Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • All engines provide impressive performance
  • Monster SQ7 as quick as many sports cars
  • E-Tron near silent, but surprisingly quick too

Audi’s revised the Q7’s engine line-up as part of its mid-life updates, and it comes with a choice of three diesels, one plug-in hybrid and one petrol. This will alter at the end of 2020, when the SQ7 switches from a diesel to a petrol engine.

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

Kicking off the line-up is the 45 TDI, a 231hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel that we’re yet to experience. With 500Nm of torque, this should haul the Q7 with relative ease, while taking 7.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph and onto a top speed of 142mph.

Previously, the more powerful diesel was a better option in the Q7, and this also applies to the new version, coming in the form of the 50 TDI. It’s still a 3.0-litre V6, but offers 286hp and 600Nm of torque.

Performance is very strong with a 6.5-second 0-62mph time and a 150mph top speed, suiting the Q7 very well indeed. While it’s always quiet and refined, it also sounds good. How it performs, though, is a little odd and it's chiefly down to the automatic gearbox and its delayed responses.

The eight-speed automatic transmission works through the gears very smoothly, but sometimes it can be caught out if you demand it to kickdown and pick up speed. Selecting the sharper Dynamic driving mode improves the situation, thanks to its faster throttle and gearbox responses, but you'll also need to do plan your timing when stationary at junctions and roundabouts. A heavy application of the accelerator pedal generally leaves you stationary for a brief moment, before delivering its power in one lump.

It feels a little uncouth and, as a result, the Q7 is best experienced when driven gently when you don't have to go anywhere in a hurry. There's plenty of muscle available, but it can all become a little flustered when you ask the engine and gearbox to work hard.

We’d recommend leaving it in Comfort, as the Q7 pulls strongly at low revs and you can still make swift progress when driven gently – it suits the heavyweight look and nature of the Q7 and isn't the kind of car to be driven like a sports car anyway.

One petrol engine

If you want petrol power and don’t have as much concern about running costs, the 55 TFSI could be of interest. This is also a 3.0-litre V6 like the diesels, but produces an impressive 340hp (identical to BMW’s X5 xDrive40i) and 500Nm of torque. The 0-62mph sprint is taken care of in just 5.9 seconds, and is a silky smooth engine that’s barely audible at any speed. It makes the Q7 supremely relaxing and smooth to drive, but won’t be the best option if you want something economical.

Plug-in hybrid makes a return - this time named TFSI e

The plug-in hybrid system connects an electric motor with a 3.0-litre petrol engine to produce 381hp. It’s able to run on electric power alone for up to 27 miles (depending on usage), but also delivers maximum torque output of 600Nm. This makes for a 0-62mph sprint in just 5.9 seconds if you floor the throttle; performance that feels otherworldly in a car of these dimensions, especially thanks to the instant electric shove from the motors. Top speed is 149mph. But it isn’t the quickest Q7…

Audi SQ7 TDI

By far the most exciting version of the Q7, this is an absolute animal of a seven-seater family car.

Its 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged diesel engine produces 435hp and a mammoth 900Nm of torque. The unit also features an electronic air compressor that helps mitigate lag at lower revs, meaning it takes off as quick as a modern sports car. The 0-62mph dash is brushed off in 4.8 seconds, with the 155mph electrically limited top speed feeling like the easiest thing in the world to achieve.

It even sounds fantastic, considering it’s a diesel engine, with a distinctive V8 burble from the standard active exhaust at low speeds that develops into a noisy roar when pushed hard. 

Engines no longer available

If you’re looking to buy a used Q7, the choice of engines is good – as long as you like diesel power.

Truth be told, despite this engine’s considerable 218hp power figure – and peak torque of 500Nm developed at just 1,250rpm – it feels rather underwhelming in this application. To call it slow would be to do it a disservice, as evidenced by its on-paper performance figures suggesting it can complete the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in a reasonable 7.4 seconds and top-out at 134mph. But it never feel’s particularly happy lugging the Q7 around if you make any form of performance-based demand of it.

Of course this feeling of slight lethargy is likely down to the Q7’s considerable 2,060g kerb weight, which admittedly is slightly lighter than its main competitors. Take things a little slower though, and it makes sense, with a linear and hushed delivery of its power that makes it easy to drive and bolsters refinement. And around town, say on the school-run or a trip to the local supermarket, you’re unlikely to notice any form of performance deficit.

But if you do want your Q7 to pick up its skirts and shift with some pace, it’s the 54hp (and 100Nm) more powerful 3.0-litre diesel you need to choose. It still doesn’t feel quite as fast as its 6.5-second official 0-62mph time suggests it should, but it demonstrates a far more flexible performance than its slightly lesser-endowed brother.

The plug-in hybrid prior to the facelift was called E-Tron, which connects a 94Kw electric motor with a 254hp 3.0-litre diesel engine. It claims to be able to run silently for up to 34 miles but, this figure is a little ambitous. What's more impressive os the maximum torque output of 700Nm, being higher than the current model and makes for a 0-62mph sprint of just 6.3 seconds.

Handling

  • Q7 handles its bulk very well indeed
  • Adaptive air suspension is standard
  • Great balance between comfort and balance

The Q7 range is less about sporty handling and more about comfort, refinement, practicality and ease of use. And it absolutely nails all of these aspects, especially comfort and ease of driving, with well-weighted controls - from the pedals, to the steering that makes this car's bulk reassuringly easy to pilot.

It turns into corners with ease at the moderate speeds it will likely be driven at, and while there is some detectable body roll it’s far from excessive considering the size of the car. Up the pace, and like the best off-roaders nearing two-tonnes, the Q7 will pitch back and forth and roll harder from side-to-side as it feels a little like it’s losing grip – the squeal of tyres and flicker of the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) light there to remind you to drive more like a parent than a hooligan. After all, kids in the rearmost seats won’t likely appreciate your racing lines through the country lanes.

It’s a large vehicle this Q7, so hustling at speed along narrow B-roads isn’t particularly advised anyway, despite a surprising amount of grip on offer from the four-wheel drive system. That weight will come into play on any particularly fierce downhill section too, as you give the brakes a solid work out.

This isn’t what the Q7 is about though. It’s about comfort for the family and the way it handles at moderate speeds is impressive. It’s just as comfortable as an X5 on air suspension and sensible alloys, and it handles its bulk well, feeling more agile than the Volvo XC90 and Mercedes GLE.

There’s another choice to be made with the Audi Q7’s suspension systems, ranging from standard air suspension to the adaptive sport suspension of Black Edition and Vorsprung models. Both systems are fully adjustable, while the Drive Select System (Audi speak for drive modes) allows the driver to tailor its responses (alongside the throttle and steering) to the driver’s requirements.

And whether you’re travelling at high or low speed the optional all-wheel steering system will improve stability or increase agility, turning the rear wheels fractionally in the same direction as the fronts above 9.3mph and in the opposite direction below. This really helps with manoeuvring the Q7 in tight car parks, for instance.

If you want to read how the SQ7 handles, you can find out here