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Audi Malaysia’s official arrival into the country could not be more marked than with the launch of its flag-bearing SUV, the Audi Q7. Since the principal’s local induction at the end of 2014 to take over the reins from former franchise-holder, Euromobil, we’ve seen it launch the A6 and TT here, as well as introduce the country’s first official S model, the Audi TT S.

The local transition took place around the same time Audi AG was busy marking a rather significant milestone for itself — globally unveiling the second-generation Q7. And, with the first-gen SUV serving a full 10 years as a highly-capable people mover, the new one undoubtedly had some big shoes to fill for the start.

At a glance, the new Q7 is pinned on a new platform, has shed 325 kg and has been treated to the Ingolstadt-based car maker’s latest and greatest tech. It was also given a gleaming makeover, which as you can tell, features a far more chiseled look than its voluptuous old self.

All seemed well on paper for Audi Malaysia, and so it launched a sole variant of the Q7 3.0 TFSI quattro at RM589,900 in November 2015. A fine prospect, and competitively priced, it was — the ageing first-gen Volvo XC90 was a dying threat, and the comparable BMW X5 xDrive35i’s RM579,800 price tag and appeal was as good as matched, pound for pound.

That was until the second-gen, top-spec Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription plug-in hybrid was launched, and wailed its tax-exempted RM453,888 price tag about, spoiling things a bit for the segment.

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But given all that we know about the revolutionary Q7, we’re certain that it still deserves a fair bit of your consideration whilst shopping for a premium SUV. To clarify, the recently-launched Mercedes-Benz GLE does put in a reasonable bid for your attention, but do note that it is only available as five-seater, and unlike the new generation Q7, X5 and XC90, the GLE is essentially just a facelifted ML-Class, which is a few years old now.

The all-new Q7 is underpinned by the brand’s latest MLB-Evo platform and featuring a significantly higher amount of high-strength steel that forms its body, the Q7 doesn’t only offer a more protective cocoon, it is also now the lightest model in its class, at 2,030 kg.

With a smaller wheelbase (12 mm) than its predecessor, overall, the Q7 is also shorter (37 mm) and narrower (15 mm) than before. It measures 5,052 mm long, 1,968 mm wide and 1,740 mm tall. Even still, its sheer size in-the-metal doesn’t appear to have been reduced in any capacity – the large SUV maintains its commanding presence on the road.

A quick recap of what’s on offer reminds us that the base price includes key exterior items like full LED headlamps and tail lights, as well as 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. But being that our test unit was equipped with the full S line kit, the front and rear bumpers have been swapped out for more aggressive ones, while a sportier-looking set of 20-inch, twin five-spoke wheels are featured instead.

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Inside, the additional S line package adds leather/Alcantara sports seats with S badging on the backrests (regular leather seats are standard), perforated leather S line gear knob, S line steering wheel and a black headliner. Remember, all in with the optional RM13k S line package, the Q7 you see here is priced at RM602,900.

As first impressions go, there’s no questioning the Q7’s handsome appeal, inside and out. The chiseled body is far more appealing than the previous model’s curves, to this writer at least. Call it over the top, but I’m also a fan of the new Singleframe grille with its jagged horizontal bars and bold chrome surrounds.

Inside the cabin, you’ll come across nothing short of properly impressive Audi craftsmanship. The brand’s meticulous efforts toward quality is one thing, but the classy execution of those efforts makes this new Q7 more special.

Every inch of the cabin, from its brushed aluminium trim to soft-touch surfaces and unique Audi-esque button “clicks” set segment benchmarks. The only setback is the lack of a leather-covered dashboard. The layout of it all is also a vast improvement on the previous model, which didn’t slack on quality, just ergonomics, we feel.

The dashboard and centre console isn’t cluttered and is far more intuitive to use. For example, previous right-hand drive Audis had their engine push-start button positioned on the centre console and closer to the front passenger’s knee. In the new Q7, designers addressed this inconvenience by positioning the button in a more conventional location, behind the steering wheel.

Even the new MMI navigation plus infotainment system and its controls address old bugs. The outgoing interface’s four-corner logic that is still featured on current models like the A6 has been replaced by a new two-corner system, which makes it far easier to navigate. However, this writer maintains that the BMW iDrive system is still unrivalled.

While I don’t personally take to in-car navigation systems, the MMI touch pad and integrated Google Maps changed that for me, personally. Spelling out addresses hasn’t been easier than with the large touch pad available on the centre console and Google Maps is as accurate a tool to use as anything out there.

Maps and several other infotainment and vehicle control systems are displayed within the 8.3-inch rising central display screen, and also on the Audi Virtual Cockpit. And, if we haven’t said it enough already, the 12.3-inch instrument panel is a remarkably convenient.

The Virtual Cockpit screen lets you customise views to suit your needs, so you can easily call upon a primary view of the navigation while the instruments are visible on a lesser scale. Likewise, you could swap displays around to suit your needs, ranging from those of your music folders to trip data and more.

Clearly, the Volvo XC90 undertakes a completely different approach to dashboard design, eliminating all but eight physical buttons on the dash and relying on a tablet-like screen to do the rest. We wouldn’t attempt to say that one approach is better than the other, but if tangible buttons are what you’re after, it doesn’t get better than it is in the Q7 — style, ergonomics and quality considered.

