Has it really been that long, nine years, since the big Q7 SUV was rolled out by the folks at Ingolstadt? This vehicle set the auto industry back on its haunches with the new standards it set. We've waited a long while for the all new second generation vehicle, but there will be few who are disappointed.
More than 500,000 units have been shifted all over the world to date so you can understand why the car maker took a decade to sort the replacement. But yep, they got it right. And unsurprisingly, the second generation Q7 is smaller, lighter and much changed.
We've come to Sion (or Sitten in German), the capital of the Canton of Valais in Switzerland, for the global launch of the new Q7. We'll explore the stunning mountains, valleys and holiday resort spots in an area boasting some of the world's best skiing in the much-vaunted vehicle. The snow and ice on the roads might not be exactly the best preparation for driving in a Gulf summer, but there aren't many other places as appealing this time of year. Life ain't too shabby, eh?
This new 2016 Q7 looks substantially different from the vehicle it's replacing. It's not as full-on and that probably guarantees a broader fan base. It's now more streamlined, a bit sportswagon-ish, yet still big enough to function as a real-deal SUV.
The flagship model is now 37 millimeters shorter and 15 millimeters narrower, while retaining virtually the same height. However, the interior actually allows for more space; there's an additional 21 millimeters between the first and second row of seats, and headroom has increased by up to 41 millimeters.
But the big news is the dramatic weight loss that the Q7 has undergone. The all new Q7 is up to 325 kilograms lighter than its predecessor, and this makes a huge difference to the performance and handling characteristics of the vehicle. The weight loss becomes immediately apparent the moment you dive into the first corner.
The upscale German marque has long been famed for technology, indeed its slogan 'Vorsprung durch Technik' translates approximately into English as 'Advancement through Technology'. So it comes as no surprise the new Q7 is crammed with modern tech galore. And all this technology isn't confined to the infotainment department, but the body, powertrain and suspension too.
We sampled the astounding new driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control (with traffic jam assist), predictive efficiency assistant, trailer assist and cross-traffic assist in the rear. The car maker says no other production vehicle currently offers more in this area of technology. It's this which now sets the Q7 apart from its competitors.
With groundbreaking features such as trailer assist (an industry first), the Q7 will not only reverse a trailer in a perfectly straight line, but will even turn the trailer in a pre-programmed direction without the driver ever touching the steering wheel.
The Audi 'single-grille' theme is particularly bold here. With the slim headlights and large fog light housings, the new Q7 certainly turns heads.
Interior room in this big Audi is pretty impressive and there's more than before. Front seats are large, well shaped and comfortable, and provided good support during our jaunts over the winding roads that traverse the Sion area's ski fields.
It's well matched to the gearbox, which seldom needs to change down more than one gear at a time and wafts you along at just a touch of the throttle. Audi has fitted a four wheel steering system. This active unit has the rear wheels turning for improved cornering grip and greater stability in cross winds at cruising speeds.
Spinneys shoppers and school run mums will be delighted to find the turning circle has been reduced by almost a meter, which makes parking a breeze as well as maneuvering in tight spots around town. A thumping big SUV as nimble as that - not bad, eh?
The second row seats can be adjusted back and forward, in their rearmost position to provide plenty of legroom for three. The pair of third row seats has plenty of space for the rug-rats, but would probably be a squeeze for adults. Rows two and three fold flat to provide a huge load area. The doors are larger than before and open wider to provide easier access to the rearmost seats. With all seats in use, luggage space could be bigger.
Safety is at a premium and sees the installation of eight airbags in a strong body built from an array of steels as well as aluminium.
The previous gen Q7 was an absolute treat to drive but the newcomer reveals Audi has made a great vehicle even better. Excellent engine and gearbox as well as being comfortable and spacious - a vehicle with 'winner' written all over it.
Rivals: Range Rover Sport, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Pros: extremely nimble for a big SUV, great headroom
Cons: luggage space could be better, third row a bit of a squeeze
Engine: 3.0L supercharged V6, 4WD, 333hp, 440Nm
Transmission: 8 speed automatic
Performance: 0-100kph (secs): 6.1, top speed (kph): 244
Weight: 2270 - 2680 kg
One word: winner