Even the less powerful of the two 3.0-litre diesel engines delivers smooth and gutsy acceleration. Mind you, the 268bhp version isn’t that much more expensive and is much punchier, particularly at low revs. Acceleration builds strongly from just 1500rpm, which makes the Q7 effortless to drive briskly. And around town you barely need to touch the accelerator to make good progress.
Despite the eco-focus and additional weight of the batteries, the Q7 E-tron has similar performance to the 268bhp diesel. If anything, it feels even quicker when the batteries are charged thanks to the instant power the electric motors give. But both feel slow in comparison to the mighty SQ7, although we’d argue that it is a bit excessive for family duties.
The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox kicks down smartly if you floor the accelerator and changes up quickly through the gears.
Audi Q7 ride comfort
The standard suspension is a touch firm around town, but at high speed the ride only jars if you hit a particularly sharp bump. We'd still recommend you upgrade to the optional air suspension if your budget allows, though, because it transforms the Q7 into not only the best-riding car in its class but also one of the best riding cars full stop, including top-end luxury limos.
For optimum ride comfort you should also stick with SE trim and the standard 19in alloy wheels, although even the optional 21in wheels don’t make things too bumpy.
The SQ7 might have air suspension as standard, but it’s firmer than the regular models, even when switched to comfort mode. Even at speed, you’ll feel a little more disturbance as surface imperfections transmit up through to your seat. It’s by no means irksome, but it’s worth considering if absolute comfort is your top priority.
Audi Q7 handling
There’s plenty of grip and the four-wheel drive system offers lots of traction on greasy roads, but compared with major rivals, such as the BMW X5 or the Volvo XC90, the Q7 isn’t as enjoyable to drive quickly.
The suspension allows quite a bit of body lean through corners, which makes the Q7 feel a bit ponderous and unwieldy, while the additional weight of the E-tron only exacerbates this. It’s still far better tied down than the Land Rover Discovery, though.
The SQ7 is a different kettle of fish entirely. It has its own air suspension system that comes with clever anti-roll bars that limit body lean. For such a big thing, it stays remarkably upright in corners allowing you to cover ground at great speed. Meanwhile, the steering is accurate but overly light, so while it’s good for low-speed parking manoeuvres, it doesn’t inspire much confidence through high-speed turns.
Audi Q7 refinement
Only on cold start-up is there some distant background clatter from the diesels, but this quickly fades once they're up to temperature. Aside from that, you only really hear the engines under hard acceleration; even then they’re smoother and more pleasant-sounding than the engines in any of the Q7’s rivals, but particularly the four-cylinder only Volvo XC90. The Q7 also does a great job of isolating occupants from engine vibration.
Naturally, the E-tron is even more hushed when running in electric mode. When the engine does kick in, it starts in a refined manner with little vibration entering the car. The SQ7 hides the fact it’s a diesel very well, emitting a muscular woofle especially in dynamic mode.
There’s no manual gearbox option, just an eight-speed automatic that changes smoothly up and down through the ratios. At speed, if you back off the accelerator, the gearbox disengages the engine and allows the Q7 to freewheel. It’s designed to benefit fuel consumption, but reduces noise, too.
On standard 19in alloys there’s not much road noise or suspension noise, and even on the larger 21in wheels it remains within acceptable limits. Wind noise is very well suppressed, even at motorway speeds.
This engine is strong enough and incredibly refined, with slightly better efficiency than the range-topping 3.0 TDI 272. However, we reckon the more powerful engine is worth the relatively small premium.
Our pick 3.0 TDI 272
This is our preferred choice, because it offers great performance whether you’re in town or on the motorway. It’s also incredibly smooth and quiet, even when pushed hard, and isn’t much pricier to buy and run than the 3.0 TDI 218.
3.0 TDI e-tron
The e-tron pairs the 3.0-litre V6 diesel with a battery pack and electric motor. Combined, they give an official economy figure of 156.9mpg and CO2 emissions of just 48g/km. Once you’ve emptied the battery, fuel consumption will tumble on long journeys, however.
4.0 V8 TDI
Only available in the SQ7, you get a pair of conventional turbochargers and an electric compressor to give huge amounts of power from just 1000rpm. It’s very fast and sounds good, but will prove thirsty if you use the performance.