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Featured Review: 2017 Audi Q7 And Android Auto

March 15, 2016 - Written By Alexander Maxham

If you thought Android Auto gave you the same experience in every car that it’s baked into, you’d be wrong. Audi doesn’t use a touchscreen – more on that a bit later – in their 2017 model Q7 and the same will be true when the 2017 Audi A4 makes its way to dealerships in just a few weeks with Android Auto. While Audi may not be everyone’s luxury car maker of choice, the German car maker has done a pretty impressive job with Android Auto, and we got to spend a weekend with the car to check out Android Auto as well as how well it truly drives.

The Q7 is Audi’s largest vehicle. It can pack in seven people and still have room to spare. The Q7, while technically a Sports Utility Vehicle or SUV, actually feels more like a station wagon that is pretty tall (this coming from someone that owns a hatchback from Chevrolet). The 2017 Audi Q7 has a whole lot more going for it, and new, than just Android Auto. Let’s dive into the review and see what we’ve got here.

Price

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The model that Audi loaned us came out to a whopping $68,925, all things told. The base model starts out at $54,800 and caps out at about $72,000 after all of the add-ons are factored in. With the model we were driving, we got the Premium Plus Package which comes out to $4,000. There was also the Driver Assistance Package, priced at $2,400, the Vision Package priced at $2,000, Warm Weather Package priced at $1,600, Bose 3D Surround Sound priced at $1,100, 20″ 10-spoke star design bi-color wheels at $1,000m and the Cold Weather Package coming to $500. Not quite all of the bells and whistles that are available for the Audi Q7, but most of them. Many of which we’ll touch on a bit later on in the review.

Now while our model cost $68,925, you can get Android Auto in the cheapest base-line model that starts at $54,800. You’ll just need to add in the Premium Plus Package. As that includes all of the infotainment features for the Q7 including Audi’s own MMI system, which includes the likes of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Together that comes out to just under $60,000. Definitely not a cheap car, but this is a luxurious SUV from Audi, so that’s pretty much expected.

Exterior

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The outside of the Audi Q7 was completely redesigned in 2017, after skipping the 2016 model year. Compared to the 2015 Audi Q7, the biggest design change on the outside was the new grille. Which matches up with Audi’s other vehicles. A number of other changes to the design of the Q7 happened on the inside of the car, which we’ll get to in a minute. One of the surprising choices about the 2017 Audi Q7 is the fact that it does not have a Diesel model. Although that may not really be a surprise after the emissions cheating scandal that Volkswagen is going through (VW Group owns Audi).

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On the front of the Q7, you have your LED headlights which also serve as daytime running lights. Something that’s become pretty common with cars and trucks in the past 5 to 6 years. The LED headlights are nice and bright at night. Even in the dense fog that we had over the weekend, they were still able to show me the road while I was driving. There are LED high-beams and they are just as bright, making it even easier to drive at night. Especially in a dimly lit area. Now on the front of the car, we have a couple of cameras on either side of the car. These camera’s are used for assisting the driver in parking, or pulling out of a parking space, but also used for a few other safety features as well. They are quite large cameras, but the design of them is pretty good.

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The side of the car actually stands out a bit more now, compared to the previous model. On our particular model, there is a silver trim that goes along the windows, and another thicker trim along the bottom of the two doors. Which on the rear door it has the “Quattro” logo. The lines and design of the doors actually give the Audi Q7 a bit more of a “sporty” look, than before. Instead of just looking like a typical SUV. The side mirrors have a set of lights on the inside which light up when someone is in your blind spot. This helps you from cutting people off, or not seeing people that are in your blind spot (hence why it’s called a “blindspot”). The mirrors do have their own defroster, which up here in the northern part of the States, can really come in handy, even in March.

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The Q7’s back-side hasn’t changed all that much, actually. With the biggest change being the tail pipes. Instead of a more round tail pipe on either end, we have two that are more rectangular on each side. Which sit just below the cameras and sensors used to help the driver park. The Audi Q7 does have a power tailgate back there. So you can just press the button on your key fob to open up the backdoor. Especially useful for when you’re coming to the car with your hands full of grocery bags or boxes. On the inside of the door, there is a button to automatically close the door as well as a lock button. So you can have it close itself and then lock automatically.

Overall, the outside of the Audi Q7 looks quite stunning. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the metallic gray color of the Q7 – prefer the red or blue color – it does look quite nice. While driving it, it did catch quite a few stares. Not a big surprise, considering it’s an Audi, and everyone loves the look of an Audi.

