Forgive the tedious title of this post but it’s the New Year and I’ve not quite yet found my mojo when it comes to thinking of suitable blog posts (or writing them come to think of it). For those interested my own Christmas and New Year was a mostly quiet one, filled with mince pies, mulled wine and of course work…us who work in retail get approximately one day off over the seasonal period and believe it or not I was back at work come 6am Boxing Day! I’m praying that 2015 brings me the strength and luck to find a new job, as well as seeing me through my upcoming Brighton Marathon (which I realised the other day is a mere 3 months away!) and come the end of 2015 I should be embarking on my very first trans-Atlantic trip to New York City – a holiday I’ve been excited for since it was first mooted way back in 2004!
Anyway enough of my schmaltzy aims and goals for 2015 and lets focus on something car related eh? Those of you who are sharp eyed may have spotted the Audi references in my cheesy blog title, or indeed may have paid attention to the massive picture of the new Q7 which adorns the top of this post on my main page! Regardless this post is going to expand on my previous post ‘Detroit Debutantes’ and the upcoming launch of the 2015 Audi Q7, a car which has met considerable controversy in the month or so since pictures first leaked online; as the Detroit show has not yet happened maybe it’s a little unfair to base my thoughts on the limited press-shots which have been released, but I suspect that if my feelings toward the new Q7 do change then it will be from seeing the car in the metal on the roads over the upcoming months as opposed to being shoved on a stand surrounded by models and flashing lights.
In my last Detroit post I spoke a little about the history of Audi’s Q7, but without retreading over old ground I want to highlight a little more about Audi’s off-roading history and how this has been brought back to a degree with the refreshed Q7. Now anyone who is remotely interested in cars has a little knowledge about the Audi Quattro – a slice of 1980’s history whose iconic boxy lines and success in rallying guaranteed it a place in the history books and many enthusiasts dream garages. Apart from anything the Quattro was one of the first Audis which really made people sit up and notice the brand, especially in the UK where it was primarily known for touting tarted-up Volkswagens (something some people would argue is still true today admittedly), and although there isn’t a true modern-counterpart for the hallowed coupe it’s influence lives on not least in the branding of Audi’s ‘Quattro’ four-wheel drive system which still features as standard/an option on virtually all of it’s production vehicles.
When Audi launched the first generation Q7 back in 2005 they stated that they had finally ‘made a car for Quattro’, being that the Q7 was their first proper SUV and yet still in-keeping with their brand ethos, yet arguably their first off-road vehicle (rallying Quattros aside) was the Audi allroad (styled in lowercase) of 1999 based on the ‘C5’ generation A6 executive car. Although the Avant (read estate) version of the A6 had always been available with Quattro, the allroad went further and added a raised ride height and chunkier bodykit, plus air suspension and optional low range mode for proper mud-plugging…well relative to standard A6 Avants anyway. Although not a massive seller by any means the allroad found a solid market amongst those who felt a traditional off-roader too crass and bulky and wanted a sophisticated driving experience and car-like interior – arguably the original BMW had that market cornered a mere 18 months after the allroad launched but the Audi always had a classier image and in fact even Prince Charles owns one, how’s that for a royal seal of approval!
Although Audi have launched 2 subsequent generations of allroad (and a A4-based junior model too), it has been the ‘Q’ range which have really stolen the headlines in the last decade and despite often being derided as WAG-mobiles which are often too large for UK parking spaces they have continued to sell extremely well and many times more than any iteration of allroad ever has. The popularity of these bulkier machines means that it has puzzled many people as to why Audi have launched their new Q7 (arguably the flagship of Audi’s range for many buyers who see the A8 as invisible) with sheet-metal and dimensions that look so much like a traditional estate car, very much in the spirit of the allroad range albeit with everything pumped up by the nth degree. Admittedly these same arguments were made about the original Q7 when it was launched, but the tall sides and high ride height meant that at it’s heart it always looked like a brute of a machine which could perform adequately off road.
What I don’t think has helped this new Q7 (apart from the bias of most car journalists and enthusiasts alike against Audi products, SUV’s and specifically the current Q7) has been the sporty-trim which the press pictures showcase; 21/22″ wheels are all well and good but when these massive wheels are combined with air-suspension being in it’s lowest setting (or at least it looks like access setting) it makes the vehicle look a lot less trucky and indeed a good deal smaller than it probably is. The stunning ‘Nogaro Blue’ paintwork also has the effect of making the car look more estate-like than Audi may like; the vast majority of Q7’s are specified in Black/White/Grey/Silver and in standard S-Line trim with blacked out windows I suspect it will look a lot more bulky than this RS4-on-steroids look that they’re currently showing off. Now this will probably enrage anyone who sees the current Q7 as a Yank-tank monstrosity which has no place on our roads (and in fact the reaction from these commenters has been fairly neutral to the press pictures), but they are by no means the target market of the car and aren’t likely to have £50k to shell out on a vehicle they will never like anyway.
Although I am by no means yet a fan of the new Q my initial reaction is softening somewhat and I think I need to reserve full judgement until I see several examples in the metal. In many ways this is what I went through with the new BMW X5 (and to a lesser extent the current Mercedes ML), where I initially detested the redesign and loss of chunkier styling but have since come to appreciate the more modern detailing in the face of their ageing predacessors; this is something I have experienced before (certainly with the X5) and may mean that when it comes time for me to buy a new car I will be lustfully looking across to newer metal with their stunning interiors, efficient engines and more modern looks.