What it is: 2016 Audi Q7, seven passenger luxury SUV
Price Range: Prices haven’t been announced in the U.S. yet, but suffice it to say it should price out around the same as the current Audi Q7, which starts at $48,300.
Pros: Awesome new safety, navigation and entertainment technology, more fuel efficient than its predecessor and less bulbous looking all around. It’s like your old Audi Q7 graduated with its masters and got itself a trainer.
Cons: Styling still comes off a little sleepy, and when you add all the amazing bells and whistles it will likely get pricey.
Would I Buy it with My Own Money?: Sure if I needed to tote around 7 people, two of whom would need to be under 4-feet tall and remain that way until I sold the car.
Remember that old boyfriend or girlfriend you had back in college? You know, the one you occasionally stalk on Facebook to gawk at photos and wonder how they still look so young/buff/hot?
That’s the new Audi Q7.
Fresh off its torture tests in the Namibian desert, the Q7 has lost its baby fat in the progression to becoming a next-generation SUV, evolving into a svelte, technologically savvy, and — dare we say it — wagon-y (and downright buff) automobile.
Originally announced in 2005 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, this is the only the Q7’s second revision. After years of tussling with the likes of the more mature Cadillac Escalade, the Mercedes GL, and the Land Rover LR4, the new 2016 Audi Q7 has made it through its awkward teenage years and come out looking like a well-toned and successful adult.
First the Audi dropped weight and got a new four-wheel steering system. The Q7 has lost a staggering 700 lbs. for the European models, to be exact–through a combination of composite materials, a new, lighter and more compact differential, and a new chassis. U.S.-spec cars may be a bit heftier since they’ll have seven seats standard and the panoramic sunroof, but you can expect that the 2016 Q7 will be significantly lighter than its older brother. The four-wheel steering system allows for a tighter turning radius at low speeds and more stability at higher speeds. The result: the Q7 has a much more nimble and wagon-like feel.
Combine these features with the available adaptive air suspension and the SUV stays hunkered down on steep mountainous roads around the famous ski resort of Verbier, Switzerland, a luxury ski area on par with Aspen with a reputation for some of the best backcountry skiing in the world. The weather there quick to change; we nearly got stuck in a snowstorm that dropped a few pristine inches on the sleepy village clinging to the mountainside. The Q7 however, handled it brilliantly. Both driver and passengers still get a sense of the road, but without that nauseating, tippy feeling that the previous generation had.
With two optional engine configurations, Audi says the Q7 will also be more fuel-efficient than its heftier predecessor. The 3-liter V-6 engine puts out 333 horsepower and 324 ft.-lbs. of torque, while the V-6 diesel engine is expected to deliver around 260 horsepower and 440 ft.-lbs. of torque. Specifications for the diesel engine aren’t yet available for the U.S., and since we were driving European versions, fuel ratings will have to wait as well.
One of the best new features of the 2016 Q7 however, doesn’t come from looks, road feel, or fuel efficiency, but technology. Audi has significantly upgraded its slightly older, slightly clunky-feeling MMI (short for Multi-Media Interface), to a sleeker, faster, more user-friendly system in the new Q7. While consumers have been increasingly vocal in their complaints over too much tech in their cars, Audi has worked hard to simplify the system by flattening the menu and building the platform with twin Nvidia Tegra 3 chips that do eight billion operations per second.
Thanks to those two chips, both passenger and driver can enjoy all the Audi Q7 has to offer simultaneously. From the driver’s seat, you can select between two virtual cockpits depending on what you need. In Infotainment mode you get a large view of the map, phone lists and playlists; from the normal view, your dash looks like the standard dash you expect. The center console features a large 8.3-inch screen that shows everything from 3D Google maps to Apple’s CarPlay interface (and thankfully there aren’t any nannies to lock out inputting new destinations while the car is moving.) The passenger can also plug into CarPlay, share Instagram photos and listen to a podcast all while still getting navigation directions or changing the ride of the new Q7.
While the Q7 we drove was a European spec model, Audi wants to bring some of its bounty of advanced driver control and safety tech stateside. One system reads speed limit signs and increases or reduces cruise-controlled speeds based on those signs as you approach. As you follow a GPS route, and set the cruise control for highway speeds, the car anticipates the exit coming up and slows the car automatically for the off ramp and the speed of the upcoming road. In Europe this is a simpler technological feat, as all the signs are standardized in shape, color, and size. In the states, each locality can have wide variations on speed limit signage—making it difficult to ensure the system works reliably, but, according to Audi engineers, not impossible.
As a driver, the experience of having the car speed up and slow down without your input is a touch unnerving at first. You find yourself hovering over the brake just in case things go wrong, but the system executes it perfectly time and time again. Once you’re over the shock, you find yourself in awe at how close the reality of autonomous cars may be.
Audi has also built-in traffic jam assist, which allows the car to follow traffic at speeds up up to 38 mph. The system uses both radar and video cameras to follow lane markings and guide the vehicle with what Audi calls “gentle interventions.” You can lightly rest your fingertips on the wheel and feel the wheel gradually move to keep you in line. We tried it in the light traffic we found on the way from the private airport in Sion to Verbier and found it surprisingly good: subtle and responsive. Once traffic dissipates, the car will signal with an audible ding to indicate that the driver should take over control.
And we had a chance to perform a real-world test on one of Audi’s newest innovations — a predictive pedestrian alarm. While heading up to La Fouly, a small village nestled in the Swiss Alps, the road narrows significantly, barely allowing for two cars to pass. The area is a stop along the Tour du Mont Blanc, a popular long-distance hiking trail in Europe; many people bike up to the trailheads and bike back along the narrow winding route. While underway, we came around a sharp bend and saw a number of cyclists barreling downhill towards us. Though we were aware of them, the Q7 pedestrian avoidance system wasn’t so sure and loudly and suddenly set off a series of alarms letting us know there were “pedestrians” in the street. Had we been moving faster, the system would have fully kicked in quickly and forcefully applying the brakes and stopping the car completely.
While Americans may have no love for wagons, the Q7 gives those of us looking for something a little less SUV-like a bit of hope. Audi is planning both a bigger and much littler brother for the Q7 in the form of a Q8 and a Q1. Pricing has yet to be announced but the 2016 Audi Q7 hits sales rooms at the end of the year.