankment with the anti slip regulation (ASR) button kept firmly on, Darryl Chetty of Audi Centre advised Viljoen to stop worrying about spin as he would in his old Cruiser. For the Q7 has Audi’s unique quattro system that divides 600 Nm between the wheels that have grip. But to allow the quattro to spread all the torque between the wheels — and the driver’s grin from ear to ear — the ASR has to be off.
Once again we extend our thanks to Darryl Topper, Dealer Principal at Audi Centre, Pietermaritzburg for trusting us with his vehicle. (Or should that be trusting his vehicle to get us out of trouble?)
The Q7 made its debut in 2005 and after the relatively long model cycle, we suspect that towards the end of the Q7 cycle, Audi was beginning to feel a little wary of the fact that a number of newer luxury SUVs had appeared on the market. But the wait was worth it, as the new Q7 takes the fight to the enemy.
The Audi Q7 conforms to the Audi house style — all subdued elegance with the clever industrial design. While the Q7 may be understated, it broadcasts a message of quality that few others can match.
The interior of the Q7 feels as solid as a bank vault and the solid clunk when you close the doors reinforces this impression.
The virtual cockpit instrument screen is a delight and can be set up in a number of ways.
The seats are comfortable, supportive and electrically adjustable, with memory, as is the leather-covered, multi-function steering wheel, which deals with a wide range of functions from Blue Tooth, audio and cruise control, to information and GPS. As is the case in Mercedes-Benz’s new G-class SUV’s and indeed the Ford Everest, the second row of seats is also adjustable and the third row can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button.
Interior space in the Q7 is phenomenal and the result of clever design. Luggage capacity with all seats in place is around 300 litres, but this rises to 770 litres with the third row of seats folded and to 1995 liters with all of the rear seats down.
I loved the stubby gearlever which doubles as a hand rest when operating the MMI controller, which sits behind an additional touchpad for written input. The system’s central screen highlights functions as a hand approaches and, if you have the correct software the car can become a rather large four-wheeled laptop.
The sound system is brilliant and the four-zone climate control allows rear seat passengers to select their own settings.
The remainder of the dash is well designed, easily operated and has a smooth, slick feel, which is sensually enjoyable.
Safety and security
The problem with the Q7 is not what it has in terms of safety equipment, but finding something it does not have.
There is the usual anti slip and ABS systems, seatbelts, eight airbags, stabilisation control and electronic diff lock, start/stop system, speed limiter hold and park assist.
I especially enjoyed the reversing camera showing all four sides of the vehicle and a view from the top of the area surrounding the vehicle. A must-have option is auto trailer assist, which has the Q7 turn its steering wheel as required to keep the trailer straignt when driving backwards.
Night vision Assistant also impressed me. No more trouble seeing buck or people crossing the road at night, the car looks ahead and in the thickest mist picks out and enlarges the object you need to avoid.
In all there are 33 major safety features on the car. If you really want to be impressed pick up a brochure from your nearest dealer.
Performance and handling
City driving in the Q7 is enjoyable, although there is slightly firm edge to the way it deals with bumps and potholes even in Comfort setting.
However the ride is mature and sophisticated. The car corners well and if the road presents surface difficulties you can always increase the ride height.
On longer distances the Q7 is wonderfully quiet and soothing. It also has all the power you need to cope with any emergency and cruising at higher speeds presents no challenge.
The three-litre V6 turbocharged diesel engine with common rail injection system delivers 200kW/600Nm, making this an enormously powerful piece of machinery. Less than five seconds takes you from 0 to 100km/ h and top speed is about 235kph.
With the still grinning Viljoen all but flattening that muddy mountain, we did not get to test fuel consumption in normal driving styles, but believe that between 7 and 7.5 l/100 km is realistic.
Challenge to SUV drivers
The Q7 3.0TDI Quattro Tiptronic comes in at R924 000 and there is a long options list as well as an extendable five-year or 100 000 km maintenance plan.
New Vehicle Sales Manager at Audi Centre Pietermaritzburg Prunella Naidoo now challenges drivers in an X5, M-class, Range Rover Sport, Land Cruiser and even a Porsche Cayenne to test the Q7, and then let her tailor a deal with guaranteed future value on Audi’s big ute.
The forgotten Teteluku station, a nice spot for a picnic after coming through the old tunnel above Pietermaritzburg, but unless you take up Audi’s Q7 challenge, you may never find it.
Note the subtle pink ambient lighting along the central console of the Q7, which can be turned to blue, green or red as the driver’s mood takes him or her.