2020 Audi Q7 First Drive Review: A Damn Good Luxury SUV
Audi's revamped Q7 is finally ready to take on Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
It doesn't take long to notice just how popular luxury SUVs have become in recent years. People love these baller behemoths. And for consumers looking for more space for their brood, versatility for when they need that #lifestyle, and presence to one-up their always Instagram-ready nemeses, what's not to love? But since the segment's inception, Germany's Mercedes-Benz and BMW have had it locked down, while Audi has been left to pick up the scraps.
Audi does indeed offer a compliment of fine SUVs, but the brand's never captured the consumer's eye, perpetually relegating it to that Tier 3 spot. Perhaps that's why when Audi was looking to refresh its full-size Q7 SUV, it became the recipient of the biggest refresh in the brand's history, period. Boasting a heavily redesigned exterior replete with glitzier trimmings, a glamorous cabin derived from the flagship A8 sedan, and considerably more straightforward pricing compared to its competitors, it appears that the 2020 Audi Q7 finally has all the ammunition it needs to mount an incursion into enemy territory and lay claim to a bigger share of the highly-profitable market.
The 2020 Audi Q7 3.0 Quattro, By the Numbers
- Base Price (As Tested): $61,795 ($72,195)
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine | eight-speed automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 335 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque: 369 pound-feet @ 1,370 rpm
- EPA Fuel Economy: 17 mpg city | 21 highway | 18 combined
- Seating Capacity: Seven
- Cargo Space: 30.5 cubic feet with third-row seats down | 72.4 with all seats down
- Towing Capacity: 7,700 pounds
- The Promise: Finally a competent competitor to Mercedes and BMW.
- The Delivery: No longer the ugly duckling of German crossovers, the Q7 wows in a way that's bound to make you smile.
Journalists and customers have given Audi negative marks for years over its bland exteriors, the company's styling bleeding together until it became difficult to tell each apart. But while there are still vestigial Audi adornments to the Q7's surface, the changes the company's made help differentiate the Q7 from it's smaller siblings, chiefly, a brand-new octagonal grille design. Audi knows that horizontal slats are so last season and, more importantly, made the Q7 look like a cherubic chunk. Swapped over are slimming vertical slats that also serve as the focal point of the front end, according to Audi's designers.
Framing the Vogue-ready grille are two all-new LED headlights, new daytime running lights, and redesigned air intakes at the bottom of the Q7's bumper, which was also given "more sport" thanks to a more aggressive front spoiler. These changes are mirrored in the rear, where new taillights are separated by a new chrome trim piece running the entire width of the tailgate. And although not as apparent as those other exterior changes, the Q7's sides get a slight redesign awarding the SUV a svelter look while new aluminum-look rocker pannels add some sweet, sweet Quattro branding. Audi gave the Q7 new shoes as well, with wheel designs ranging from 19 to 20 inches.
The exterior changes are more than significant for a midcycle refresh and do a great job at moving the Q7 upmarket, but it's the SUV's redesigned interior that finally brings the heat to the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Do you like physical buttons to change the radio, volume, navigation, HVAC, and the seat's heaters and coolers? Too bad. Audi knows that the future is all digital and replaced some 43 physical buttons with glorious touchscreens ready to be smudged by your greased up burger hands. Three screens now make up the bulk of the controls inside the cabin, with Audi's ubiquitous Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster delivering vital driving information, and two new touchscreens stacked atop one another making up the infotainment and HVAC controls in the center stack. The upper screen controls the infotainment, while the lower controls climate, seat functions, as well as other items like Start/Stop, and Hill Descent. New tech for the Q7 includes an updated version of Audi's infotainment that now features haptic feedback on the two center capacitive touchscreens, a head-up display, and wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There is, however, real divisiveness about whether "sporty" luxury SUVs like the Q7 should be a thing, let alone high-performance units like the RS Q8. Should there be more push for off-road performance? Or given their general use, more care be given to their on-road comfort, family-friendliness, or luxury accouterments like a light-up hood ornament that tells everyone at the supermarket you can afford imported sheet metal and have no taste?
