2020 Audi Q7 review: The strong, silent type
The Audi Q7 SUV is as quietly confident as ever. For 2020 it gains some important under-hood upgrades, fresh technology and mildly enhanced styling, alterations that further refine this already-solid vehicle.
Nuts and bolts
The most significant change is found right behind that large, single-frame grille, which has also been upgraded with some bright vertical slats for a more distinctive look. The soulful supercharged V6 of previous model years has been replaced by a 3.0-liter turbocharged engine. A 2.0-liter turbo I4 is still the standard engine, but this optional V6 delivers 6 more horsepower than its predecessor, topping out at 335, but provides way more torque, 369 pound-feet in total. That's an increase of 44 lb-ft compared to what the 2019 model could muster.
Augmented by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, this single-turbo V6 is a smooth operator, almost free of vibration and nearly silent. Even though it has to fight against 5,082 pounds of SUV, it can still whisk the Q7 to 60 mph in a fleet 5.7 seconds, though the vehicle doesn't feel that quick. Don't get me wrong, this SUV is plenty swift and never leaves you wanting for more oomph, it's just so quiet and refined you don't get any sensation of speed, which means it's easy to be going a lot faster than you should be.
No matter the engine, the Q7 uses an eight-speed automatic transmission that's as astute as an MIT grad student. One of the smoothest-shifting cog-swappers around, it's also more than willing to play ball, downshifting readily when a bit of acceleration is required. This level of responsiveness is regrettably rare these days, as automakers seem to tune transmissions to stay in the highest gear possible at all times.
If there's one downside to the Q7's powertrain it's the throttle tip-in. No matter the drive mode, this SUV is a bit lethargic off the line, meaning it takes a heavy stab of the accelerator to get moving.
That V6 engine and standard Quattro all-wheel drive return 17 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg on highway drives. In real-world motoring I've been averaging about 19 mpg, hardly a stellar figure even if it's better than the vehicle's combined rating of 18. If you don't care about efficiency, hook something to the back of this Audi . When equipped with the $750 trailering package, this vehicle can tow up to 7,700 pounds, an impressive figure.
A smooth operator
My top-shelf Prestige-trim Q7 rolls on optional 21-inch wheels enveloped by a set of 285/40 Continental Cross Contact all-season tires. With a two-tone finish, these handsome rollers add immeasurably to the vehicle's appearance and only cost an extra $1,000. But despite the good looks and reasonable price, they initially gave me pause. This wheel-and-tire combo is absolutely massive, coming about mid-thigh high when I stand next to the vehicle. At first, I was terrified the Q7 would ride like an empty grain hauler, or worse, a Volvo XC90, but this fear was unfounded.
The vehicle's adaptive air suspension system, which is included in the Prestige package, works like friggin' magic, delivering a ride that's softer than a down pillow yet still impressively controlled. Both height and firmness are adjustable through the Audi Drive Select system, but even in Dynamic mode, the ride is miraculously smooth. The same can't be said of the XC90 I recently tested, which was far starchier yet no better composed while navigating corners.
This Audi's handling is predictable and well sorted, lest you think the smooth-running Q7 flops around like a basset hound's ears. Overall, this SUV's on-road performance is just about perfectly balanced, silky and coddling without any slop.
In keeping with its buttoned-down ride quality, the Q7's interior is incredibly hushed, even at highway velocities. Prestige models come with dual-pane side glass, which undoubtedly contributes to this almost eerie silence. Overall, this vehicle is about as hushed as an underground bunker and nearly as solid.
Cool and sophisticated
True to form, this Audi's interior is beautifully designed and made of top-quality materials. It lacks a bit of the XC90's warmth, but it trades that in for cool sophistication. I could do with a little less piano black trim, which seems to attract dust and fingerprints like squirrels to a bird feeder, but the leather feels great, the open-pore ash-wood accents look rich and even the soft plastics are upscale.
Comfort is another strong suit of the Q7. Its standard, eight-way power-adjustable front seats are all-day supportive, but the automaker also offers 18-way adjustable chairs in the $6,400 Luxury Package, which gets you Valcona leather and an Alcantara headliner for a little extra somethin' somethin'.
