Verbier in Switzerland is an entirely appropriate place to launch the new Audi Q7. It has narrow streets, tortuous winding mountain roads and a touch of motorway for the car to stretch its legs.
A private jet flew me to Sion where the Q7 was waiting for me in a hanger. Audi’s massive SUV hasn’t just had a simple makeover, but a top-to-toe redesign. Hundreds of kilograms of weight have been shed, sharper edges have been added and the technology has been updated.
What it isn’t, is any smaller: you’ll have the same old problems finding a space that will take a Q7, and it still feels a little cumbersome on narrow city streets.
There is, however, a four-wheel-steering option that utilises the back end so you can turn like a London cabbie. The Audi Q7 also has the latest cruise control trickery, which lets the car take over when you’re in traffic, adjusting your speed and position by radar. A small step towards autonomous driving.
The best change is the interior. The new style works well and you can select the size of the dials. If you so wish, you can also position the remarkable sat-nav display behind them.
Seven seats are standard in the UK. It’s now easier to get into the rear, and the back seats fold down electrically. The BMW X5 and Mercedes ML try hard to compete here, but the Audi wins in terms of practicality. No fewer than six Isofix child seat mounting points are available.
It’s quieter than before and equally comfortable. The ride is smooth and the front seats verge on luxurious, though it’s not so good behind, where all five individual seats are firm and unyielding. The kids are unlikely to complain, but it’s several steps from Range Rover levels of cushiness. Still, there are tablet screens to while away the long journeys.
The first Q7s arriving in the UK have familiar 3.0-litre V6 diesel, upgraded from 245hp to 272hp. With the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, the Q7 is pleasingly fast with few dramatics. The engine is good enough to convince even Americans that diesels are the way forward.
Quattro four-wheel drive comes as part of the package, which plays its part in making the Q7 feel stable and secure in the worst of conditions. In town it smooths over the worst of potholes, adding to the refined feeling the car projects.
The fact that over half a million of these machines have been built and sold over the last ten years shows that when the product is good, buyers can accommodate absurd size.
Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com.
THE FACTS: AUDI Q7 3.0 TDI S LINE
0-62MPH: 6.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 145mph
CO2 G/KM: 153g/km
MPG COMBINED: 47.9mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