Opus Macchina is our escape from the real world.
However, the reality has somewhat caught up with us and we’ve struggled to keep up with it. Nonetheless, we are back after a two month long hiatus. In our return, it is only apt that we do it with a car that we all unanimously adore, the ultra suave Audi Q7 — this time in Premium trim. SUVs are undoubtedly the new face of the automobile, and understanding them in the Philippines used to be quite simple in the late 90s. If you had to get your hands dirty by plowing through your farm to harvest some produce, you had a Toyota Prado. If you were a congressman or a senator, you could pick between a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Ford Expedition.
If you were a goon and a half, waiting for your henchmen to bring in the next car to chop up at the shop, you’d have a Mitsubishi Pajero — fresh from Shangri-La mall’s carpark the night before. Then one day, all these carmakers realized something quite imperative. People started to ditch their big sedans in exchange for these SUVs, and since our government can’t seem to put anyone in jail long enough, everyone would eventually be related to a new congressman or a senator within the next few years — and they were right. Asian car manufacturers weren’t the only ones who caught a whiff of the trend. The Germans did too, and the Italians have followed suit.
The late 90s to the early 2000s was quite a weird transition for me as a young boy sitting on the toilet while reading car magazines. We didn’t have YouTube or Google to cater to all of our curiosities. I grew up seeing Porsche as the makers of the 911, and in between they made other things like a 928, a 944, and a Boxster — but that’s about it. When they decided that they were going to make an SUV, I thought to myself, “Well, they’ve skipped the 4-door 911 and went straight to making a farm beater.” — quite an odd move.
Then again by that time, Mercedes-Benz had already built the ML (now known as a GLE), which debuted in the sequel of the Jurassic Park film series. BMW too, had already created the X5, the benchmark in driving dynamics for all SUVs. It was spectacularly good and quite handsome, too. In my eyes, all they were doing was jamming themselves in a market solely reserved for a Range Rover.
“Unfortunately, the all-new X5 looks like a Kia Sorento. Pass on that too.”
While it is true that Mercedes-Benz have been building an SUV since time in memorial with the G-Class, it wasn’t only until less two decades ago that it really gained mass market appeal. The G-Wagon used to be an SUV for a Mercedes-Benz connoisseur, and not the likes of Kim Kardashian.
So much has changed since then. Almost every car manufacturer has an ‘SUV’ in every single category, I can hardly keep up with it. There are even crossovers now which are supposed to be the marriage of a sports car and an SUV. Not my thing. Pass on the BMW X6 and Lamborghini Anus.
I meant Urus.
However, when the new Audi Q7 burst into the scene a couple of years back, I also said the same thing. It ain’t my thing. I said that I’d take many other SUVs before I even consider the thought of a Q7, and one of the cars that was on top of the list was the Volkswagen Touareg. There was something about the Touareg that I loved so much. It bursted of quiet confidence and understated elegance. The BMW X5 had simply lost all of its appeal when the F15 was introduced. It’s no surprise that within a couple of years, the guys at Bavaria decided to scrap it in exchange for a whole new car. Unfortunately, it looks like a Kia Sorento. I’ll pass.
You could also have a Porsche Cayenne, but my problem with that is simple. If I were to have a Cayenne, I would go for the full bonkers Turbo version. With that, I arrive with a couple of problems. The first being that it is too expensive, and in that price bracket, I would rather get myself a Range Rover. The other being that it isn’t available with the PDK transmission that’s fitted to the Macan, simply because a sporty gearbox like that can’t pull anything significant in tow. The absence of PDK destroys the Porsche experience, so I’d rather have something else. Also, it’s quite ugly. The all-new Cayenne is so much better looking though.
Hungry, not thirsty.
How about the Mercedes-Benz GLE then? Well, in my view, apart from the E-Class, the S-Class, and the G-Wagon — the company is a bit lost. The experience in their cars doesn’t mesh as well as they do in their counterparts, which is sad considering that they’re the oldest and most revered badge amongst them. There seems to be a lack of design and experiential continuity. This brings me back squarely to the Q7. You know that feeling when you instantly hate someone in school just because he or she rubs you the wrong way? That’s pretty much how I feel about this large Audi.
I once had a mortal enemy all throughout grade school and high school until we became classmates and hit it off within the first week of class. More than a decade after, I was the best man in his wedding. The point I’m driving towards is that I hated the Q7 until I had no choice but to bond with it. Within three days, I was already smitten. I went as far to say that, all things considered, it was the best car I’ve tested for Opus Macchina. It’s been a year and a half since I said those words, and many cars have come in and out of our studio. When I think of the overall best car I’ve driven, my mind is clearly with BMW’s new 520d M Sport. So how does the Q7 fair today?
Greatness, on high octane.
Well, surprisingly good, actually. The first thing I will mention is the lack of PGA’s stickers. Thank you so much for lending this to us before putting all the stickers, because we are allowed to exercise our art in photography. It is, after all, the very core of what we do. The other thing is that the Q7 is still as great as I remember it to be. Most cars fade, and your memories tend to serve you greater hits than they really are — but there’s none of that here.
Apart from the particularly numb steering regardless of what mode you’re on, this big Audi is still a superstar of an SUV. The air suspension is still as smooth as a Zegna silk tie, while the legendary Quattro® all-wheel-drive system is the large male member that puts Versace on the floor. Riding it is like sliding down butt-naked on a gigantic tub of whipped butter and into a stack of fluffy blueberry pancakes. I absolutely love it, and you would too.
The biggest ace in this car isn’t just the space, the bombastic engine, or the versatility. Thing I love the most about it is how it makes you feel whether you are behind the wheel or in one of the indulgent seats. If all that you are looking for is a competent and comfortable SUV that will take you from point A to point B in similar fashion, get yourself a Mazda CX-9. I promise you, it’s sensational.
However, if feeling good about yourself is a quality you look for in a car, the Q7 is right up there. The way it puts together all of its great qualities to provide an indulgent experience similar to that of a First Class flight is the best thing about it. It is just so smooth. The moment you hop in and shut the door, there is a feeling of safety and security. Everything your senses can see, touch, hear, and feel are lavish.
Audis are known to be quite cold, and I agree — but take this for a long drive and immediately you start to build a connection towards it. Yes, it is quite ginormous, yet it never feels cumbersome. It shrinks around you when you’re driving a bit spiritedly, and you never have to squint when the spaces get tight. I have driven a variety of Q7s to Baguio, Subic, and all over the metro.
I am convinced that between the locally available BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Jaguar F-Pace — you’d be a complete fool not to pick the Audi. It is as sensational as I remember it to be, and believe me, the ability to still impress after driving so many great cars after is the highest compliment I can give it. It’s a star that burns just as bright amidst growing competition. What. A. Car.