Thursday, 4 September 2008

Super SUV Test: Audi Q7 4.2 V8 quattro

The buzzword among many premium motoring enthusiasts now seems to be 'Sport', 'Dynamic Drive' or some term to describe the sporty suspension option for adjustable damping rates by way of mechanical, hydraulic, electro-hydraulic, electro-magnetic, hydro-pneumatic or some other combo systems. In the Audi Q7, this is done with an air suspension set-up, unlike the newly launched Audi A4 (B8) 1.8 TFSI.

The Q7 is one big imposing vehicle, measuring more than 5 metres from end to end. Think Mercedes-Benz R350 L (not the M-Class) but taller with larger wheels. This is truly luxury SUV motoring in one chunky tech-laden package. The Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg could not come close to this sheer gargantuan presence. One thing is certain though, most of these cars will likely have paved tarmac as their staple diet, and possibly a very valuable weapon against frequent flash floods in urban Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya.

As you can see below, the 2.3 tonne behemoth still manages a sub 8.5secs century sprint, thanks to 440Nm worth of torque at 3500rpm driving through the quattro 4WD system. Without going into specific figures, let's just say the writer managed to clocked well past the 2nd rung of triple digits velocity with ease, where the V8 stayed flexible and relaxed at cruising. I know this will sound cliche but there really is no replacement for displacement here. (An Audi TT Coupe 2.0TFSI tested back to back soon proved that). I reckoned the 345bhp at 6800rpm delightfully aided in catapulting such sheer bulk to lofty speed.

Huge wing mirrors splendidly practical (above).

Torque split on the Q7's quattro driveline is 60% bias towards the rear axle and it has clearly improved handling balance and on-road feel (RWD-esque). Much like its VAG 'sibling' the VW Touareg, this tall wonder take bends flatter than you would expect it to be. However, I found the Adaptive Air Suspension best left to its own devices in 'automatic' mode where a good balance (slight sporty biased though) with ride quality found somewhere in between 'dynamic' and 'comfort'. Dynamic mode lowers the SUV by 15mm truly improved cornering prowess but your family would not approved of the Q7 going on pock-scarred or badly patched roads in this setting.

As usual, Audi's artwork at play here in the intrument panel cluster (above). Beautiful.

Sadly, the Q7 in this petrol 4.2L V8 form is rather a misfit in today's fuel prices. Needless to say it guzzles benzene like there's no tomorrow despite Audi's application of direct fuel injection, FSI. Law of physics dictates that you need that much of force to move such a bulk of steel along with passengers and baggages, while there are 8 combustion chambers to fill and burn fuel with, in full combo and in real time.

All is not lost though, the luxurious interior of leather, aluminium and soft trims along with Audi's ever impeccable fit and finish makes the Q7 a classy automobile indeed. The icing on the cake must be its unbelievably medium-sized hatchback like handling despite its bulk. That to me is enough to put the Q7 in a class of its own. Here's looking forward to the Audi Q5!


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