Back in the day, cars were specifically built to do one job and one job only.
For example, if you wanted to get across the desert as fast as possible, you'd buy a Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol. Carry the team to football practice? Toyota minivan. Go fast? Ferrari or Lamborghini. Arrive in style? You'd buy a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley. More recently, if you're a tree-hugger and want to save the world, you'd buy a Chevy Volt, which emits butterflies from its tailpipe.
These days everything has changed, and if you're after a mix of all of the above you will find yourself in the SUV market.
Upmarket SUVs have become the all-singing, all-dancing blend of car. A new SUV today will bring you style, speed, safety and even some decent off-road ability. The question is: do we really need such cars on our roads? In the land of sand where bigger is better, the answer is undoubtedly yes.
Recently, my wife and I were at the wheel of the 2011 Audi Q7, wondering how it would fit into our Dubai life and if it would be the SUV of choice.
The new Q7 has no major visual changes from the previous iteration, except for the beautiful LED headlights and turn signals and some chrome highlights.
The big changes come under the bonnet, where Audi is offering a 3.0L TFSI supercharged V6 (with start-stop technology) lifted from the Audi S4. The smaller and greener replacement for the 4.2L V8 produces 333hp and 440Nm of torque, which, to my surprise, effortlessly pulls the five-metre-long Q7 away from the traffic lights. The 3.0L is brisk enough, although once past 70kph you do notice the Q7's acceleration becomes a little less rapid. Unless you are pulling a horse float to a polo match, the 3.0L does the job, though. I love performance but I can't see why you would need more power for day-to-day family driving.
While Audi has removed two cylinders, it has retained performance by adding two extra gears in an eight-speed gearbox with sports mode. The new, lighter gearbox is a fantastic bit of kit - silky smooth when grabbing another cog and never found wanting when hunting for the right ratio. You can play with the sports mode, yet I found this pointless as the automatic was doing a flawless job.
Pitching the Q7 into corners to test the handling left me with a confused look on my face. Everything in your head tells you a car of this size should not corner this fast and this flat with minimal body roll. I could not help wonder why the Q7 feels so much lighter and smaller than it actually is. Weighing 2.2 tonnes, it's no threat to the balance of a Lotus and it's not agile in a sports-car way, but the communication through the steering wheel and balance is great for an SUV.
Inside is typically Audi. You get everything you want, with a good array of standard equipment. The only criticism is based on the poorly placed foot-operated parking brake. Being 6ft 2in tall, I kept bashing my shin on the lever and feel this pedal brake is outdated.
So, overall, the Q7 looks good, feels good, turns well, has loads of room and is somewhat greener than before. It ticks all the boxes for the SUV buyer, but I don't see many men driving Q7s.
I feel it is well-suited to my wife and her friends enjoying their specialty weekend sport (shopping for Jimmy Choo shoes). In summary, the new Q7 is a fantastic car but it does not grab me. It feels much nicer than the VW Touareg yet, just like the VW, the Q7 lacks a certain appeal. I feel I can sum up the Q7 with the famous cliché line: "It's not you, it's me."
The Q7's smooth-bodied lines and sleek curves really romanced my eyes. I loved this car, although sitting inside, I couldn't help but feel really lonely. Maybe it was the fact that, as I looked over my shoulder at the ever-unfolding view of seats and boot space, the rear window just seemed so far, far away.
Fortunately, like most of the latest motor offerings in the medium to high-range category, this shiny truck comes with sensors everywhere. While you reverse, the neat little rear camera display provides you with the perfect lines to guide you into your parking space.
And, when it comes to the interior, a moonlit sunroof at night has the stars seeming to pour right into the cabin. This really adds to the feeling of openness in the Q7.
The interior maintains its German qualities of slick and tidy, no-fuss finishes and fittings. Elegant leather, beautiful stitching, logical audio and climate controls - functionality that is not over-complicated or overstated. Audi continues to receive my seal of approval regarding all its interior layouts.
When handling this monster motor, I found the Q7 extremely responsive. The brakes felt so much lighter than I was expecting and handling through roundabouts at a decent pace was no issue. It almost felt like a VW Golf with its responsive behaviour, which is hard to believe for such a huge vehicle.
Pros of the Q7 would be that this car is a definite choice for anyone with a large family or someone who always gets approached by friends to help move house. You can store all your children's footie kits or your best friend's chest of drawers. Either way, there's plenty of room in the boot. Cons? If you don't have kids, then you're going to scare your partner by making them think you're trying to say: "fill the empty seats!"