For a time, the Audi Q7 SUV was a popular way for Bollywood to arrive. These were the days when one still had to rely on the grey market for something particularly flashy; you couldn’t just get off a regional flight and buy a Maserati. Bipasha Basu had one, and if you don’t remember who that is, you should Google it and upload a vlog on your YouTube channel.

The Q7 is a large vehicle, and the largest SUV that Audi currently makes. It’s over 5m long and 2.2m wide, with generous seating for seven. In 2018, what it lacks in pomp it makes up in sheer practicality and useful features. We were sent the “Technology” variant, which is roughly Rs 7 lakh above the starting price. The design language is in line with what we’re seeing in Audi’s sedans, with nice sharp creases taking over from the giant hotdog shape of the Bipasha era. Of course, it gets Audi’s famous Matrix LED headlamps.

With only two variants available, one would expect the full set of features, and this is what you get with
the Q7. A 19-speaker Bose music system is present, as is MMI Touch with a 8.3 inch retracting MMI screen in the centre. Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ is also offered, which replaces traditional dials in front of the driver with a 12.3 inch full-colour TFT screen. This is a very useful addition, particularly to read navigation guidance, and we’re glad Audi’s putting it in most of their new vehicles.

If you’ve paid nearly a crore of rupees for your SUV, it is more than likely that you’re using a high-end smartphone. If we see you being driven around talking into a plastic feature-phone, we’re going to assume you’re rushing to the airport before the Interpol notice kicks in. In any case, Apple CarPlay support is present and worked well for us on the second try. For those using an iPhone X or other wireless charging-capable phones, there’s a charging pad below the centre armrest; you just place your phone on it and it starts receiving juice. There are also a couple of USB ports in there, but strangely, not much room for storage.

Flexibility and space are key to the Q7, and what you don’t get in pure flash, you make up for in acreage. The second row of seats is immensely useful. Comfortable, if not entirely luxurious, and they slide on rails to adjust legroom. They also split in a 40:20:40 configuration, and each individual seat slice can slide. The seats on the left and right will also flip and tumble, allowing access to the third row. Unlike smaller SUVs, the Q7 can accommodate adults in the third row, and kids will certainly have a good time back there. Folded down, the third row liberates generous cargo area that’s completely flat. Do the same for the second row, and you have enough room for a hydroponic farm to grow useful herbs.

Cargo area is also well- defined, with a sliding grille to separate bits that shouldn’t bump into each other, and a powered tailgate so that you don’t have to expend any more energy than necessary once your staff has loaded up the back. For all the thoughtful touches and features around the Q7, we sort of wish the manipulation of the second row was easier, or automated. You still need to manually slide, flip and tumble the seats, and it can be frustrating on occasion.

On the go, the Q7 is breezy and comfortable. Diesel motors have reached amazing levels of sophistication these days, but there’s something to be said of the silky-smooth nature and quiet progress of a petrol motor. The numbers are modest for this class of vehicle: 252hp, 370Nm using an 8-speed tiptronic transmission. Acceleration is smooth — by design and nature — and quiet, triple- digit cruising is the comfort zone for the Q7. This being a torque converter automatic, you never feel any jerks on gear change, which can sometimes be annoying with dual-clutch units.

Comfort is afforded by the pneumatic suspension, which can be tailored to your needs. You get driving modes: Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Individual, which affect the way the suspension reacts to the road. It is never intrusive, even in dynamic mode, and you can certainly notice the changes.

It is, however, European and from the VW group stables, so suspension feel will be familiar to anyone who has experience in Audis, Skodas etc. We tended to keep the suspension in Comfort mode, with the steering, suspension and engine in Dynamic. This way, you get the plush ride you want without giving up the immediacy from the zingy petrol motor. Of course, Audi’s storied quattro all- wheel drive system is always active, ensuring tons of grip and the ability to haul ass out of sticky situations.

The Q7 petrol is a nice drive, should you want to take the driver’s seat. It’s roomy and comfortable as a rear passenger, and has enough cargo space in the back to take you from your home to the gym, to the studio and end up in the club without inconvenience. In 2018, it is no longer a default choice for those who want to be seen, but it strikes a great balance of style with practicality.

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