The triple-split second-row seat is superb, with tons of room in all dimensions. The cushions are firm and supportive, with the lower one fitted chair-height above the floor, making it more comfortable for taller passengers. It's just a shame there's such a large hump in the floor, which makes sitting in the middle position more than a little awkward.
Typical of this vehicle segment, the third row is best left to kids or perhaps unusually spry adults of shorter stature. It's too close to the floor and has limited headroom to truly be accommodating, but at least it has power-folding ability. In a thoughtful touch, buttons mounted in the cargo area or just behind the second-row seats allow you to drop those backrests and really open the Q7 up.
This Audi will have no trouble when it's time to haul freight. With all the rear seats folded, it has 69.6 cubic feet of room. Behind just the third row, you get 14.2 cubes. These figures are comparable to the Volvo XC90 but are slightly behind what a Lincoln Aviator offers.
It may be comfortable and spacious, but there is one thing I wish the Q7's interior had: more center-console storage space. There's a serious lack of nooks and crannies for stashing stuff. Other than the hidden cubby to the left of the steering wheel, there's no convenient place to put my admittedly George Costanza-esque wallet.
No shortage of circuitry
When it comes to technology, the Q7 has three screens. At 10.1 inches, the main one on the dashboard handles infotainment and navigation duties. The 8.6-inch lower display is used to operate the climate-control system and access other functions. Finally, immediately ahead of the driver is Audi's Virtual Cockpit, an easy-to-use, reconfigurable digital instrument cluster that clocks in at 12.3 inches.
At first glance, the Q7's infotainment system looks downright labyrinthian, but it's remarkably easy to use. Menus are logically laid out and everything responds with near-instantaneous speed. This multimedia solution offers all the functionality and customization you could need without being completely overwhelming. (Hello, MBUX.)
Other kit that's standard across the Q7 range includes things like keyless entry with push-button start, automatic windshield wipers and parking sensors both front and rear. At no extra cost, you also get a smartphone interface that enables wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is super handy.
Automatic high beams are also standard fare. They're some of the most responsive I've ever experienced, and spookily prescient about oncoming traffic. A new feature for 2020 is called Emergency Assist. It can detect if the driver is incapacitated and, after a series of warnings, eventually stop the vehicle and activate the hazard lights.
Naturally, my Prestige-trim tester is fitted with a raft of other useful features including a head-up display, an unusually crisp 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Those last two items work well together, seamlessly adjusting the Q7's speed to match that of the vehicle ahead. It's also smooth and attentive in stop-and-go traffic, taking the stress out of commuting.
The Q7's lane-keeping system works well on the highway, though on secondary roads I notice it will often vibrate the steering wheel when lines end and occasionally it will try to steer into right-turn lanes, so you have to remain vigilant. Remember, kids, there are no self-driving cars .
Despite all the computerized goodies offered in this vehicle, one of my favorite features is so low-tech you could call it no-tech. Audi's sun-visor implementation is basically perfect. The Q7 has two different shades, one that swivels to the side and extends to cover the full width of the front-door glass, plus another fixed visor that folds down to block light coming in through the windshield. It's a simple and highly effective solution to block distracting glare.
Dignified and restrained
An entry-level Q7 Premium model with the base, four-cylinder engine goes for around $56,000, including $995 in destination charges. That gets you most of the Q7's fundamental goodness, though not many of its more advanced features. By comparison, my tester here rings up for $75,290, which is certainly rich though by no means unreasonable. If you've got extra cash burning a hole in your bank account, you should have no trouble inflating that figure by at least another 10 grand by opting for features like night vision ($2,500), a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system ($4,900), laser headlights ($1,650) and even four-wheel steering ($1,500).
There's plenty to like about the Q7. Unlike some of its rivals including the BMW X5 and Acura MDX, this Audi is neither loud nor flamboyant. Instead, it's dignified and restrained, an exceedingly mature luxury SUV with impeccable taste.