The mental picture I get when somebody says “seven-passenger SUV,” is one of a lumbering, gas-guzzling behemoth that can carry as much stuff as a 26-foot U-Haul truck and is about as nimble and fun to drive.

That stereotype all melted away when I got behind the wheel of the newly redesigned all-wheel drive 2017 Audi Q7 Quattro.

Audi’s conceptual work on the Q7 began in 2002 and it first arrived in showrooms in 2005. Besides a minor facelift in 2009, the model has basically been unchanged for 11 years. Car model redesigns typically occur every four to six years.

Speculation as to why Audi waited so long to part ways with the first-generation Q7 include the fact that the company replaced its development chief twice, that the new MLB Architecture of the 2017 Q7 was to serve as the prototype for all models moving forward and they wanted to be sure to get it right, and the first-generation Q7 continued to be a strong seller for the German automaker.

Regardless of the reasons, it was well worth the wait. The 2017 Q7, the largest SUV in Audi’s lineup, is not only spacious enough to comfortably carry a growing family and a few of their friends, it boasts first-class comfort, a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a 474-pound weight reduction compared to the prior Q7 model. It is the perfect family hauler for the luxury-minded parent who doesn’t want to sacrifice style or performance.

The exterior of the new Q7 is marked by sharply creased bodylines and a prominent sculpted front end with a large, angular grille. Its stance is aggressive; its profile, sleek.

The interior is exactly what you would expect from a German luxury car: plush, yet functional; superbly engineered; and flawlessly executed. The horizontally expansive dash adds to the spacious feeling of the cabin and the retractable display screen is an elegant solution. With the “virtual cockpit,” a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, you can control and display data on virtually any system in the car, all easily accessed through a very intuitive interface.

The 2017 Q7 is crammed with cutting-edge safety and technology features. Exit Assist, which alerts the driver before he or she flings the door open into the path of a car or bicycle approaching from behind, is my personal favorite, having been the unfortunate victim of such an event while riding my bike on H Street several years ago. There are also systems that prevent steering overcorrection and turning into the path of an oncoming car when making a left turn and one that scans speed limit and other road signs and displays them on the dash.

Despite its size and passenger-carrying capacity, the new Q7 drives and handles more like a sports sedan than a boat. The steering is extremely responsive and I detected very little of the body sway through turns that is typical of large SUVs.

With its all-wheel drive capability, luxury car comfort, sports sedan performance and an astonishing array of safety and technology features, the 2017 Audi Q7 completely changed my thinking about what a seven-passenger vehicle can be. 

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