We've always dreamed of sports utility vehicle, SUVs, that were more like cars -- with the same luxury feel, comfort level and the same quality. Well, today I'm going to test drive the Audi Q7, which was launched in India a few weeks ago.
The Q7 looks more different than the other SUVs in the market. The stately family genetics are all there but this SUV will stand out among its peers.
When I first saw this car at its launch, the impression I got was one of imposing size. It shares the same platform as the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagon Tuareg. It's made in the same factory and shares a lot of the same expensive parts.
But this one looks more of a battle tank than the other two. Still, while retaining the macho look, it has very fluid lines -- like streamlined bonnet ridges and the slung back frontlamps, give it a feeling of being on the move.
The Audi Q7 can be made into a seven-seater and it does have loads of luggage space. There are parcel shelves under the bottom tray, so that you can fit in small things without having them crushed by the luggage and below the parcel shelve is the tyre well with the spare tyre.
The car is high and for short people closing the boot could have been a probelm but Audi has thought of that and put a convenient button -- so just press and the boot shuts automatically.
The inside of this car also comes packed with many goodies. But the sheer size of this car can be an obstacle especially while backing up. But a little bit of nifty technology does provide some help.
I've seen camera bumpers before but the Q7's bumper really breaks new ground. The camera is wide angled, full colour and high resolution. It gives you a great view of the road behind.
However, perception can be a bit of a problem, so to make it really easy, the camera actually marks a path for you -- giving you two yellow lines that actually turn with the direction of your steering wheel -- to mark the road behind you. There is a red line that shows you just how much you can back up if a car is behind you.
Comfort also is taken care of -- seat and steering adjusters help you get into the right driving position. There are also bottle-holders and correctly placed air vents, cushy leather add to the pampering.
The front dashboard gets the multimedia or MMI interface, which you will find on most cars of this calibre. This gadget does it all. However, the dashboard also has a bit of clutter with knobs, switches and buttons.
The Q7 has a button for every occasion including one that will remotely open the glove box. Coming back to the MMI, it just doesn't take care of the stereo and the airconditioner, it also handles the active suspension -- this means that this car clear any obstacle on the roads.
It offers many adaptive air suspensions which allow you to lower and raise the car to many different options. There is the lowest level that one can use while loading things into the car, so you don't have to haul them too high.
Then there is the dynamic mode that one can use to get the sporty feel. Then you can have the comfort mode, that raises it to a level where you can ride/drive comfortably. There is the sports mode, there is a offroading mode, where you can the car up to 25 mm and then, of course, if you encounter a really big obstacle, you can lift the car up to about 60 mm.
This 2.2 tonner produces a whopping 500 nm of torque. When you put your foot down on the accelarator, you can feel all of it. It's quicker than the Skoda RS even though it's much much heavier. It does 0-100 kms in 9.1 seconds. The engine is a 3 litre TDI and there is a petrol V8 available as well. But why would you when this one has the torque, the economy of the diesel and enough power for the Indian road.
There is a bit of initial lag at low rpms but nothing to really complain about. What is strong and thoroughly enjoyable is the mid-range. Now this engine is mated to a neat and responsive auto gearbox.
There is also the paddle shift for the quick cut and thrust in the city. As for the terrain -- it handled the offroads quite well and on the tarmac, the handling was controlled but I would have still liked more feedback from the steering.
The adaptive air suspension allows you to adjust your driving style to either driving style -- dynamic or comfort settings -- depending on whether you want ride quality or good handling. If you try taking corners fast in the comfort mode, you will feel the body roll but in dynamic mode, it feels much tighter.
It may not be as exciting as the BMW X5 but for its size, the handling gets my approval. The Audi Q7 passed all my tests -- offroad and in the city. So, if you want an SUV that has space on the inside, has a large boot, has go lots of power and has a comfortable ride, Audi Q7 is just what you asked for.
Also this time, the diesel is priced lower than the SUV and at Rs 65 lakh (Rs 6.5 million), I really recommend the diesel Audi Q7.
For more on management, log on to www.moneycontrol.com.