Q7's power play just starting up

The Audi Q7 has arrived – and the diesel model here in two forms this year is simply an entre to a positive power play.


ELECTRIC advantaged versions of Audi’s largest sports utility are set to follow a just-arrived initial diesel model.

The second-generation of the seven-seater Q7, a car with a core Kiwi following, has begun its sales run here in a single 3.0-litre TDI Quattro variant, $129,900 in standard form rising to $139,900 in S-Line.

This will be followed by December by a second edition with the same engine, but with power detuned from 200kW to 160kW and torque down to 500Nm from 600Nm, for a $111,900 saving.

Next year, is a power play. Electric power, that is. Incoming are a pair of battery-assisted editions – both also diesel, one an eco-minded plug-in e-tron rechargeable also with the V6 creating an optimum 275kW/800Nm and the other a V8 hotrod using an electric motor to elevate performance punch to an estimated 335kW/800Nm.

The combined strength of these models – plus the seemingly ever-increasing interest here in sports utilities - is set to grow Q7’s importance. Currently taking about nine percent of Audi volume and being beaten by the Q5 and Q3 in sales rate, by the end of 2016 it is targeted to get 20 percent of volume and be the top dog Q model.

Also in the wings is a fully electric SUV, still in concept stage but already being called the Q6. Likely to show in 2018, the latter will be unveiled fully as the e-tron quattro concept at the Frankfurt motor show on September 15.

The Q6’s double draw of significant grunt and range – 372kW/700Nm and 550kms on a charge -  is also down as a key performer here, says Audi NZ boss Dean Shead, an unashamed advocate for electric-assisted motoring.

“That’s a range which is suitable for our country,” Shead says. And that’s not the only plus. “We are told it (Q6) will be a ‘proper’ SUV in every aspect, including having great off-road ability.”

A four-seater with a length between that of the Q5 and the Q7, Q6 will be powered by three electric motors – one on the front axle and two on the rear axle.

Three different technologies is an impressive spread – amazingly, it could have been four, as there’s also a petrol-electric Q7 e-tron. But Shead, who has already signed off to take the Q7 e-tron and the SQ7 in 2016, doesn’t back petrol-electric here, saying the diesel e-tron, with ability to run 56 kilometres on pure electric thrust, and 1400km between refills makes more sense.

The electric impetus is great, he says. “Your average Aucklander drives 38kms in a day, so could never have to use the engine at all.” The overall range is enough for a return Auckland Wellington trip and more.

The SQ7 is even punchier through using technology developed mainly by the e-tron diesel racing cars that have taken Audi to victory at the Le Mans’ 24 Hours. The engine has an electric supercharger that spins up to 72,000rpm in 2.5 milliseconds (but also requires the complexity of a separate 48 volt power supply) in combination with turbocharging.

Meantime, plenty of electronic assistance already accompanies the Q7 that has just released here. Continuing with improved, if still derivative styling and, of course a luxury-packed yet roomy and family-functional cabin, the model is most technologically advanced Audi ever, being able to brake, accelerate and even, for a short duration of time, steer itself. 

The standard package introduces autonomous braking for pedestrians and vehicles, adaptive cruise control and lane assist, side assist, rear cross-traffic alert, cross lane alert and a blind spot warning setup that even alerts disembarking front seat occupants to an approaching car or bike (it doesn’t, however, alert the cyclist to the prospect of a door appearing in their path). For those with extra budget, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, parking assistance with 360-degree view, a head-up display, active lane assist, night vision, four-wheel-steering and Matrix-beam LED headlights can be added.

Incredibly, Audi NZ still misses out on a couple of extra functions seen in Europe, the most handy being a smart reversing aid that allows the car to virtually self-steer a reversing trailer, with the car’s driver finetuning the action by way of the MMI controller. But it can’t work with a safety chain – and that’s required by NZ law. A shame as the 3.5-tonne-rated Q7 has a tow bar as standard.

It’s possible to turn all the aides off (by going into a MMI sub-menu) which doesn’t necessarily help realise Audi’s laudable occupant safety aims, but does give better idea of what this now considerably lightened chassis (lighter by 240kg) and a new V6 that’s basically as grunty as the old V8 are capable of.

It’s good news; though a touch more compact than the old, Q7 is still a large car – which benefits it being a seven-seater, of course- but it drives more like a mid-size wagon.

That it feels more accelerative is borne out by the factory’s claimed 0-100kmh time of 6.5 seconds (a full 2s better than the first gen 3.0-litre TDI). The top speed of 234kmh doesn’t seem far-fetched. There’s saving in fuel burn; the corner-rare run from Queenstown to Mossburn allowed the car to zero in on the factor

y’s claim of a 5.9 litres per 100km optimum economy, a significant improvement of 3.2L/100km over the outgoing model.

The eight-speed tiptronic automatic is a dream and the Haldex-based Quattro four-wheel drive, in which a new centre-differential replaces the transfer case, and optional air suspension had no problem tackling riverside tracks.

Interestingly, though it has the virtual cockpit fully LCD dashboard, it still keeps a separate MMI screen, which might seem unnecessary. In fact this seems a better solution than just relying on the new cluster, as the other Audi with this tech – the TT – does, even though there’s obvious potential duplication of functionality, notably with sat nav.