As a dad of three, I lean toward the spectrum of utility, but the enthusiast in me understands that even while running errands, I want to feel inspired to take the long way home from time to time. Audi's new Q7 strikes the right balance between mundane chores and driving pleasure that often appears convoluted in other luxury SUVs. Steering, pedal response, suspension, and other settings can be heavily influenced by toggling between Comfort, Sport, or Individual driving modes, each fine-tuning the car's response depending on the driver's preferences or road conditions.
Comfort was my mode of choice for city driving as it lightened the steering wheel's resistance and softened the suspension, making it extra cushy getting around town during rush hour. The marquee's engineers designed the Q7 to feel nimble and easy to maneuver despite its 5,082-pound curb weight. Sport mode does the opposite, stiffening everything and offering more responsive dynamics when need to be. On some of the windy roads outside of Palm Springs, California, the Q7 waltzed through corners like it weighed 2,000 pounds less, with its standard Quattro all-wheel-drive actively distributing the 369 pound-feet of torque to whichever axle/wheel needed it most. The nicely calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission was so intuitive, I hardly found myself wanting to use the paddle shifters. Audi also offers four-wheel-steering, but I hardly noticed a need for it.
Additionally, though the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 isn't the most spritely of units, the engine offers more than enough low-end torque to allow for seriously fun driving, charging from corner to corner. Better yet, torque kicks in at just 1,370 rpm (that's diesel territory and we triple checked the spec's accuracy with Audi) so you don't have to wind up the engine to crazy-high rpm or speeds to have that fun.
Deciding any verdict was incomplete after time spent just behind the wheel, I plopped myself in the Q7's second-row bench seat and it did not disappoint. Even with the front seats at a comfortable position for a relatively tall person, legroom in the second row was plentiful for my 6-foot-tall frame. Audi split the bench seat into three different sections that all recline and slide individually, which I found made each section a bit narrow for adults once buckled. This likely won't be an issue with kids or baby seats—five LATCH anchors come standard.
The third row, however, is definitely for occasional kid use only, and the access to it isn't stellar either. A combination of heavy levers and straps to get the second-row out of the way means that parents will have to jump into a seventh-dimension hellscape just to reach the rear seats. And trust me, that is no bueno.
Trunk space is rated at 30.5 cubic feet with the second-row seats up and 72.4 cubit feet with them down. Unlike car seats, you won't be able to fit five strollers, but you can probably manage two or three full sizers plus a couple of hefty diaper bags. If you've got older kids as I do, multiple school backpacks, several 40-pound dog food bags, and plenty of sports gear should fit in the back of the Q7 without an issue. Sadly, Audi did not allow me to bring Sable, my 90-pound Newfoundland puppy along to test these claims.
Nevertheless, are Audi's changes, updates, and modifications enough to steal buyers from the other Germans?
I could've been jaded going into the Q7's launch, midcycle refreshes are hardly dazzling. But the Q7 took me by surprise and wows with adaptability that makes it nearly perfect for everyday assignments and a sweetheart on curvy roads—and it can even tow 7,700 pounds, so Airstreams at the ready. Audi wants $61,795 for the 3.0-liter-equipped Q7, $72,195 for the one I piloted, which falls in line with others in its segment—BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and Volvo's XC90. That's neither terribly expensive nor significantly cheaper than its competition to move the needle one way or the other, so it really comes down to whether Audi's changes are big and bold enough to sway buyers.
To me, this recent refresh makes the 2020 Audi Q7 more appealing both inside and out, with the interior being the standout of the two. I could easily see myself and my family spending thousands of miles strapped into it every year, whether that's behind the wheel or in the second row. Audi's done a remarkable job of updating what was once a milquetoast luxury SUV.
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