Great at looking the part, the Q7 does shed a few points with this writer where space is concerned. The driver’s seat felt a bit tight for this six foot tall driver – both my knees brushed up against the centre console and door card. As for the rear bench, reclining it further than its normal position increased comfort – a feature of the second-row seats that taller folk will appreciate. That said, the seats themselves do offer good cushion support in the Q7, anywhere you sit.

Audi could learn a trick or two from the XC90, where the slim seats freed up up a load of legroom and the centre console and door cards are shaped to avoid contact with your knees.

Another observation in the Q7 was that the driver’s seat couldn’t be lowered enough for me to find a seating level I liked. Likewise, the steering couldn’t rise high enough. To be honest, I do find it very strange that a large German SUV wouldn’t be able to accommodate my size, given the average height of the average European person. Your mileage may very with this as everyone is built differently, so give the Q7 a try at the showroom to see if it suits your physique.

Moving along, and apart from the amazing tech and quality, where the Q7’s cabin impressed me the most is with its flexibility to accommodate passengers and/or cargo. You get full electric control over the third-row seats via control panels positioned in the boot and one on each side of the middle row seats.

The middle row seats are a 40:20:40 split folding type bench which can slide fore and aft to vary legroom between the middle and third row, while the third row has a 50:50 split. Both seat backs are adjustable to multiple angles for you to cater to the amount of passengers or cargo you have.

Access to the rear-most seats isn’t the easiest. Once you’re in, you’ll quickly notice that the space wasn’t made to accommodate full-size adults comfortably – a 30-minute journey would easily become a gruesome affair for someone like me. Getting out of the third row is a challenge on its own.

All five seats from the second and third rows offer Isofix child-seat anchor points, which allows parents to be very flexible in where they want to install their child seats. However, given the limited space in the third row, don’t get your hopes up on fitting larger rear facing child seats there.

With all seven seats occupied, 295 litres of usable cargo space is available. Set in its five-seater mode, there’s 770 litres to use, while a total of 1,955 litres can be had if you sacrificed the middle-row seats as well.

Back to the driver’s seat, and we can tell you that the driving position is far more car-like than it is an SUV. High seating is a given, but your legs are stretched further forward as they would be if you were driving a sedan.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is surprisingly good as well, and keeps the sensory intimidation of driving a large SUV at a minimum. For more accurate, low-speed manoeuvring around tight spaces, in a parking lot, for instance, there is a 360-degree surround-view camera with helpful guidelines that boost confidence.

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For power, the Q7 is only available with a 3.0 litre TFSI supercharged V6 mill. Rated for 333 hp at 5,500 rpm and 440 Nm of torque between 2,900 and 5,300 rpm, there’s more than enough power on tap here to motivate the two-tonne SUV. Audi claims that the powertrain makes the Q7 capable of a 6.3-second zero to 100 km/h sprint.

Comparatively, the Q7 3.0 TFSI is 1.6 seconds quicker than its relative predecessor. Looking across the table, it’s also quicker than the comparable BMW X5 xDrive35i which manages the century sprint in 6.5 seconds. On paper, however, the hybrid-powered XC90 comes out tops, performing the dash in just 5.6 seconds – a testament to its 407 hp and 640 Nm.

Even still, this writer felt little need for more power in the Q7. It’s got acres of the stuff across the rev range, and the seamless-shifting, ZF-sourced, eight-speed torque converter auto transmission keeps the power coming nicely all the way up to speed.

The Q7 is equipped with a four-corner, adaptive air suspension system as standard. As a result, general ride comfort is adaptable to your needs. The Audi Drive Select system provides seven driving modes here, being Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency, Allroad (25 mm ride height lift), Lift/offroad (60 mm max ride height) and a customisable Individual option.

In Comfort mode, the SUV’s ride is surprisingly floaty. It doesn’t take much for the body to pitch left and right under cornering forces or be unsettled by typically uneven Malaysian roads.

When you do find a smooth section of road to brave the Q7’s acclaimed handling, you’ll find that even in Sport mode there’s a certain softness to the way the Q7 goes about its thing. You feel the chassis stiffen and level out beneath you as you dive into a corner with pace, but its body still floats awkwardly, unsettling your confidence.

Generally, the Q7 is best used to cruise, but we know all too well about the car’s off-road capabilities, thanks to its quattro all-wheel drive system and barrage of all-terrain technologies. Although, without Audi Malaysia’s supervision, I wasn’t quite willing to put the Q7 through its off-road paces given that our test unit was actually worth a lot more than the house I live in.

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All things considered though, it’s actually quite difficult to single out the Q7 as a something you should pass on. If you have demands for comfort yet sporty driving, and at the same time functional practicality and general good looks, the Q7 does score a lot of points in my book, save for an excessively floaty ride and cramped third-row seating.

Its price is negligibly higher than the comparable BMW X5 xDrive35i’s RM579,800. But then, of course, you have the market-breaking Volvo XC90, which is RM136k cheaper than the Q7. Even still, opt for the Q7 and its immaculately-built interior, and at least this writer, and many others, would perfectly understand why the Audi would be your choice.