Interior

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My favorite feature of the interior? The panoramic sunroof. While the weather didn’t really cooperate much while we had the Q7, having that panoramic sunroof was definitely nice. It gives you a bit more headroom, but also looks great in the sun. The dashboard in the Audi Q7 was changed this year. Instead of having a center console, of sorts, you just have a long dashboard with a display that pops out of the dashboard for infotainment purposes. And actually, something that is new to the Audi Q7 is the rotary dial and touchpad that is used for navigating through that screen.

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There’s also a large 12.3-inch display where your instrument cluster would normally be. This is called the “Audi Virtual Cockpit” and is definitely something I want in my next car. It’s a 12.3-inch display that sports a resolution of 1440×540, and while that resolution may sound low, it was quite adequate for what you’re doing with it. So you have your normal gauges on the virtual cockpit, with the gas on the right and the car temperature on the left. On the actual display is your Tachometer and Speedometer. But in addition to that, you have a few other options to fill up the rest of that display. The first and default option is car information. So you’ll see the time, temperature, how many miles are left before you run out of gas and stuff like that. Then there’s the tab for controlling your music. This works with the radio, Sirius XM, Bluetooth-connected music and everything in between. There’s another tab that shows the contacts for your smartphone that is connected over Bluetooth, allowing you to make a call from right there using the steering wheel. And finally there’s one for maps. It uses Google Earth imagery to show you where you are, as well as gas stations, ATM’s, stores, churches, and other landmarks and such. The Google Earth view is perhaps my favorite feature for the Audi Virtual Cockpit.

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Between the two front seats, there is a compartment that has two USB ports as well as an AUX port. These two USB ports are used for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but will also charge your phone. There is a typical car charging port, 12V in the front as well. There are two more in the second row of seats. Speaking of the second row. All three of these seats can fold flat, of course you’ll need to, to get to that third row. The second row can be moved up a bit and allow people in the third row to sit rather comfortably. So the 2017 Audi Q7 can really seat 7 people pretty comfortably. Making for a great experience, especially those that are transporting a large family. All of the seats fold flat, making for a great car to take to Ikea and get some new furniture.

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In the very back, you’ll find most of the Bose equipment. Including the amplifier and other hardware. The 2017 Audi Q7 has 19 speakers from Bose, along with their 3D Sound System, Bose Advanced Staging Technology, 15-channel amplifier and 558 watts. I said this in our hands-on post, but the audio experience in the Audi Q7 is unparalleled, at least in my experience. I was able to turn up the music quite loudly without the music really getting distorted at all. It’s quite the opposite in my 2009 Chevy Aveo. The sound system was especially good on bass heavy tracks, much like Beats Audio. When Audi touts their surround sound on the Q7, they really mean it. The surround system here thanks to Bose is pretty extraordinary. Now if Bose isn’t your cup of tea, there is also an option for Bang & Olufsen which features their 3D Advanced Sound System with 23 speakers, 23-channel BeoCore amplifier ICEpower technology and 1920 watts. Plenty more power coming from the Bang & Olufsen package there.

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The interior of the Audi Q7 looked fantastic, but perhaps more importantly, it felt very spacious. Not just for sitting, but even the headroom. Audi actually added a bit more headroom in the 2017 model, even after shaving 500 pounds off of the car from the 2015 model. I’m not the tallest guy, and I’m not the skinniest guy either, but I could comfortably sit in the third row, as long as the second row is moved forward a little bit. That’s something you can’t always say about SUV’s these days.

Android Auto

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This is the real reason you’re reading this review, most likely. While I’ve been using Android Auto in my own car for about a year now, I didn’t expect the experience I got in the Audi Q7. When I first heard about the Q7 not having a touchscreen, last year, I was a bit skeptical, considering this was their launch car for Android Auto. I got some brief hands-on time with the Android Auto implementation at Google I/O last year, although I didn’t get to use it myself. Now after using it for a few days, I actually think I like their implementation better than using a touchscreen. Hear me out. While yes a touchscreen would be preferable, I found that using the rotary dial and touchpad to work very, very well. It also kept my attention on the road, something that can’t be said about every other car with Android Auto.

