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2016 Audi Q7

Jessica Leeder/The Globe and Mail

With the sun beating down on the smooth roads that form zig-zag connections between the storybook hamlets dotting the Alps, Audi's all-new Q7 is practically grinning as it cuts into hairpin turns, devouring this picturesque up-mountain route.

So are its drivers. Completely redesigned for the first time since its arrival on the market nearly a decade ago, the 2016 Q7, in both diesel and gas iterations, has had a frustratingly long gestation. But the wait, it's safe to say, was more than worth it.

The new Q7, which will debut at Canadian dealers this December, has shed more than 317 kilograms, a few centimetres in length and the boxier feel of its predecessor. Gone is the bulbous quality that reminded drivers they were indeed piloting Audi's largest SUV. This iteration is right at home amongst the motorcycles and sports cars that have escaped for a spring joyride along the iconic Swiss mountainside.

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Boring into corners is the Q7's strong point – it practically eats up asphalt and asks for more, giving off the sensation of shrinking itself to whip around tight bends without any lag. Nothing about the Q7's drive is cumbersome, save for a tiny lag in the TDI when a quick press of the gas pedal asks for more power to execute a quick acceleration. Given the total package here, this is likely something even discerning drivers will make peace with.

The SUV's interior is a spacious capsule of luxury. The revamped cabin is anchored by a svelte front dash with air vents that run the width of the cockpit, emphasizing the roominess that somehow manages not to convey bulk. The dash, which leaves plenty of passenger legroom, feels as though it has been cribbed from a smaller sedan – this is a good thing – and pays homage to the Q7's A-series brethren. Optional heated steering plus heated, cooling and massaging seats leaves both driver and passenger wanting for nothing.

In the rear, the Q7 is equally luxurious. Passengers (particularly the under-16 set) have the option of being entertained by the all-new Audi tablet, a proprietary Android device custom-designed to lock into the back headrests, enabling passengers to do all they could on, say, an iPad and then some. Developed with a smash-proof screen that gives the tablet an edge on glass-surfaced iPads (which threaten to shatter into a million pieces if hit by a passenger head during a crash) the tech-savvier slice of the market will no doubt determine whether this add-on will be a success.

Adding to the interior luxury is what Audi is calling '3-D' sound systems. Available in standard Bose or upgraded Bang & Olufsen, these next-gen stereos transform the Q7 into a mobile theatre.

Then there are the litany of driver-assist features that will catapult this SUV to the top of the market, earning marks for both convenience and safety. Case in point: the Q7's technology is designed to detect human-like movements that pose a threat more than one lane away; paired with an automatic break function that reduces speed up to 40 km/h, it is literally equipped to save lives.

The most unique driver assistance feature, though, is the trailer park assist. It removes the neck-crunching elements of parking a rear-towed load and transforms the task into something one dares to call easy.

With all of this, the new Q7 actually has the power to take much of the work out of driving. Piloting it is such a pleasure, though, you might not want it to.

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The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

You'll like this car if ... life requires you to drive an SUV but you lust after sportier sedans.

TECH SPECS

  • Base price: TBD; Audi promises figures in line with current model
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V-6
  • Transmission: Eight-speed tiptronic
  • Drive: Standard all-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.6 city; 6.9 highway
  • Alternatives: BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Mercedes ML350

RATINGS

  • Looks: Although its rear has a slight wagon-like resemblance, the Q7 is sleek with a low, aggressive stance and a wide, grinning grill that hints at its prowess.
  • Interior: Luxurious and lavish with an optional leather-clad dash, suede accents, heated steering, heated and air-conditioned massage seats.
  • Technology: This SUV is jammed full of up-to-the-moment technology, including more driver-assist systems than its possible to count (park assist, lane assist, a segment-leading trailer-parking assist) including smart technology that detects errant pedestrians and brings the vehicle to a stop to avoid or minimize fatal collisions.
  • Performance: More than ample. While the gas-powered TFSI carries more oomph than the TDI, which occasionally feels lacking when heading into sharp, uphill corners – but only just so – both have the ability to put a smile on the face and force drivers to forget you’re driving a seven-passenger SUV. With its deep Audi genetics, the Q7 masquerades well a sporty, smaller road animal.
  • Cargo: Smaller on the outside but bigger on the inside, the Q7 boasts a more economical use of interior space than its predecessor. With an optional, flat-folding third row of seats and individually folding second-row seats, there are endless seat configurations to manage stowing of just about anything imaginable.

The Verdict

9.0 (out of 10)

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This long-awaited redesign has enough sass and magnetism to make you choose to drive an SUV – even if you don't have to.

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