Queued Up For 7 Audi goes high-tech, boosts power in recently unveiled 2017 edition of full-sized SUV

Audi this winter unveiled the 2017 Q7 full-sized SUV, which is restyled and upgraded.

If Audi appeared in a hurry to roll out its newly remade Q7 full-sized SUV, note that the 2017 editions began unloading at dealerships just a few days after the end of ’15.

The reason for the early launch has more to do with production timing than trying to race out a new model.

But it’s safe to say Audi is excited about the overhauled crossover, which seats seven, uploads Google Earth and shows off a space age heads-up display that would seemingly thrill even Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Major new technology, completely redesigned,” said Michael Harrison, Audi brand specialist at McDaniels Audi of Charleston west of the Ashley. The vehicle lost close to 500 pounds with a switch to additional lighter-weight aluminum and stands an inch shorter but is wider than before.

Standard features are the quattro all-wheel-drive system, 19-inch rims and keyless entry with a start-stop button. Options include air suspension to raise or lower the frame slightly and four-wheel steering — in which wheels work in tandem or separately, depending on the car’s speed, for a smoother ride. Another perk: the 16-foot-7.6-inch long Q7 produces a tight four-foot turning radius, Harrison said.

The Q7 employs a 3.6-liter engine churning out 333 horsepower. Matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the vehicle can zip from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.

“It’s quicker 0-60 than the Lamborghini Countash,” Harrison said.

The restyled Audi SUV gets 25 mpg on the highway, 19 mpg city and a combined 21 mpg.

The carmaker offers three models: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Starting price runs around $51,000. A well-equipped Q7 at the dealership with Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, leather interior and navigation-communications system topped out at $75,810.

Harrison said potential buyers “obviously (include) people who need the space” — notably, parents with kids. But there are variations on the nuclear family theme.

“I delivered one to a couple from Yonges Island. They claim 11 grandchildren,” he said. The dealership had sold “six or seven (Q7s) already” as of the end of last month, Harrison said.

Other notable Q7 features include:

• Center console screen that rises when the car starts and folds into the dashboard when shut off.

• Rear and optional front view cameras.

• Heated front seats available in Valcona leather.

• Third-row seating that can be put in place at the push of button in the cargo bay. The seats can be folded flat electronically, too, for more storage area.

• Second-row seats that can be propped up and moved back or forward to access the third row manually with less effort than in past editions. The two rows also can be configured so that there’s a large open space in the middle.

• A rear hatch that opens by pushing a button at the driver’s dash, on the latch itself or waving a foot under the vehicle’s rear bumper.

• Google Earth map capability, which allows the driver to see real life objects on the routes. The motorist can toggle the image from the center console viewing screen to the “virtual cockpit,” a 12-inch monitor straight in front of the steering wheel.

• Heads-up information screen, seemingly floating above the front of the hood, that provides mph figures and speed limits.

• City assist, a governing system that slows down the car in heavy traffic. Sensors react when pedestrians come in view, such as stepping out into the street suddenly. “Instead of surviving an accident, you prevent one,” Harrison said.

• Audi’s roadside assistance program, which is “good for 10 years. As always, Audi is all about safety,” Harrison said.

• Thirty (yes, 30) ambient lighting colors, which can be switched out to show off the interior or dashboard hues. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) account for the “mood lighting.”

• Panoramic roof, with two panels of glass, that provides views above the front and second rows.

• Optional rear seat entertainment system, which showcases video screens behind the second-row seating.

• Maximum towing capacity of 7,700 pounds, one of the best for luxury SUVs.

“It’s a big car but doesn’t drive (like one),” Harrison said.

Based on a fairly lengthy drive in the new Q7, Audi showed that the carmaker finds ways to makeover, tweak or upgrade models to improve the ride quality rather than just for change’s sake.

Redundant center console and steering wheel controllers — whether buttons, knobs, switches or toggles — make operating the audio functions of the Bang & Olufsen sound system, controlling map routes or adjusting dual climate control vents and fan quite easy. The motorist can call up apps or have text messages read by voice command.

Easy-to-find and quick-access vehicle performance settings on the communication-navigation screen provide the driver with dynamic, comfort, individual, off-road and automatic choices. The vehicle accelerates deftly in dynamic mode, similar to sports mode in some cars.

The gear shift includes a wrinkle, with a button for Park and a shift throw to switch to reverse, drive or neutral. Even though an SUV, the Q7 can be very fast. Don’t worry, the brakes are outstanding.

In loading the seven-seater with safety appliances, Audi proved effective but may have gone a little overboard in at least one case. Lane assist, while a helpful feature, can feel overpowering — as if it were trying to wrest control of the steering at some points.

Yet the old saying about better safe than sorry holds up. And Audi with its Q7 improvements brings out a lot of other positive fill-in-the-blanks. Try out “better fun than sorry, better comfortable than sorry, better tech-savvy than sorry ...”

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.