When the government was crafting the tax reform law in 2017, we thought that was going to be the end of it for the luxury auto sector. The initial reports of the progressive excise tax law were poised to make a sector of already expensive automobiles even more dear to buy, and enjoy.
But at the last moment, the government came about, and the version of the TRAIN tax law that was passed was not poised to kill the luxury auto business. Actually, if anything, it made some vehicles even more affordable.
Like this Audi Q7, for instance. Before the tax law came around, it was almost at the PhP 6 million mark. But because of the revisions made to the bill before it became law, Audi was able to slash it down to PhP 5.45 million.
So, what can you expect from this (tax) cut priced Audi SUV?
The Q7 has been the biggest SUV in the Audi range and the flagship since they first debuted it in the mid-2000s. Of course that's all changed now when Audi launched the Q8, but we still have a soft spot for the Q7 because it started the shift to SUVs for the brand.
The first thing that strikes us about the second generation Q7 is the look. What many of us really like about Audi's designs is how polished they are to look at. I've always thought Audi's designs as very refined, exuding a certain unassailable sense of class, something I liken to wearing a nice, custom tailored suit.
You walk up to it, and you see the dapper in the details like the grill, the headlamps, and the shape. You examine the creases and the character lines like you would the seams on a jacket or the pleats on the pants. The paintwork? Well, that's like the finest Italian wool you can pick in a haberdashery. Perhaps the only thing I find strange are the wheels on this Q7 that is technically a “base” variant; they don't quite match the look in the same way that a mirror-shined pair of shoes completes an outfit.
Open the driver's door and you're met by a rather classy yet minimalist interior. They didn't try to make it look opulent or bulky; just clean and uncluttered, as everything appears to have been clustered together to generate as little fuss as possible. Some may prefer having shades of brown like wood panels and such, but I prefer this more subdued treatment with satin surfaces and the like.
Once settled in, I found the Q7 to be very intuitive. Some SUVs in this price range try to be different by opting for rather unique controls like dial-type shifters, but Audi didn't; instead there's this very neat and tactile leather-wrapped stubby shifter. The steering wheel isn't bulky at all; it's more streamlined and rather sporty. There's a certain air of quality whenever you press any button, but that's expected of the level this Q7 is competing in.
Being the base variant, Audi did have to do away with a few features that we liked in their other models, chief of which was the omission of the Virtual Cockpit; a configurable screen that would have replaced the analog-style gauges this model has. That doesn't really matter much in terms of overall performance; just nice to have. What I do like is how the MMI multi-media system's screen rises up from the dashboard whenever you power up the engine. And you control it via a dial and some buttons just forward of the shifter, which in turn becomes a wrist rest of sorts.
The middle row is a pleasant place to be in. It's quite spacious, and if the seats in front are positioned normally, even taller individuals can cross their legs in the back, and fold down the center armrest for comfort. There's also a third row, and unlike other SUVs where the last row is best for kids, this one is properly sized for adults, so it's not too bad for long drives.
What sets this Q7 apart from the model we drove before is the engine: this one comes powered by a 2.0-liter four cylinder gasoline engine. Now that sounds strange, especially for an SUV of this size, but there are two reasons why. The first is technology: Audi was able to extract 252 PS and 370 Newton meters of torque through the use of advanced engine tech as well as a better turbo system. The second is weight: the Q7 massively lighter than the model it replaced by about 300 kilos thanks to the more liberal use of aluminum on the slightly smaller body (compared to the previous generation Q7), among others. And it also has an 8-speed automatic with their quattro all-wheel drive system.
The first thing that I really noticed right away when driving the Q7 around town is the feeling of lightness. No, it's definitely not a lightweight vehicle, but it feels much lighter than the first generation model. Part of it is the steering, but it's also the the combination of the engine and gearbox. Torque comes in fairly early at around 1500 to 2000 rpm, and the gearbox is quite good for smoothness and quickness in shifting down for better acceleration. And mind you, I didn't really play around too much with the Drive Mode Select; it was in Comfort for the most part, and Dynamic whenever I was driving home. If you're ferrying the whole family, do expect that the Q7 will feel quite a bit slower (I had up to six people in it). The TDI is still the way to go in my opinion, but for everyday casual driving, the Q7 2.0 TFSI fares pretty well.
The Q7 proved to be a great go getter around town. Even for such a large vehicle, maneuverability wasn't that much of a problem with the visibility and the sensors, though you do have to pick parking slots to account for its width. This “base” Audi may not be specced with the air suspension, but it's not really necessary; the standard suspension model works perfectly fine, keeping the rough parts of the road out of the cabin. Fuel economy in the city was a fairly decent 7.0 km/l (solo driving, 20 km/h average).
The cargo space and versatility of the seating arrangement also proved useful; the Q7 can take up 295 liters in the back with the third row occupied, but that more than doubles up to 770 liters if the third row is down. With the second row folded as well, you've got almost 2000 liters of space in the back. It still can't fully carry 4x8 sheets of plywood though; yes, I tried.
We really like how it cruises at expressway speeds. The Q7 is still a big block of a vehicle to drive at speed, and that usually comes with caveats like wind noise and low fuel economy, but it wasn't having any of it. The Q7 feels confident and natural on the highway at 100 km/h. Tire noise is minimal. It doesn't get easily affected by crosswinds. And the fuel economy was reaching 11.4 km/l; not too bad for a Q7, but definitely nowhere close to a TDI.
But one aspect that the TDI won't be as good as even this “little” 2.0 TFSI is on a winding road... with long straights. Find a road like that and you can really stretch its legs. Approach a few corners, turn on Dynamic mode and the whole experience firms up a bit, and the shifts become a little sharper and the gearbox holds onto the gears for a little longer. There is a bit of turbo lag from the four banger, but once you account for it you'll enjoy the fairly sprightly handling and the positive way it changes direction considering it has relatively high-sidewall tires.
The Audi Q7 2.0 TFSI was unexpectedly good; I say unexpected because I came into this thinking it'd be underpowered or it'll feel bare, among others. But this Q7 really delivered on the promise of what a Q7 has always been: a comfortable, capable, and technologically-advanced seven seat SUV with four rings on the grill.
Personally, the preference is really still the 3.0 TDI, but with Audi (and the rest of the Volkswagen Group thanks to dieselgate) quickly getting allergic to compression ignition, the end of TDI is coming. It really is just a matter of time before the next phase, e-Tron, comes into the market.