In fidelity we trust

Exotic fling sends Bulmer rushing for Q7ís embrace

GED BULMER

THE GRASS is always greener, or so the saying goes, and I was recently tempted to swap the keys of the Audi Q7 for a few days at the wheel of a bright-shiny new bauble from another renowned European brand.

It represented the car maker in questionís first foray into the automotive honeypot that is SUVs and, with the brandís reputation forged in sports cars and performance saloons, my expectations were high.

However, after a week of enduring the leaden lumpís heavy steering, vast turning circle and lethargic diesel performance Ė all at a fully-optioned price tag that would have enabled me to park an S3 Sportback alongside the Q7 for similar money Ė I practically hugged the big Audi when the time came to reunite.

The incident reminded me that, a few months earlier, Iíd run into a mate whoíd purchased a Q7 and was eager to tell me how happy he was with his decision. I was steering a Volvo XC90 diesel at the time, which said-friend had run the rule over during his due-diligence, but had chosen the Audi on the basis of its superior refinement.

I considered the XC90 a decently refined proposition, and thought him a bit harsh on what is arguably the Swedish marqueís most impressive product. But, having now spent decent wheel time in both seven-seaters, I have to concede he was spot-on.

Itís not so much that the XC90 is lacking in refinement; more that Audi has taken the whole noise-vibration-harshness business to another level, practically banishing unwanted diesel drone from the Q7ís cabin.

No doubt thereís plenty of noisesupressing cladding beneath the Q7ís handsome alloy skin, but at the heart of the matter is Audiís remarkably responsive and free spinning turbo-diesel V6.

Hitched to a seamless eight-speed auto, this drivetrain combination ensures the Audi SUV is not just a refined and supremely relaxed tourer, but also an impressively engaging drive, with brisk off-the-mark acceleration and crisp throttle response.

Of course the Q7 isnít exactly petite, so itís understandable that it might seem an easy target for a spottyfaced P-plater in a rorty hatch seeking to make his mark at the lights.

But drop the hammer and the usually relaxed V6 springs to life, pouring on its 200kW and 600Nm in a relentless wave that surprises and delights as it propels the 2135kg wagon to a hot-hatch bettering 6.5 second 0-100km/h sprint.

Of course, all of this good drivetrain work might have been brought undone, had Audiís chassis engineers bundied off and gone for an early bratwurst and pils.

Fortunately, theyíve also aimed up, with the result that the Q7 also tackles corners with a sure-footed fluidity that makes it a pleasure to drive.

All of which explains why the Q7 and I have renewed our vows, and Iíve promised never to stray again.

King missile

While Iím yet to ask a question that the Q7ís 200kW and 600Nm canít answer, the even quicker SQ7 is Audiís retort in the event it ever comes up short of shove. This slightly bonkers proposition packs a 4.0-litre bi-turbo diesel V8 with an electric compressor that primes the smaller of two sequential snails when exhaust pressure is low, to eliminate lag. The staggering 320kW/900Nm outputs deliver a Porsche Boxster-rivalling 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint Ė from something big enough to have its own postcode.

AUDI Q7

Date acquired: January 2017 Price as tested: $125,545 This month: 1347km @ 11.7L/100km Overall: 3597km @ 10.0L/100km m WEEK 12 34 44 3 0 0 7 2 6 5 3 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY