HAS AUDI created the ultimate family car? When its new Q7 goes on sale in the spring, the luxurious seven-seat SUV will offer 10in tablets that not only let children surf the web or stream music from Napster, but are secure in the event of an accident. Meanwhile Mum or Dad will be able to use “everyday” intelligent voice commands – that is, not from a prescribed list – to find the nearest organic delicatessen or send a text message to the nanny to let them know that they’ll be home late.
It’s well equipped to tackle the hazards of the school run. When the driver is reversing out of a parking space, a system called cross-traffic assist can warn them of traffic or pedestrians approaching from out of sight on either side. Another helping hand, known as Pre Sense City, automatically jams on the brakes if the driver fails to react to a hazard in the road while travelling at less than 40mph.
British prices have still to be announced, but the Q7 is unlikely to cost less than £47,000 for the entry-level 3.0 TDI quattro model.
The current Q7 was Audi’s first SUV. It went on sale in 2006 and gained a reputation for being bigger, if not necessarily better, than any other family car on the road. This time, Audi says, it paid close attention to customer feedback as it attempted to design the perfect SUV.
The new model is shorter but more spacious inside. Drivers who find parking a Q7 in town a little like docking the QE2 in the harbour of a quaint fishing village shouldn’t get their hopes up too much, though – it’s not much more than an inch shorter, at 5,050mm. Still, a new four-wheel steering system may make it easier to get in and out of a tight spot (which is every parking spot when you’re a Q7 driver).
It’s also been on a diet: the most popular 3.0 TDI model now weighs 1,995kg, down from 2,300kg. This has contributed to a marked improvement in fuel economy: the current model manages 39.2mpg on the combined cycle, whereas the 2015 Q7 3.0 TDI returns 47.8mpg. (A lower-powered, more efficient 3.0 TDI will be introduced later in the year.) As a result of the car’s lesser emissions, the road tax will fall from £485 in the first year and £285 in subsequent ones, to £180 a year.
The Q7 is still no saint, but for the first time picky buyers will be able to choose a plug-in hybrid version. It has a 3-litre diesel engine and an electric motor to return up to 166mpg, while emitting 50g/km of CO2. The large battery gives a range of 34 miles in electric-only mode.
As before, all models have quattro permanent four-wheel drive, hill descent control and an adjustable air suspension system to make the Q7 more useful off road.