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Audi’s heads up display is pretty far forward, from where you’re sitting in the driver seat. Which means it would be quite difficult to scroll through a touchscreen while you’re driving. Not to mention grabbing your attention away from the road. Which is where your attention should be anyways. With the rotary dial, you can just put your hand down – since the dial is just above the gear shift – and scroll through what you want to do. Now I will say that it did take a bit of time to get used to the navigation of Android Auto with the rotary dial. While you can turn the dial to scroll through lists, you have to push it to the left for the overflow menu and to the right for voice search. Push it down to jump between maps, phone, music etc., and up to do a type search.

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Now since this isn’t a touch screen, you don’t have your typical keyboard on Android Auto. Instead you have a single line of characters that you scroll through and select, to type a word. Pretty cumbersome to say the least. However, there is another option. And that is the touchpad. It does include the ability to handwrite characters and even words. Now I don’t have the best handwriting, and even I had issues seeing what I wrote, but the car was able to decipher what I wrote pretty easily. It was actually really impressive. Now I’ve done the handwriting features on Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, and that was pretty interesting, but I think Audi did an even better job than Samsung. Of course, voice search would always be preferable for most people. Since you just need to hit the button and say what you want. Whether that is to send a message, or navigate to a place.

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In addition to the rotary dial and touchpad, Audi does also have steering wheel controls. These controls work on both the Audi Virtual Cockpit which we talked about already and the heads up display. So on the right side of the wheel, you have phone and voice commands, with buttons below that for skipping songs or going back, and a wheel for adjusting the volume in the car. The voice commands work with Audi’s MMI interface as well, however if you long-press the button it’ll work within Android Auto. So without even taking your hand off the steering wheel you can carry out a query using your voice. Everything on the left side is for navigating the Audi Virtual Cockpit.

Audi Infotainment

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Audi’s infotainment system is called “MMI”, which is short for Multi Media Interface. Nothing to fancy with that name really. Audi’s MMI actually features a ton of things. They are one of the many car makers that has partnered with AT&T for 4G LTE connectivity in the car. Which is dubbed “Audi Connect”. When you buy a car from Audi with Audi Connect, you will get a six-month trial subscription to AT&T to use their 4G LTE network in the car. Which is very easy to set up, and you can connect up to 8 devices to the car that will use the car as a WiFi hotspot instead of streaming over their mobile connection.

Included in the 2017 Q7 is the MMI Navigation Plus with voice control system. As stated in the Android Auto section, there is a voice button on the steering wheel. Press that once and you’ll be doing voice commands for the MMI system. But if you press and hold it, it’ll work within Android Auto. So with the voice control system you are able to call a contact, send a text message, navigate to a restaurant, or another address and so much more. We didn’t spend a ton of time with it, as we were mostly interested in Android Auto, but it did seem to work fairly well.

The MMI all-in touch with handwriting-recognition technology is also included. This is just a fancy phrase for the touchpad. There is the glass touchpad with has 8 buttons at the top, numbered 1 through 8. These allow you to jump from one radio station to the other. On the left and right side of the touchpad we have arrow buttons to go back and forth within the MMI system. And at the bottom, there is menu and back capacitive buttons. The trackpad actually worked really well, although it was a bit confusing navigating through their interface with the touchpad at first. But it was easy to learn.

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Audi has two options for the heads-up display. In the model we drove, we had a 7-inch TFT 800×480 resolution display. The other choice is a slightly larger 8.3-inch TFT 1024×480 resolution display. Other infotainment that’s included is your standard radio with AM and FM stations, Sirius XM satellite radio, Inrix XD Traffic, CD Player and Audi music interface which works off of the two USB ports in the center of the front of the car.

Infotainment options were aplenty in the 2017 Q7. Even if you didn’t want to plug in your smartphone to use Android Auto each time you jumped in the car, there were still plenty of options to do navigation, view traffic, play music from your smartphone and more. About what you would expect from a luxury car in 2016.

Driving the Car

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Luckily, we got to drive the car in good weather and after all the snow had melted. However, with it being fresh off of the winter season, there were plenty of potholes here in Michigan. The Audi Q7 did drive pretty smooth though, despite the terrible roads after a typical Michigan winter. We were pretty impressed with how well it drove, actually. Gas wise, however, it wasn’t a big surprise that this would be a gas guzzler. The 2017 Audi Q7 is rated at 19MPG city and 25MPG highway. According to the numbers in the Audi Virtual Cockpit, we saw around 18-23 miles per gallon during the 3 days we spent with the car. Which is right in the middle. Considering we did take it on the highway, but spent most of the time on the streets of Michigan.

