2020 Audi Q7 S Line 55 TFSI quattro first drive review
The Audi Q7 has been one of India's most loved luxury SUVs for the better part of a decade now, if not more. Everyone from CEOs to businessmen to Bollywood celebs have either owned one or wanted one, and the Q7 has pretty much been a mark of prestige with its mix of panache and technology. The German luxury car maker may have upped its SUV quotient recently with the Q8, its new flagship SUV, but that hasn't let the Q8 steal the Q7's thunder. In fact for 2020 the Q7 gets a comprehensive makeover inside out and with its updates it threatens to steal some of the Q8's thunder. Or does it? A quick spin on the shores of Ireland helped us acquaint ourselves with the new Q7.
The Q8-inspired front end makes the 2020 Audi Q7 look a lot younger as compared to the outgoing version
So what has changed?
The changes are err quite in your face, literally. The mug looks a lot younger and smarter now thanks to the Q8's sharper, octagonal grille now. It's interesting to see how the Q7's grille has evolved over the years and while a lot sharper, the new grille reminds of the one the Q7 sported a few years ago with vertical slats. In a way the grille has also regained visual prominence now, some of which it had lost in the outgoing version. The face thus looks bolder now, with help from the new headlights. Headlamp detailing is excellent as is the case with all new age Audis and I like the daytime running LEDs too. The front bumper design has been revised as well and it looks more aggressive now apart from integrating bigger intakes at both ends.
Impressively, Audi hasn't just given the front end a comprehensive makeover - the 2020 Q7 also sports a heavily revised rear end that makes for a far classier appearance
The silhouette from the sides is familiar looking though door sills sport silver accents now, while the new wheels look more dynamic. The rear gets significant changes as well and is inspired by the current A8's, especially the tail lights and the way they are connected by a chrome strip from end to end. Overall, the 2020 Q7's derriere looks more premium thanks to the tail lamp design and chrome strip both. I particularly like how the chrome strip 'cuts' the tail lamp cluster from beneath, resulting in a cleaner looking lower half for the tail gate. The rear bumper design has been revised too and looks sportier now.
What about the insides?
The Q7 also gets the Q8's more premium looking interiors, replete with the three-screen layout. The updated digital instrument cluster aka the Audi virtual cockpit is a distinct highlight, but more importantly Audi has thrown in a third screen, positioned below the infotainment touchscreen. The overall look and feel of the cabin has been elevated thus and it offers an even more upmarket vibe now, in conjunction with the various surface finishes and choice of materials all round. The glass panels for both screens on the centre console look and feel classy and though I'm not a fan of touchscreen units for air-conditioning controls, I must say the execution in the Q7 is certainly impressive. The steering wheel adds to the sense of dynamism with its flat bottom as does the vast expanse of piano black across the dashboard's central rib.
The interiors of the 2020 Audi Q7 elevate the SUV's premium quotient - thanks in particular to the three screen-layout as also the luxurious cabin layout, choice of materials and surface finishes
Audi has also rearranged the cabin for better space management and there's plenty of storage spaces all round. Front headrests are integrated into the seatback and I also like the new seat cover design. Overall, the sense of luxury has been elevated and I like beige interiors when it comes to luxury, but the new Q7's all-black theme casts a spell too. Audi's MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system has been updated too and offers slicker moves, apart from a gazillion functions the highlight to me though have to the onboard Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. I have to mention here that while the screen is excellent to use with its haptic feedback, using it on the go takes getting used to as it needs a more forceful touch to register.
What about the powertrains?
At launch (internationally), the Q7 will be offered with the choice of either a 3.0-litre diesel V6 or a turbocharged petrol V6 and we drove the latter as Audi is most likely to skip the diesel for India. Yes, the diesel Q7 was more popular in the country, but Audi and most manufacturers for that matter are moving away from the fuel in the interest of curbing vehicular pollution. To the same effect, the Q7 also gets a 48V mild hybrid system as standard now, which packs in a compact lithium-ion battery to help in reducing the SUV's carbon footprint. In simple terms, when you get off the throttle at speeds between 55kmph and 160kmph the hybrid system kills the engine completely and lets you coast for up to 40 seconds. The engine comes back on the moment you step on the gas. Of course, there's cylinder deactivation as well. Clearly, the system isn't aimed at offering additional thrust but promises lesser fuel consumption and Audi tells us you can save up to 0.7 litres per 100km.
