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Review: 2017 Audi Q7 3.0T quattro tiptronic

Audi\'s Q7 gets a welcomed update.

In a world where people change out their electronic devices as often as they wash their sheets, a decade can feel like an eternity. But that's just how long Audi let its original Q7 wither on the vine.

But (finally) for the 2017 model year, Audi is rolling out an all-new version of the crossover that helped define the large-premium utility segment. The real question is, has it been worth the wait?

What is it?The 2017 Audi Q7 is a full-size crossover that offers chiseled looks, good driving dynamics and a comfortable interior that can seat up to seven. The latest version of Audi's flagship utility vehicle is actually slightly smaller than the previous Q7, but the biggest news here is weight, or rather lack there of. Thanks to clever engineer and a greater use of light-weight materials, the 2017 Q7 is up to 700-pounds lighter than its predecessor.

Just two trim levels are available for the Q7 — Premium and the Premium Plus model seen here. In years past the Q7 has been available with a few different engine options, but there's just one available at the moment — a 3.0L supercharged V6 delivering 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. We might eventually see a gas V8, but we wouldn't hold out hope for a second go-around of the Q7 TDI on these shores.

What's it up against?The 2017 Audi Q7 has no shortage of competitors, but it most closely aligns with vehicles like the Volvo XC90 and Acura MDX. Potential buyers might also cross-shop the Q7 against other premium SUV nameplates like the Mercedes-Benz GLS, BMW X5, Land Rover LR4 and Cadillac Escalade.

What's it look like?The 2017 Q7 is a new design but not a radical departure from the vehicle it replaces. Despite that evolutionary approach, the 2017 Q7 is a much sharper vehicle than before.

Up front that starts with the latest version of Audi's single frame grille, which now sports a more trapezoidal design. The grille frame itself has been given more depth, which gives the Q7 a little more visual interest.

Headlights are more purposeful than before with a modern LED lighting setup. Large air vents are located below and house sensor elements for the Q7's semi-autonomous technology.

In profile not a whole lot has changed, but wider side sills give the 2017 version of the Q7 a more planted look. Twenty-inch wheels do a nice job of filling the Q7's wheel wells.

Around back most of the previous Q7's curved lines have been replaced with straight edges. Likewise, the lower bumper has been revised to house rectangular dual exhaust outlets rather than the rounded units seen on the previous model.

On the whole the 2017 Q7 is a handsome vehicle, but it still falls short of the impeccably designed Volvo XC90.

And on the inside?Audi has long been known for its interior designs, and the automaker didn't muck up its reputation with the latest Q7. Well laid out with a simple and clean design, the cabin of the Q7 is a pleasant place to spend a few hours.

Following the latest industry trend the Q7 uses and all-digital dashboard (known as Audi virtual cockpit), but it's not some high-tech mess that's difficult to read or operate. The default layout is two simulated analog gauges that are easy to read in any lighting condition thanks to good brightness and excellent screen resolution. The center section of the screen is reserved for secondary vehicle information, such as average fuel economy.

The center stack of the Q7 is refreshingly uncluttered with just a few physical controls for the vehicle's HVAC system. You can declutter the arrangement even further by hitting a button located in a strip just above to lower the dash-mounted LCD screen.

Things get a little more complicated just below, however, where a track pad handles inputs for the Q7's navigation system. The system works like a virtual drawing board, with the pad able to decipher whatever you scrawl into letters and numbers. Well, at least that's how it's supposed to work. On more than a few occasions the system incorrectly guessed the character we were going for. Moreover, we found ourselves constantly looking down to make sure the system got it right, which hardly cuts down on distracted driving. Needless to say, we eventually abandoned the track pad for the Q7's voice commands.

Despite being a large utility vehicle, the Q7 feels more like a big car from behind the wheel. That's because you sit lower down in the Q7's seats than your average SUV and tall doors have a cocooning effect. Those wanting a commanding view of the road ahead might be a little disappointed, but we like the idea of a big SUV that doesn't feel lumbering from behind the wheel.

Seats in the Q7 are comfortable and supportive, with front-row ventilation providing a nice break from the summer heat. Second-row seats are also spacious with plenty of head- and leg-room. We can't say the same for the Q7's third-row seats, which still feel like a penalty box for adults. Moreover, the second-row seats are cumbersome to move and don't provide a lot of room for ingress/egress, so accessing the third row is unnecessarily difficult. Luckily the third-row is easily stowable thanks to a power controls located in the trunk and just behind the second-row.

Maximum cargo space is obviously achieved with the third-row seats stored, but there is decent room even with them erect. Full luggage for seven is out of the question, but there is easily enough room for a few overnight bags.

The Q7 coddles passengers with optional quad-zone climate control, heated rear seats and a massive panoramic sunroof. Materials throughout the Q7's cabin are up to Audi's luxury standards. One thing missing from the Q7's cabin, however, is the kind of storage nooks and crannies that would be useful in a school bus like this.

But does it go?Audi's 3.0L supercharged V6 is a peach of an engine, and it makes for an excellent partner for the Q7. Although performance specs are somewhat modest with "only” 333 horsepower on tap, the Q7's sub-5,000 curb weight means this big rig can accelerate from 0-60 in just 5.7 seconds. That's not just fast for an SUV, that's fast period.

Steering is light and devoid of any road feel, but the rack in the Q7 is fast and accurate. Switching the drive mode to Dynamic provides a welcome does of steering weight, though on-center remains noticeably numb. The Q7 is a competent handler, with little in the way of body lean through the corners.

The eight-speed automatic transmission in the Q7 provides smooth and quick shifts between gears. The unit is tuned with fuel economy in mind, so it can sometimes require a deeper stab of the gas to initiate a kick-down. Dynamic mode eliminates that problem by holding gears longer and increasing the transmission's willingness to down shift. When in Dynamic mode, the Q7 puts the 'sport' in sport utility vehicle.

Although capable of being pushed, the Q7 is happiest cruising the open road where its well—tuned suspension can soak up all but the harshest of road imperfections. Both road and wind noise are kept at bay, netting a serene cabin even at highway speeds.

And to make things even more peaceful at high-speeds, the Q7 can be equipped with a full suite of autonomous driving tech, including adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. The adaptive cruise control in the Q7 works as advertised, without some of the sudden braking and acceleration you can get from other systems on the market. Audi's lane keep assist technology is impressive in its ability to navigate corners, but it can "bounce” from lane line to lane line. Still, both systems work impressively well in the Q7.

The Q7 is rated at 19mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, but we found the former to be a little optimistic; around town we averaged closer to the mid-teens.

Leftlane's bottom lineThe 2017 Audi Q7 was certainly a long time in the making, but it was worth the wait.

More than just a prettier face, the 2017 Q7 boasts better driving dynamics and a big jump in technology compared to its predecessor. We'd still like to see a simplified infotainment interface and a more spacious third-row, but the 2017 Q7 remains one of the top options in the full-size luxury SUV market.

2017 Audi Q7 3.0T quattro tiptronic base price, $54,800. As tested, $68,925.Graphite gray metallic, $575; Premium Plus package, $4,000; Driver assistance package, $2,400; Vision package, $2,000; Warn weather package, $1,600; Bose 3D surround sound, $1,100; 20-inch bi-color wheels, $1,000; Cold weather package, $500; Destination, $950.

Photos by Drew Johnson.

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