2017 Audi Q7 Premium Plus Review: Curbed with Craig Cole

Audi’s Q7 has lost a lot but gained even more.

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The Audi Q7 is fresh off a total redesign for the 2017 model year. Like an unemployed sideshow fat lady, it has lost hundreds of pounds, but gained new capability and technology along with a fresh interior.

Of course, this luxury utility vehicle was also restyled on the outside, but the look is incredibly conservative. There are no artful styling flourishes to be found here; like a big bank’s boardroom, this vehicle is all business. And it’s especially somber when slathered with the company’s Graphite Grey metallic paint, which they charge an extra $575 for.

But looks aren’t everything; it’s what’s inside that counts, right? Yes, and especially in this case.

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Black Hole

Unfortunately, in our test model’s cabin there were fewer smiles than at a puritan’s wake. The interior was darker than the bottom of a coal mine during a midnight power outage on the winter solstice. Everything was black including the seats, doors, dashboard, center console and probably even the driver’s sprits if they’d been behind the wheel too long. At least the headliner and roof pillars were trimmed in grey fabric, which lightened things up a little. Fortunately, less Gothic color schemes are available.

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Now, this is not to say the Q7’s cabin is an unpleasant place – not at all! The materials are absolutely luxuriant and there’s plenty of comfort to go around. The second row is unexpectedly spacious for adult passengers, with ample knee room and an elevated cushion height. Additionally, the aft-most seats power fold, though they’re still inhospitable to all but the smallest of kiddies, so don’t even try to crawl back there unless you want to rupture a disc.

This particular Q7’s cabin was something of a black hole, both from color and capaciousness standpoints. With the aft seats down, there’s nearly 72 cubic feet of cargo space. As an added bonus, the load floor is completely flat.

Under Pressure

As for mechanical bits, the only engine offered in the new Q7 is a 3.0-liter supercharged V6. For the time being a diesel is no longer on the menu and we can’t imagine why …

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Still, the gasoline-burner in question is a mighty fine piece of work – smooth, responsive and efficient, what more could you want? As it stands, this engine puts out 333 horses along with 325 lb-ft of peak torque, which, thanks to the belt-driven blower forcing generous quantities of air into the cylinders, comes on strong at low rpm.

Completing this powertrain package is a telepathically responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. Audi’s advanced quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard and comes matched with a self-locking center differential, which should enhance this vehicle’s capability both on-road and off. Curiously, the Q7 is rated to tow up to 7,700 pounds, an unexpectedly burly figure.

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Beyond this, top-trim models of the Q7 can even be outfitted with air suspension and four-wheel steering. These upscale offerings are bundled in the Adaptive chassis package, which costs $4,000.

According to the nebbish interlopers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this drivetrain combination should yield a fuel-economy rating of 19 miles per gallon city and 25 highway. Combined, the Q7 should average around 21 miles per gallon, a figure we topped by a few tenths of an mpg. Standard stop/start helps reduce consumption by shutting the engine off while the vehicle is not moving.

Bits and Bytes

But there are plenty of things about the Q7 that aren’t as greasy as the engine and all-wheel-drive system. For starters, every model comes standard with lane-keeping assist, HD radio, Bluetooth connectivity and even automatic windshield wipers.

These things are pretty much par for the course these days, but this Audi also offers a number of groundbreaking features, two of which dominate its interior.

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Most prominent is an optional digital instrument cluster. This so-called “virtual cockpit” replaces a traditional spread of analog gauges with a gorgeous 12.3-inch full-color display. It’s fully reconfigurable, giving you finger-tip access to myriad functions. You can access the audio system, check on trip information and fuel-economy data, plus dive into an immersive map that’s powered by Google, all without taking your hands off the steering wheel. This is easily one of the Q7’s most impressive features.

ALSO SEE: Feature Focus – A Look at Audi’s Beautiful and Functional Digital Dashboard

But if you prefer conventional controls, there’s also a new MMI “all-in-touch” track pad on the center console. Clearly inspired by laptop computers, this clickable touch interface is huge. It supports handwriting recognition, multi-touch gestures and even has integrated radio preset buttons.

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Perhaps best of all, the technology in this vehicle is much more than just a flashy parlor trick, it’s amazingly powerful and easy to use, which is a combination so many automakers – and even technology companies – fail to deliver.

The Drive

The Q7’s engine output figures are fairly modest, but it has no problem moving right along. It’ll scurry to 60 miles an hour in just 5.7 seconds, aided by its clever transmission. And this gearbox is a winner. Imperceptibly smooth, quick to react and always in the right ratio, it’s got to have artificial intelligence — that’s the only explanation of how it can be so good.

The rest of the Q7 is pretty seamless as well. Inside, there’s an eerie lack of noise, vibration or harshness from the drivetrain or body while underway; it’s exceptionally quiet. Overall, this SUV is smoother than a bottle of lotion, but it won’t leave you feeling as slippery.

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Despite weighing some 4,900 pounds, this beast is extremely nimble; its chassis almost feels playful, like it’s willing to rotate if you push hard enough, and that’s pretty amazing for an SUV of this size.

The Q7 is also loaded with advanced automotive technology like adaptive cruise control and low-speed pedestrian detection, but there are some areas where it’s a little too far ahead.

The shifter, for instance, is maddening. Why is it electronic? It tilts and rocks like some sort of gaming joystick. Mechanical gear selectors have worked just fine for decades; why do we need this complexity? Not everything has to be electronic.

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Also, this vehicle’s lane-keeping system is one of the most intrusive I’ve experienced. It’s constantly making steering adjustments if it thinks you’ve stopped paying attention for more than a millisecond. Fortunately, you can easily shut it off by pressing a small button on the end of the turn-signal stalk.

The Verdict: 2017 Audi Q7 Premium Plus Review

Rivals should watch out, as the 2017 Audi Q7 is a strong competitor in the luxury SUV segment thanks to its refinement, on-road manners and quattro confidence.

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As for pricing, this three-row utility vehicle starts around $55,000, but our test model was optioned up to nearly $69,000. The Premium Plus, Driver Assistance and Warm Weather packages, among others, upped the ante. But still, this is sort of a mid-level model. Check every box and you’ll be well into the $80,000 range.

Discuss this story on our Audi Forum

  • Rocket

    It really is too bad that Audi fell subject to the electronic shifter fad. I just don’t see the benefit. Otherwise, what a great package! The XC90 is more stylish and more comfortable – especially in the third row, but the Audi has a vastly superior drivetrain plus redundant radio and HVAC controls. I give the nod to the Q7.

  • craigcole

    I haven’t driven the XC90 yet, but obviously it’s won tons of awards so it’s got to be good. That being said, this Audi is tough to top in the segment. Minor niggles aside, it’s an excellent product.