The engine here on the 2017 Audi Q7 is a 3.0L TFSI 333hp/325 lb-ft V6 engine. It uses Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, and a 8-speed Tiptronic transmission. All that means is that, there’s a fairly large engine under the hood, and there’s lots of power. With it having all-wheel drive, the Q7 should do fairly well in the winter time (not to mention the fact that it sits higher up than most cars, so it would  do well in the snow).

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Audi has quite a few safety features packed into the 2017 Audi Q7. The best one, and the one that really caught my attention was the Audi Adaptive Cruise Control. This combines some autonomous driving with the cameras already on the car and their Pre Sense technology. What this does is when you are stuck in stop-and-go traffic, it allows you to sit back and relax while the car drives through the traffic itself. Audi’s Pre Sense technology uses the cameras and sensors on the front of the car to see how close you are getting to the car in front of you, and if you are getting to close, it’ll warn you with a pop up in the Virtual Cockpit. It’ll also warn you, if you continue to get to close without slowing down, by braking suddenly. This is all to keep you from hitting the car in front of you. Pre Sense also works for when you are backing out of a parking space and a car is coming by, or a pedestrian. It’ll brake suddenly so that you don’t hit the people or the car.

With newer cars, you also have cameras in the back of the car to assist with backing out of parking spaces and getting into parking spaces. On the 2017 Audi Q7, the company has taken that a step further. There is now a camera on top of the car that gives you another angle in the back to assist in parking, but it also shows you if you are lined up in the space correctly. They also use the front cameras to help you park and pull out of parking spaces too. The Q7 shows you the live feed from the heads-up display, and you can switch between the different angles as well. Audi also has warnings for you when you are too close to another car. That way you’ll know to be careful when getting in or out of the car, so you don’t hit the car next to you with the door. And when reverse parking, if you get to close to something it’ll warn you as well, as you won’t be able to open the lift-gate. While the parking assistance using the cameras were already a great feature to have, this makes it even better.

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In the Q7 we also have Audi drive select. Which offers six different modes to choose from. Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Allroad, Offroad and Individual. Driving in Dynamic really makes the car come alive, compared to driving in Auto or Comfort. While Comfort does give you a bit better fuel consumption, it’s better to drive in Dynamic. It makes the Q7 that much more fun to drive.

As far as warranties go, Audi offers a 4-year/50,000 mile warranty as well as a free maintenance check at 12-months or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. To be sure that their customers are taken care of.

Final Thoughts

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I’ve been a fan of Audi for a few years now, and ever since seeing the Audi Q7 at least year’s North American International Auto Show, I fell in love with it. While driving the car, it lived up to every ounce of my expectations. The Audi Q7 is definitely a big car, and that was a learning experience for me, as I had only driven sedans and hatchbacks before that. The Audi Q7 may not be the perfect car for me, but for someone that is transporting a family, or needs the extra space, the Q7 would be perfect. As mentioned above, 7 people can fit comfortably in the 2017 Audi Q7. And we do mean “comfortably”, something that most other SUV’s and Crossovers can’t attest too.

When it came to Android Auto, I didn’t have high expectations in Audi’s implementation. I wasn’t too sure I would be okay with it not having a touchscreen. But now, after using the Q7 for a few days, I have to say, I actually like it better. I found that it actually distracts me less than the touchscreen Pioneer AVH-4100NEX that I have in my own car for Android Auto. It is also very, very responsive. I didn’t notice an ounce of stuttering in the interface for Android Auto. In fact, Audi may have the most responsive Android Auto implementation that we’ve had the chance to try. Although that’s not confirmed, considering we do not have other cars with Android Auto built-in, side-by-side to test. On top of that, unlike their sister-brand, Volkswagen, Android Auto isn’t buried. When you plug in your phone it shows right up, and often times it will highlight Android Auto. So even those that don’t know their Q7 has Android Auto, will see it. That’s a good user experience aspect right there. Audi did a great job with Android Auto and it’ll be interesting to see if anyone can top them.

The 2017 Audi Q7 is available at your local Audi dealer right now. As of today, it is the only model from Audi that does have Android Auto, but that will be changing rather soon when we get the 2017 Audi A4, which will also feature Android Auto. Eventually their entire fleet will feature Android Auto, but it looks like they are taking things slow, at least to start out.