The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine under the hood of the 2020 Audi Q7 offers 340PS and 500Nm and is very refined
The turbo V6 petrol delivers 340PS and 500Nm, the latter being sent to the wheels just 1,370rpm onwards. With so much performance on tap, the ultra-narrow roads in Ireland called for a lot of alacrity with the throttle. Claimed 0-100kmph time is just 5.9 seconds and the Q7 feels quick, despite weighing over two tonnes. It is quick to build speeds, especially through the gears, thanks to the seamless power delivery. Even more impressive is the engine refinement, as the V6 feels extremely smooth at all times and in fact you can barely tell the motor is running when at idle. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is quick to swap ratios and adds to the Q7's sportier feel. Audi Drive Select lets you choose from as many as seven driving modes and Dynamic ensures everything is tauter and responses crisper, adding to that feel. I have to mention, while it was never really meant to be a driver's SUV, the updated Q7 has moved a bit more towards being one. It isn't just the powertrain contributing to that though, the handling plays a big role there
So what about the dynamics?
The Q7 sits suspended on adaptive air suspension like before, though Audi has updated the system. The suspension offers up to 90mm of adjustment depending on the driving mode you engage. Comfort has the setup soften to a point where you barely feel any undulations and taking a nap in the backseat is extremely easy, as I found out courtesy my jet lag. Switch to Dynamic mode and the suspension tightens up to offer a sharper and more confident feel, especially when throwing the big SUV around. In fact, I've said this before too, the current generation Q7 belies its dimensions with the way it lets you chuck it around corners and the updated version only better.
The 2020 Audi Q7 uses a set of updated air suspension units and is also equipped with electro-mechanical anti-roll bars now which endow it with improved manners on the road
Another reason for that is the fact that the Q7 now sports Active Roll Stabilisation. The system uses electrically-controlled anti-roll bars that apply opposing torque to the bar and twist it in the other direction of the corner. It thus helps the SUV stay flat through corners as it pushes the side that's loaded upwards while the side that's not loaded gets pushed downwards to reduce the body roll induced around corners. An added advantage of such electro-mechanical roll bars is that they also help curb understeer. Of course, the system is one that's invisible quite literally. In fact, you'll probably never even notice what it does around a corner, but you will certainly realise how much flatter the Q7 stays around fast corners. This is a technology seen only on Porsches and Lamborghinis and it's nice to see how the tech has trickled down to something relatively more mainstream like the Q7.
Active anti-roll bars aren't the only bit that have trickled down from Porsches and Lambos though the 2020 Q7 also gets all-wheel steering as an optional add on. Having experienced it in something as fast and brutal as the Lamborghini Aventador S I can certainly vouch for its advantages. The system turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels by up to 5 degrees at slow speeds to tighten the turning radius which is a big help, say, in a parking lot. At higher speeds the system turn the rear wheels in the same direction as the front ones to improve stability, thus improving handling. On the road both technologies translate to a sharper, more confident feel around corners as body roll is well controlled. The Q7's steering feel and feedback have improved as well and add to confidence, especially when driving hard. Which brings me back to the point that the Q7 is a better handler and a more driver-focused SUV now that belies its dimensions and weight even better.
All-wheel steering helps the 2020 Audi Q7 deliver sharper feel around corners and overall the SUV feels like a better driver's car now, belying its large dimensions and 2-tonne weight even further
It is really nice to see how manufacturers are going the extra mile when it comes to midlife updates for its products and equipping them with more technology under the skin while also sprucing up the looks, as compared to the minor nip-and-tuck jobs seen not long ago. And Audi has certainly put in a lot of effort in ensuring the 2020 Q7 is up to the mark, especially in terms of taking on competitors like the new generation BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Volvo XC90. Just a couple of hours of driving the significantly updated luxury SUV in foreign land is far from a yardstick, but initial impressions are very good. It not only looks a lot better (read younger and smarter!) but also feels a lot better to drive, thanks to the smooth and responsive V6 petrol under its hood. Of course, a significant highlight besides the looks and spruced interiors is all the technology the Q7 packs in. Audi will bring this version of the Q7 to India sometime next year (2020) and when it does, it should be interesting to see how the SUV fares it has always been a favourite and is only a better package now.
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