Maintaining family connections

Road trip reveals a crack in the information superhighway

GED BULMER

AN EERIE silence enveloped the cabin. To my left, in the passenger seat, the wife dozed peacefully behind dark shades. Through the windscreen, the dotted lines of the Hume Highway were hauled in and spat back out in the Q7’s imperious wake. The faint growl of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and the muted whoosh of 20-inch tyres on pavement provided a gently cosseting background track.

But something seemed wrong.

Honed parental instincts told me that kids this quiet generally means one of two things: trouble, or an exhaust gas leak has rendered the little mites unconscious.

Adjusting the rear-view mirror I glanced back to see which it was, only to be confronted by the sight of the two wide-eyed angels, bedecked in headphones and utterly engrossed in the wonders of the inter-web, courtesy of Audi connect, which uses an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot to enable internet connection to the rear-seat smart tablets while on the road.

Satisfied that my parental paranoia was unjustified, I settled back to enjoy the rhythm of the road, adjusting the temperature on the individual climate control a few degrees lower on the wife’s side, just to annoy her. I could snap-freeze or bake the kids from here as well, with fourzone climate control at my fingertips. Hmm, Doctor Evil drives an Audi.

With cruise set to a conservative 115km/h I admired the Q7’s ability to doggedly hold its set speed with unerring accuracy. The big Audi deftly applies throttle and brake depending on the terrain, its eight-speed shuffling seamlessly up and down the ratios without any of the uncouth kick-down or rev flaring that accompanies such moves in lesser machines.

Somewhere south of Goulburn my reverie and the trip’s relative tranquility was shattered by an indignant outcry from the back seat. The long faces and frantic stabbing at the Q7’s seat-mounted screens confirmed the terrible news: we’d lost the internet connection!

Yes, sadly, even in this day and age, Australian children are being forced to take 10-hour road trips without the guarantee of uninterrupted internet connectivity between Melbourne and Sydney.

Shame, Australia, shame.

It was former PM Bob Hawke who famously declared back in 1987 that “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.” He was wrong, but that shouldn’t stop Our Malcolm from setting his government a similarly grandiose goal of making sure every family road trip is somehow connected to the NBN. After all, watching Australia’s beautiful and ever-changing landscape through panoramic SUV windows is soooo last century.

Good to stow

Press the key fob or wave your foot beneath the Q7’s rear bumper and the electric tailgate glides upwards to reveal 295 litres of storage, with all three rows in place. At the press of a button the third-row folds neatly into the floor to proffer a generous 770-litre space that holds everything we need for a couple of weeks away.

A removable cargo net can be affixed to the floor and headlining just behind the second row to provide comfort that your luggage won’t be joining you in the front seat under hard braking.

AUDI Q7

Date acquired: January 2017 Price as tested: $125,545 This month: 1448km @ 8.9L/100km Overall: 2250km @ 9.0L/100km km WEEK 8 34 44 3 0 0 5 9 1 8 3 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY