Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Even the less powerful of the two 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines (the 45 TDI) has 228bhp and delivers gutsy acceleration. Mind you, the 282bhp 50 TDI is quite a bit punchier, particularly at low revs. Acceleration builds strongly from just 1500rpm, making the Q7 effortless to drive briskly and it will hit 0-62mph in only 6.5sec. That's why, for us, it's the pick of the range. Both diesels can pull a braked trailer weighing up to 3500kg, and the Q7 is a really stable tow car.
If you don’t want a diesel, your only option is the 3.0-litre V6 petrol (badged 55 TFSI). This engine is also gutsy enough at low revs, so you don’t need to work it hard like you do some petrol engines. Fuel economy aside (which we’ll discuss in more detail later), there’s lots to like about it.
At the top of the range is the mighty SQ7, which uses a 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine to deliver the kind of acceleration you’d normally associate with hot hatchbacks. 0-62mph takes just 4.8sec, and you can read all about the SQ7 in more detail by clicking on the link.
Suspension and ride comfort
Air suspension comes as standard on all versions of the Q7, but it’s the Sport and S Line versions that deliver the most comfortable ride. In fact, in these trims, the Q7 is one of the most relaxing cars to waft around in, proving far comfier than rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90.
Go for Black Edition or Vorsprung trim and you'll get a 'sports' air suspension system instead. Given that this drops the Q7 15mm closer to the road, it shouldn't come as a surprise that bumps aren't smothered quite as well. That said, it's still relatively supple compared with rivals such as the BMW X5 – a fact made even more impressive when you consider that the Vorsprung is shod with enormous 22in wheels.
The SQ7 also has a form of air suspension as standard, but it’s a bespoke setup that's extra sporty. It’s better at dealing with lumps and bumps than most equivalent sporty SUVs, including the Porsche Cayenne, but isn't the best Q7 if comfort is your top priority.
The Q7 is tailored more towards luxury and comfort than sporty handling, but it’s still remarkably agile for a five-metre-long SUV with seven seats. Compared with a BMW X7 or Discovery, for example, it feels positively compact along narrow country lanes, with minimal body lean (especially with the sports air suspension setup on Black Edition and Vorsprung trims) and lots of grip that's balanced well between the front and rear wheels.
The SQ7 is even more agile than the regular Q7. For such a big thing, it stays incredibly upright in corners, allowing you to cover ground at an astonishing rate. Meanwhile, the steering on all versions is accurate, with better weighting than an XC90's, even if it doesn't stream a great deal of feedback to your fingertips.
If you want a really big SUV that’s notably better at cornering, you’ll need to look at the Porsche Cayenne.
Noise and vibration
You'll hear a distant background clatter from the 45 TDI and 50 TDI diesels when starting from cold, but this fades away once the engine is up to temperature. Otherwise, you only really hear the diesels under hard acceleration. Even then they’re far smoother and pleasant-sounding than many of the Q7’s rivals – especially the Volvo XC90, which only has gruffer four-cylinder diesel engines. The one exception is the BMW X7, which has even smoother diesels than the Q7.
The SQ7 hides the fact that it’s a diesel very well, too, emitting a muscular V8 woofle – especially if you select Dynamic mode. Meanwhile, the 55 TFSI petrol is better than any of the diesels when it comes to isolating you from vibrations, although it does sound a little strained when you work it hard.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox changes smoothly up and down through the ratios but proves annoyingly hesitant when trying to accelerate briskly away from a standstill. When decelerating, most of the engines can switch themselves off, allowing the Q7 to effectively freewheel for periods of up to 40sec. This is intended to benefit fuel consumption but also reduces noise. On the subject of which, there's little in the way of road or wind noise at motorway speeds.
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