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Audi adds new Q7 - driven

2007-03-26 06:57

The Audi Q7 can actually face some tough challenges

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Audi
Model Q7
Engine 3.6 FSI V6
Power 206kW @ 6200
Torque 360Nm @ 2500-5000
Transmission Tiptronic
Fuel Consumption 12.7 / 100 km
Warranty R527 000

JD van Zyl

Audi has launched an entry-level 3.6 liter FSI petrol version of its successful Q7 to complement its powerful 4.2 V8 FSI petrol and 3.0 TDI V6 diesel models.

We took it for a spin in the Kalahari dunes to see if it is more than just a pretty face.

Most South African SUV drivers revel in the luxury, comfort and perceived safety of their cars without ever straying very far from the country's comfortable tar roads.

Yet they enjoy the fact that they could visit remote destinations like the Kaokaveld or Transkei interior if ever the urge to do so were to grab them.

Only problem is that only a handful of modern SUVs can handle the trip to the bundus and back.

At the local launch of the six liter 3.6-liter FSI in the Kalahari, it became obvious that Audi's Q7 is one of these selected few. Soft sand dunes, badly rutted dirt roads and eroded 4x4 trails posed plenty of challenges but the German never faltered.

Like the other two Q7 models, the new 3.6 FSI uses Audi's legendary permanent quattro four-wheel drive system that has been used in production vehicles for 26 years already.

As proven on the loose-stone Kalahari trails, this system ensures excellent traction by providing optimum power to each wheel.

If one wheel slips - or ends up being suspended entirely in the air as happened on more than one occasion - power is instantly removed from that wheel through the EDL (electronic different lock) and transferred to the other three.

The Q7 also features a self-locking centre differential with a torque split of 40:60 between front and rear wheels. This differential can direct as much as 65% of the available power to the front or up to 85% to the rear, depending on the road conditions.

Adaptive air suspension

Conventional steel-spring suspension and hydraulic twin-tube shock absorber system comes as standard on the Q7, but our launch model was fitted with the optional adaptive air suspension.

With the push of a button this system allows the suspension to be changed according to five settings: dynamic, automatic, comfort, off-road and lift. The latter with its extra ground clearance was our option of choice as we navigated the Q7 over some decidedly large rocks.

Ground clearance is variable with adaptive air suspension from 180 millimetres to 240 mm in lift mode. The off-road mode, with 205 mm ground clearance and suitably adapted damper control enables you to travel on challenging terrain.

Under the bonnet the 3.6 liter V6 engine churns out power of 206 kW at 6 200 r/min and torque of 360 Nm between 2 500 r/min and 5 000 r/min.

According to Audi the massive 3.6-model can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 8.5 seconds at sea level while top speed is rated at 225 km/h. With adaptive air suspension you can go push on to 230 km/h.

On the open road there is no shortcoming of power here. The acceleration of 3.6-liter Q7 is smooth and strong and it has plenty of torque low in the rpm-range to make it a pleasant drive in off-road conditions.

V6 power

The engine block of the 3.6 FSI is fashioned from cast iron while the valves are actuated by low-friction roller cam followers with hydraulic clearance adjustment. Intake and exhaust camshafts, which are chain-driven, are continuously adjustable to reduce emissions and further improve fuel economy.

The V6 uses FSI, the direct injection technology developed by Audi, which enhances performance and efficiency. In the combined cycle, Audi claims a not-too-shabby-at-all consumption figure of 12.7 litres/100 km.

A luxurious interior confirms that Audi is competing in the top-end of the lucrative SUV market. Ample use of leather, tactile materials that are soft to the touch and brushed metal create a look that is simultaneously sporty and stylish.

The cockpit feels spacious with a broad curving dashboard and elegant instrumentation with a high quality multi-media screen in the centre tunnel that can be optionally linked to a rearview camera.

Both on and off the road the Q7 impresses with its stability and sturdy feel courtesy of the latest generation stabilisation control technologies.

The ESP system incorporates anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution and hydraulic brake assist (EBD), traction control (ASR) and the aforementioned electronic differential lock (EDL).

To improve the performance of the SUV, especially off-road or in less than perfect road conditions, the ESP now also tolerates a certain amount of slip when braking or accelerating when the off-road mode has been activated. As speeds increase, more priority is given to driving stability.

Let's not kid ourselves. The majority of SUVs sold in South Africa are destined to never taste the salty air of Coffee Bay's backroads or to feel the sand of the Kalahari spraying against its wheel arches.

But boy, if you are up for a luxury ride that could take you to rugged and wayward destinations and back, then the Q7 is a very worthy contender indeed.

  • The Q7 3.6 FSI quattro tiptronic retails for R527 000 which includes a 5-year / 100 000 km Freeway plan.

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