Vans suffer from perennial ugly duckling syndrome. While they have evolved, the chances of a Kia Carnival, Honda Odyssey or even a Mercedes-Benz V-Class morphing into a swan are nil in the eyes of many.
That’s why luxury offerings like the Q7 have found a place in many well-heeled hearts.
Updated last year, the big seven-seater has external design tweaks and a major overhaul of the cabin.
Prices start from just above $100,000 for the 45 TDI that generates 170kW from its diesel engine, although we spent time in the 50 TDI which required an extra investment of $11,000 over the base model yet comes with 40 more kilowatts of power.
Hulking lines and a body which measures longer than 5m, there is no hiding the refreshed model which differentiates itself from previous iterations with matrix LED headlights, octagonal front bumper and 19-inch alloys.
Making the most impact is a completely revised interior which follows the foundation set by the recently released Q8.
It’s a spectacular design with two separate dash touchscreens — the top 10.1-inch display controls infotainment while the base 8.6-inch is for vehicle functions. Haptic feedback from the screen provides “button like” click responses.
The driver has a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit that has various configurations for satnav, digital speedo, tachometer and other vital gauges. Collectively it feels ultra-modern and looks uber cool.
Other standard equipment includes four-zone aircon (including separate controls for those riding in the back), panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, electric tailgate, leather trim and heated front seats.
Black is the only no-cost external paint option, with two shades of white, grey, silver, metallic black and blue costing extra.
The service plan covering five years is $3190, while “top-up” coverage for a further two years is $1950.
One stinging inclusion is the near $10k that is mandatory to service to the government for luxury car tax. No fault of Audi there, that’s a government rort.
Carrying over a five-star crash rating awarded back in 2015, the criteria has since become dramatically stricter.
Audi has still maintained impressively high levels of equipment in this realm and the Q7 has a raft of technology to help keep the occupants safe across all variants.
Basic expectations are met with emergency braking that can help avoid or reduce the impact of frontal accidents by automatically jumping on the brakes if the driver fails to act. The Audi system scans for pedestrians when travelling at up to 85km/h, and vehicles up to 250km/h.
Blind spot monitors also watch for cyclists to warn of an impending “dooring” incident when occupants get out of the SUV.
Adaptive cruise control is standard and uses radars to maintain a safe distance away from other vehicles, while other inclusions are a 360-degree camera view to make parking easier, active lane assist that can gently steer the Q7 back between the lines if the driver wanders, as well as rear cross traffic warning and intersection assist which monitors in front, side and behind when at a junction or reversing.
There’s a futuristic feel within the lavish cabin confines. Aluminium and black glossy finishes combine with the screens for a modern minimalism at its best.
Clarity from the three screens is among the best you’ll find in the automotive industry. Functionality is mostly straightforward and simple, like changing the temperature which can be done via the plus or minus buttons or by sliding you finger up or down for rapid climate alterations.
Once accustomed to the various menu locations the user can swipe and select through a wide range of options. A charging pad and wireless Apple CarPlay (there is no Android Auto), enable fast connection every time you get in the car.
Audi’s infotainment system also features some handy information at your fingertips, like traffic and hazard alerts, weather forecasts, parking details and nearby fuel prices.
This new model is also bigger than its predecessor, delivering extra headroom front and rear.
Four adults can ride in luxury with ample leg room, and while the third row has reduced capacity smaller adults and teens can be accommodated for shorter trips.
Among the interesting inclusions are the ashtrays featured in the doors … usually something omitted these days.
While pushing at least 2240kg, the Q7 rarely feels its girth. The 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel is strong and robust, and it’s happy to flex its muscle when required.
Boasting a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds it shames some sports cars.
When the going gets twisty the size and bulk comes to the fore and the Q7 loses some of its dexterity. Yet it is a family seven-seater, and rarely will it be thrown around tackling chicanes and hunting quarter mile records.
Where it excels is easy highway journeys. Air suspension delivers a smooth and compliant ride.
Various drive modes alter the suspension characteristics of each corner while gear changes push higher into the rev range or quicker depending on whether you’re chasing performance or economy.
Improving the fuel consumption is Audi’s 48-volt mild hybrid technology which can provide coasting phases on the highway where the engine doesn’t run. Our overall test that combined rural, highway and around town activities delivered average consumption of 7.7L/100km, although one highway journey saw the figure drop to 5.8L.
AdBlue is used in the Q7, which helps reduce diesel admissions, and it should be looked after during routine servicing.
While I could opt for a cheaper VW Touareg or a more expensive Porsche Cayenne, which both have the same platform, little gets near the Q7 in terms of luxury for the coin.
I’ve got expensive tastes. Four rings on the grille and an interior which looks like it’s come direct from Silicon Valley with cool functionality.
BMW X5 xDrive30D $122,900 D/A
A luxury SUV trailblazer, the X5 is a perennial high performer with impressive dynamics and luxury inclusions. This variant is powered by a 3.0-litre 6cyl, good for 195kW/620Nm. Has the same acceleration abilities as the Q7 and similar fuel consumption.
MERCEDES-BENZ GLE 400D $138,047 D/A
Expensive but makes up for it with a classy cabin and punchy, frugal diesel 3.0-litre engine good for 243kW/700Nm. Does 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds and fuel consumption of 7.7/100km.
Beautifully refined chariot that delivers high-end luxury at a reasonable price for the extended family.
AT A GLANCE
AUDI Q7 50 TDI QUATTRO DIESEL
PRICE $127,483 drive-away (good value for features)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3yr unlim km w’ty (OK); $3190 5 yrs (expensive)
ENGINE 3.0-litre 6-cyl mild hybrid 210kW/600Nm (meaty)
SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, traffic assist, 360 degree cameras, intersection assist, rear cross traffic assist (excellent)
THIRST 6.8L/100km (7.7L on test)
SPARE None, repair kit (not great)
BOOT 295L/740L/2050L (good)