Audi’s technical development boss, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, describes the new-generation Q7 SUV as representing a statement of the company’s competence as he lists succinctly the salient points of its design assets: “Diversified drivetrain technologies, intelligent multimaterial lightweight construction—'We have achieved a weight reduction (compared to the outgoing Q7) of up to 325 kg (717 lb),' path-finding efficiency, intuitive connectivity, and comprehensive MMI and electronics features."
There is more to come, said Hackenberg: “In our strategy to electrify our entire product portfolio, we will introduce the highly efficient Q7 e-tron quattro later this year, with plug-in electric drive giving an electric range of more than 50 km (31 mi). It will be the first [plug-in hybrid] worldwide with permanent all-wheel drive powered by a six-cylinder 3.0-L diesel engine.”
The e-tron Q7 will have a CO2 equivalent figure of 50 g/km.
Other significant Q7 technologies singled out by Hackenberg include matrix-LED headlights, advanced infotainment systems, “natural voice” recognition capability, Audi tablet with Google Android operating system, smartphone integration, and 3D sound system. It uses Audi’s modular longitudinal platform (MLB), the matrix solution for cars with north-south mounted engines. The Q7 has all-wheel steering.
The Q7 technology onslaught is a sign of more to come, Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler pledged: “We will invest €24 billion—nearly $30 billion—over the next five years. The lion’s share of that money will flow into the exciting project of series release for piloted driving; outstanding features like new standards in the connected car; an ambitious roadmap to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, and the further rollout of our new large-model initiative.”
Audi’s weight reduction embraces a raft of areas, from the electrical system to the luggage compartment floor.
In 3.0-L 200-kW (268-hp) turbodiesel form, the Q7 now has a curb weight of 1995 kg (4398 lb), which contributes to a fuel consumption, compared to the previous generation Q7, improved by up to 23%. The 325 kg saved is the approximate equivalent of a grand piano, says Audi; an unusual comparison that seems somewhat out of tune with automotive engineering.
As usual for any weight cutting campaign, the entire Q7 design was analyzed. The body sees 71 kg (157 lb) saved via the use of aluminum and hot-shaped ultra-high-strength steel for the occupant cell. Aluminum castings, extruded sections, and panels are used for the car’s front and rear end as well as its superstructure. Doors are aluminum, saving 24 kg (53 lb), as are the front fenders, hood, and rear hatch.
Three torsion rings are used to reinforce the Q7’s front end, the area around the C-pillars, and the rear hatch cutout to improve static and dynamic body stiffness.
Also helping weight saving are slightly reduced dimensions compared to the previous model, with a length 15 mm (0.6 in) shorter at 5.05 m (16.6 ft), 15 mm less width at 1.99 m (6.5 ft), and a wheelbase shortened by 10 mm (0.4 in) to 2.99 m (9.8 ft). Despite these changes, the cabin is slightly longer and headroom is improved by up to 41 mm (1.6 in).
Improved aerodynamics complement reduced weight, with the Q7 achieving a very good SUV Cd of 0.32. The underbody is enclosed and at least one version of the Q7 gets active (via an energy controller) louvers between the front grille and the top of the water radiator.
Seating configuration includes an optional third row of two individual, certified Group 3 child seats. Interior comfort points include a newly developed two-zone (optional four-zone) air conditioning system using fewer buttons and controls. The front passenger area of the instrument panel incorporates a continuous air vent strip described by Audi as being “draft free.”
Detailing the new car, Hackenberg stressed the significance of its latest generation MMI operating concept to control what is termed “the multitude of convenient and innovative functions” in the Q7.
Displays appear in the central MMI panel, which, when started, rises from the instrument panel into the driver’s sight. It has a “full touch” surface, with each touch accompanied by an acoustic and haptic response. A large touchpad is also fitted.
A significant advance is a voice-control system that understands everyday sentence construction rather than definitive “orders,” with hundreds of command variations possible for each function.
Like the Audi TT sports car, the Q7 is available with a virtual cockpit incorporating a 12.3-in instrument panel display (see http://articles.sae.org/13091/) that gives the driver the ability to switch from virtual analog instruments to navigation or custom information.
The system uses a modular information platform (designated MIB) in its second generation, which includes a quad-core T30 processor supplied by Audi partner Nvidia.
Sound systems include Bose with 3D sound and Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System, also with 3D, speakers in the A-pillars providing the added aural dimension of height. The Bang & Olufsen system drives 23 speakers including subwoofers, with 1920 W of amplifier power.
Rear-seat passenger entertainment includes Audi tablets with 10.1-in screens as rear seat monitors, each using a Nvidia T4 processor and meeting crash safety requirements. The Audi tablet is connected to the MMI Navigation-plus system via Wi-Fi, also providing radio and media access. MMI Navigation-plus features an Audi Connect module that connects to the Internet via the LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard. Passengers can surf via the Wi-Fi hotspot with download speeds up to 100 Mbit/s and send and receive emails using “a variety of applications.”
The Q7 comes with a comprehensive network of electronic safety systems including cross-traffic assist to warn of approaching vehicles when reversing slowly. The car offers an exit warning system to alert occupants to a motor vehicle or cyclist approaching from the rear.
Other safety/convenience aids include a “trailer assistant” that allows a driver to reverse a trailer accurately and easily using the MMI rotary control to steer. The system also stabilizes a trailer being reversed in a straight line.
“Predictive efficiency assistant” uses the route data from the navigation system to alert the driver to approaching curves or urban speed limits that are beyond visual range. Linked to ACC (adaptive cruise control) and traffic-sign recognition, the system adapts the vehicle’s speed to the route and the about-to-change situation, thus saving fuel to improve efficiency while enhancing safety. It can also apply a predictive element to operate freewheeling of the car’s eight-speed transmission. Potential fuel saving could be as high as 10%.
An aid to economy is what Audi describes as a “new vaporization system” that enables car propulsion with the engine at “extremely slow speeds”—less than 1000 rpm.
“Turning assistant” monitors opposing traffic at junctions when turning left, (or right depending on country) at low speeds, and can apply the brakes when necessary.
All this electronic kit tends to overshadow the Q7’s mechanical fundamentals, which include an initial choice of a 3.0-L TFSI (gasoline) unit with 245 kW (329 hp) in addition to the turbodiesel. The e-tron version will be on sale later this year.
Q7 suspension details include a five-link system front and rear instead of double wishbones, and there is a choice of air (including a sport version) or steel springs.
The all-wheel steering system incorporates an electric spindle drive; at low speeds, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front to aid parking and reduce the turning circle by about a meter; at higher speeds, the rears move in the same direction as the fronts.