The 2020 Audi Q7 Is A Serene Cloud On Wheels, Just Don't Make It Tackle Twisty Roads

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As far as mild refreshes go, the 2020 Audi Q7 is indeed mildly refreshed. From the outside, I wasn’t able to tell the difference between it and the previous version until someone from Audi put two photos side by side for me. No, all the changes are within for this one, which is perfectly fine. That’s where you spend most of your time anyway.

The big updates, as my colleague Liz Blackstock (RIP) once pointed out, have to do with the infotainment and climate screens and a new engine. I was particularly interested to try out the dual-screens, see if Audi’s fancy MMI system would absolve me of my hatred of touchscreens in cars.

Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik
Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

(Full disclosure: Audi flew me out to and put me up in Palm Springs, California, so I could drive the 2020 Q7 and S4. It paid for all my meals and alcohol.)

And I needed to see what it was like to drive, obviously.

What Is It?

The Q7 is a three-row, seven-passenger SUV. According to Audi’s own numbers, it’s the German automaker’s second best-selling SUV and second best-selling car overall, behind the Q5. Last year, Audi sold 34,649 Q7s, which is more than the 22,225 GLS models Mercedes-Benz sold.

Eagle-eyed Audi spotters will notice the front grille has been updated to feature vertical lines rather than horizontal ones and a new headlight design. The car’s overall aesthetic does not belie something petite or thin. Panels are wide and lines are thick. This is a big car and you’d best not forget it.

2019 vs. 2020.
2019 vs. 2020.
Photo: Audi, Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

Inside, you’ll immediately notice the absence of that stupid, glued-on-looking screen so many cars have recently incorporated. Instead, there are now two stacked touchscreens fully integrated in the center console, à la the Audi Q8. The 10.1-inch upper display is for things like navigation functions and controlling the infotainment. The 8.6-inch lower display is for comfort and convenience functions, as well as climate control.

Thankfully, there’s still a rotary dial, too. It’s on the passenger side of the console, implying that the passenger is welcome to use it.

Specs That Matter

From a 3.0-liter, turbocharged V6 comes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. There’s also a turbocharged, 2.0-liter option that puts out 248 HP and 273 lb-ft of torque, but on this trip I only drove the V6. Both are hooked up to an eight-speed automatic. When equipped with the optional towing package, the V6 has a maximum towing capacity of a claimed 7,700 pounds and the 2.0-liter has a claimed maximum towing capacity of 4,400 pounds.

The 2020 Q7 also comes with optional air suspension and four-wheel steering, which should help you navigate the big body in tight spaces.

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi

The middle row is set up as a bench seat and three adults won’t have much trouble fitting comfortably. There’s ample shoulder, leg, and headroom.

But! If you want to treat your middle row passengers to luxuries such as space to stretch legs, don’t expect the same thing for your third-row passengers. I squeezed back there when the middle row was pushed back and even I thought it was cramped. If you’re at all taller than me (five feet and three inches), then you’ll likely find your knees up to your ears and your neck bent so your head fits.

When you’re back there, you can’t exactly fold down the second row easily to get out. I tried and ultimately needed help from my driving partner. And even when the second row is folded down, you still have to climb over it because it doesn’t slide out of your way.

The third row is there to use in a pinch, but I wouldn’t want anyone there for a long ride.

What’s Great

No matter the speed, the Q7 is eerily quiet on the inside. You get barely a whisper of wind noise, tire sound, or engine note. And, with the optional air suspension, you might as well be gliding along serenely in a cloud. Nobody inside has to raise their voice to be heard because, well, there’s nothing to talk over.

Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik
Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

In fact, it seems that languid ride quality is the priority here. Most everything else in the car is set up not to disturb that. The V6 accelerates decently, but isn’t anything that will rudely throw you back in your seat. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly and nearly without notice.

The MMI system, in the couple of hours I spent with it, proved to be quite nice! Of course, I still would prefer my usual army of buttons and switches, but if I must have a touchscreen, this system isn’t bad. I still needed to look down to use it, but because there’s haptic feedback, I knew that something was happening while I jabbed at the screen, instead of just applying pressure and hoping for the best.

The navigation system also uses Google Maps. This is by no means new to the Q7, but it’s a good feature I’m glad to see made it with the mid-cycle refresh. Most people are used to Google’s user interface, so using it in a car should require little-to-no extra learning. That, in addition to the high-resolution of the screens, made the whole thing very easy to use.

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi

What’s Weak

Big, sweeping highways and lower-speed suburban roads are where the Q7 shines. But once you make the roads narrow, twisty, and quick, all the confidence from that pillowy ride evaporates.

Even though sport mode adds some weight to the steering, it doesn’t give you feedback. The suspension is really built for cruising, not spirited back road romps. You don’t really know what the front of the car is doing and you feel it lean in the corners; as a result, I wasn’t quite comfortable keeping with the speed limit on the curvy mountain roads outside of Palm Springs. I stayed under, and I was perfectly alright with that.

Sporty driving does not feel like the Q7’s favorite activity in the world. It has a lot of mass to move around and there’s quite a bit of delay when you want it to get moving. Lag from the turbo spooling up, a bit of a lag from the transmission figuring out what you want it to do and clicking down a few gears. Those, paired with the non-communicative steering, do not a spirited car make.

But that’s OK, because that’s not what anyone buys the Q7 for.

Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik
Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

Early Verdict

By itself and as a package, it’s hard to argue against the Q7. Critics have dinged it for its anonymous styling, but I don’t mind it. It’s an unremarkably handsome vehicle that likely falls right smack in the middle of the polarizing designs spectrum. It won’t alienate the majority of potential buyers because it’s meant to sell in droves, after all.

All the stuff you’d touch on the interior—quilted seat leathers, buttons, steering wheel—are indeed quality to your fingertips. But then you look at stuff like the door panel insets, with the straight-line designs and pebbled, black plastic. Doors in a Mercedes-Benz product often incorporate different trims, textures, colors, and organic shapes. The Audi doesn’t really have that. If that doesn’t bother you, then it doesn’t bother you. But if I’m going to shell out for a luxury product, I like seeing thoughtful and original touches everywhere I look.

From the outside, the Q7 is very nearly the same car as before. The dual-screen MMI system is a very nice update, however, and for some buyers, that’s the feature that will push them over the edge.

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi
Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik
Photo: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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Yeesh the front grille is a mess, you can really see it in the last photo. The vertical lines are bending multiple places, the sensors are just kinda smacked in the middle interrupting the horizontal lines - to do it right, arrange the horizontal lines so that it appears the sensors are in between them, not on them, unless you’re really emphasizing that the sensors are there and making them a design element, which they aren’t since they’re making them black in a black area. It’s just a mess and it’s the focal point in the front area of the car.

I know I’m not the target market for this, given that I’m both not rich and not going to buy an SUV, but Audi used to be good at this kind of thing.