I don’t often look beyond the basics of a car. In fact, my aim is always to get from point A to point B as safely as possible, which is why I prefer SUVs with a bit of height and grunt – and explains the rough and ready Nissan Xterra I’ve been leasing for the past year.
It’s not the smoothest ride around and it’s pretty basic – no bells and whistles on this 2012 model! But I do get my daughter and I from point A to point B safely, which is always my goal.
So when I turned up to collect Audi’s newest Q7, I was a little surprised to discover that it had shrunk a little in height and was more similar to a sports wagon. The 2016 model is the first design change we’ve seen for the Q7 – so much so, that it’s lost more than 300kg in weight compared with its older “brothers”.
That said, the design is sleeker and far more attractive than the larger, bulbous version we are used to seeing out and about in Muscat.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, I was impressed with the clean lines of the dash and what looked to be an interesting array of technology. As the Audi representative gave me a quick rundown on where to find the essentials, he also pointed out some interesting elements: a seriously cool “virtual” cockpit and a touchpad connected to the navigation system that allows you to write down your destination in freehand.
But it was all systems go and time to hit the blacktop. The sound of the engine was nothing more than a whisper, while the ride itself was smooth – made even more noticeable after bouncing around in the Xterra for the better part of a year. Heading back to the office, I didn’t plan to do anything fancy in the Q7. Instead, I simply wanted to become familiar with the car and any of its nuances.
As a busy mum who works full-time, I thought it would be fun to put the Q7 through its paces on the school run. So I headed down to British School Muscat in MSQ and picked up my daughter and three of her friends. A raucous bunch, they normally carpool to school with one of the best mums in Muscat – the radio and a lot of singing and laughing blasting in their wake as they ply Sultan Qaboos highway.
We got off to a great start – remotely opening the boot for the girls to pile in their school bags and lunch boxes. They excitedly figured out where they were sitting – three in the back and one in the front – but we had room for another three thanks to a third row of seats. Seatbelts on and we were about to join the MSQ after-school traffic crush when one of the girls noticed that the boot was half open. Oops – a wayward lunchbox had prevented it from closing fully.
Miss Year 6 was impressed with the seating in the back, which she could individually push back for a more relaxing ride. She also made one of the coolest discoveries of the day – wave your hand over a light above the door and it turns on or off.
But it was the ability to write freehand on the touchpad that really captivated the girls. Dunkin’ Donuts, my daughter scrawled onto the touchpad. And suddenly, on the 8.3-inch display that pops up out of the dashboard, we knew where to find every Dunkin’ Donuts store in Muscat. Not that we went there. Honestly.
My favourite was the virtual cockpit, which appears on the instrument cluster in front of the driver. If you find the display on the dashboard too much of a distraction, at the press of a button, it disappears and all that information reappears on the instrument cluster, including the vehicle’s speed, radio and media information, as well as a detailed road map.
All in all, the Q7 was a great drive. Smooth and comfortable and kitted out with some great hi-tech, my only regret was that I didn’t have it long enough to try everything out.