You know the feeling of being tied to a rubber band? As kids we took our favourite Natraj pencil and wound the colour band around the sharp end while we aimed paper projectiles at unsuspecting neighbours. It worked all right, but sometimes when you missed the plot, the band would snap back and would leave your fingers with a burning sensation. Now imagine that same feeling in the world of cars and the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI fits into that situation perfectly.
It wasn’t as if the power wasn’t adequate; it was, except that after a while you felt like it could have done with a bit more. A bit like adding whipped cream to your favourite caffeine! So, once Bharat Stage IV norms came into place, Audi India took its shopping trolley to Ingolstadt and came back with this — the Audi Q7 4.2 TDI. In essence, this engine is to the Q7 what the 3.0 TDI is to the A4. But it takes brutality to a new level in the luxury SUV realm. Consider this: the Toyota Landcruiser LC200 and the Range Rover Sport, both powered by V8 diesels, produce around 270-280 bhp and 65 plus kgm of torque. Both get to 100 kph in around 10 seconds and can just about crack 200 kph. The Q7, on the other hand, with its 70 additional bhp, nearly 78 kgm of peak torque and weight savings of 200 to 250 kg over the Range Rover and Toyota ,cracked the 100 kph mark in just 6.7 seconds, and even went on to its electronically governed top speed of 240 kph. Thanks to piezo injectors and the engine weighing in at 257 kg, the Q7’s variable geometry turbos can spin up fast enough to get you from here to infinity in a flutter of a Spine-tail Swift’s wing. For a seven-seat SUV that will be used for school runs for some elite kids, this is a very fast school bus, I dare say!
The brutal nature is further enhanced by the fact that the gearbox is working overtime to play its bit in controlling all that torque. Unlike the 3.0 TDI’s rubber band effect, there is a seamless shifting of gears involved with this new machine. In Sport mode too there are moments where you feel pinned to the headrests as the gearbox goes click-clack-click through the gears.
Somehow, the steering too has improved marginally, feeling better weighted and getting progressively feel-y as the speeds start to rise into triple digits. It still feels woolly and slightly dead at lower speeds, but is better than the one on the 3.0 TDI, probably on account of the larger mass resting on the front wheels. The bulk, however, doesn’t steer clear from the Q7’s backside. What the 4.2 TDI does is bring it out of focus, somewhat, and put the focus firmly on the driver. With instant power available at even quarter throttle input, the Q7 becomes a devastating tool in the hands of an average driver. Use the power to clear out of corners and you can even have the tail step out a bit if you switch off all electronic aids. In addition, it also hides its bulk rather well, which is evident when you go around corners. It isn’t a BMW X5 or RR Sport, but mind you, for something measuring 5.1 metres it surely gets it pretty right even in normal mode.
Dial the suspension into sport and it only gets better, albeit with a bit more steering effort involved. Then you are pretty much governed by the natural behaviour of Quattro and some understeer does set in.
Alas, all of this still means that if you opt for the optional 19-inch wheels, the ride continues to stay that wee bit harsh. It’s a very hard choice, especially when you are at the showroom and find those standard 18-inchers puny and rather dull, when those 19-inchers look and feel inviting, but trust me, sticking to the standard fare is still in your best interests — especially given our roads. Over ruts and minor undulations, the Q7 transmits more noise and some of the surface curvature to the occupants and feels right only when the bumps become larger. Don’t think for a moment that this is a true off-roader though — you don’t get lockable diffs or any of those hill ascent/descent stuff like in the Rangie or the ‘cruiser. You do get adaptive suspension as standard, though they are most likely to be used to cross kerbs or large potholes. What the Q7 does, and does very well, is pose. And impose. Cabbies don’t want to mess with you, while lesser mortals feel, well even lesser when it turns up next to them. And now, the Q7 also holds the title of “look at me, you buffoon”. I tried counting the number of LEDs that the car sports but at last count, I was still counting. Turn indicators, daytime running lamps, brake lamps — they all have gone on a diode spree. That’s why we found an excuse to shoot it at night.
So how much sense does the 4.2 TDI make in today’s world? For 90 per cent of the time, the 3.0 TDI will suit your requirements just fine and will still look the part. But for that 10 per cent when the chauffeur turns up sick or you don’t want to see him for at least one day of the week, then the 4.2 TDI turns into a sickle yielding tool that others wouldn’t want to confront. At an introductory price tag of Rs 58.68 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai, just Rs 5 lakh more than the 3.0 TDI, it makes a water-tight case for itself. As for rubber bands, they are best left for the additional wads of notes you will require to fuel up!