Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Even the less powerful (45 TDI) version of the two 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines 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. Both diesels can pull a braked trailer weighing up to 3500kgs and the Q7 is a really stable tow car.
If you don’t want a diesel, your only option is a 3.0-litre V6 (badged 55 TFSI). This engine is gutsy enough at low revs, too, 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.
At the top of the range is the mighty Audi SQ7, which uses a 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine to deliver the kind of acceleration you’d normally associate with thoroughbred sports cars; 0-62mph takes just 4.8sec.
Suspension and ride comfort
Air suspension comes as standard on all versions of the Q7, but it’s Sport and S Line models that deliver the most comfortable ride. In fact, in these trims, the Q7 is one of the most relaxing and supple cars to waft yourself around in, and far comfier than alternatives such as the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90.
Black Edition and Vorsprung trims have a 'sports' version of the air suspension system as standard. Given that it lowers the ride height by 15mm, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it doesn't smother bumps quite as well as the regular air suspension. That said, it's still relatively supple compared with rivals such as the BMW X5, which is made even more impressive when you consider that the Vorsprung rides on massive 22in wheels.
The SQ7 also has a form of air suspension as standard, but it’s a bespoke S setup. As such, it’s still better at dealing with lumps and bumps than most equivalent sporty SUVs, including the XC90 T8 and Porsche Cayenne, but isn't the best choice 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 Discovery or a BMW X7, for example, it feels positively compact along narrow country lanes, with minimal body lean (especially with the sports air suspension setup) and strong grip levels that are evenly balanced from front to rear.
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, 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 3.0-litre diesels when starting from cold, but this quickly fades once they're up to temperature. Otherwise, you only really hear these engines under hard acceleration and they’re smoother and more pleasant-sounding than those of most of the Q7’s rivals’ – especially the XC90. However, the six-cylinder diesel engines in the Mercedes GLE are even more refined.
The SQ7 hides the fact it’s a diesel very well, too, emitting a muscular V8 woofle – especially in Dynamic mode. Meanwhile, the 55 TFSI petrol is better than all of the diesels when it comes to isolating you from vibrations, although it does sound a little more strained when you work it hard.
There’s no manual gearbox option, just an eight-speed auto that changes smoothly up and down through the ratios, but proves rather hesitant when trying to accelerate briskly away from a standstill. When decelerating, even from quite high speeds, the engine can switch itself off, allowing the Q7 to freewheel. This is intended to benefit fuel consumption, but reduces noise, too.
In versions with 19in and 20in alloys, there’s very little road or suspension noise. Saying that, even when shod with 21in and 22in wheels, the Q7 isn’t bad at all. Wind noise is very well suppressed, even at fast motorway speeds.