Graceful giant

The new Audi Q7 is a big SUV, but looks svelte and feels nimble.
The new Audi Q7 is a big SUV, but looks svelte and feels nimble.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Audi Q7 is a big SUV, but looks svelte and feels nimble.
The new Audi Q7 is a big SUV, but looks svelte and feels nimble.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Audi's new Q7 is a beauty of a beast in the way it moves

Audi should venture into aesthetic medicine. Because if it can make a big, fat car like the Q7 look - and, more importantly, feel - svelte and nimble, imagine what it can do for debutantes who have been frequenting one too many high teas.

The engineering feat is no less impressive than surgically transforming someone from a size four to size two.

As measurements go, the new Q7 has shrunk slightly (except in its height, which has grown slightly). Even so, this seven-seat SUV is still a hulk of a car.

But miraculously, Audi has managed to shave up to 325kg off its gargantuan frame, resulting in better fuel efficiency and, as you might have guessed, better road dynamics.

The 333bhp 3-litre supercharged version tested still tips the scale at 2.1 tonnes, but this is not apparent at the wheel.

  • SPECS/AUDI Q7 3.0TFSI

  • Price: $361,600 with COE

    Engine: 2,995cc 24-valve V6 supercharged

    Transmission: Eight-speed Tiptronic with paddle shift

    Power: 333bhp at 5,500rpm

    Torque: 440Nm at 2,900-5,300rpm

    0-100kmh: 6.3 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh (electronically limited)

    Fuel consumption: 7.9 litres/100km

    Agent: Premium Automobiles

The car feels like an overgrown hatchback, whether you are turning into a tight carpark ramp, accelerating to close a gap in traffic, or reacquainting yourself with the devilish turns along Old Upper Thomson Road.

Throttle response is light and linear, steering is not in the least truck-like, and power flows to the wheels like water in a hilly brook.

Its eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox does an excellent job of matching ratio to road and driving conditions, but betrays a trace of judder downshifting at low speeds.

Even the brakes are a joy to use, with each application devoid of the giddy body movements you usually associate with a big, tall and hefty vehicle.

Much of the Q7's newfound poise, agility and overall driveability comes from its all-wheelsteering system, which is a $9,000 option (packaged with a panoramic glass roof).

In no other car does this technological marvel prove its worth as much. It is not a new gizmo, by the way, with Mazda using it in its last Jaguar-like 929 back in the 1990s. But what a difference it makes to the Q7.

The 3-litre supercharged engine is not new either, dating back at least seven years. But in the latest Q7, it feels like a new power plant. It is more refined than when it was applied in other previous Audis.

Or perhaps it has to do with the Q7 itself. As complete as the long-running, first-generation car was, this second series is different enough inside for you to go "wow".

Everywhere you cast your eyes, strain your ears or lay your hands, the premium-ness is on a par with what Audi's two German rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, offer in their big SUVs.

The car, however, has more gadgets, with its "virtual" cockpit projected onto its instrument panel, Wi-Fi connectivity for all onboard and Google Street View.

The car remains as versatile as before, with adjustable height for easier loading/unloading. Its cabin is a tad cushier, with improved insulation and damping obvious to occupants in every row of seats.

But with its Bavarian-beating driving dynamics, the best seat in the house is clearly the one behind the wheel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'Graceful giant'. Print Edition | Subscribe