Fully redesigned, the 2017 Audi Q7 is a three-row crossover that blends German road presence with American family needs. The Q7 offers a sporty drive and a large interior, but comes up short in cargo space and self-piloting promises.

The midsize luxury crossover arena is one of the hottest markets in the US, with a lot of contenders hoping to grab those suburbanite dollars. Family-friendliness without looking like a minivan is the top priority in this segment, judging by the designs we've seen, and if any crossover in this market showcases how good a big SUV can be, the 2017 Audi Q7 is it. The new look is a great blend of Euro shooting brake and sporty utility with some Germanic simplicity to complete the style.

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The Audi Q7 appeared in 2007 and didn't see a redesign until this year. The 2017 Q7 is much more upscale to look at and far more "road hungry" in its appeal. The fast-paced, but not overly sporty look is backed up by solid drive dynamics, nimble handling, and a good powertrain. Some might be surprised that a big crossover-SUV like the Q7 can be powered by a thoroughly likeable turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Our test model of the 2017 Audi Q7 contained the 2.0-liter four cylinder turbo that churns out a more than adequate 252 horsepower (188 kW) and 273 foot pounds (370 Nm) of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. Those who are truly muscle-hungry will probably turn to the optional supercharged V6 upgrade, but we think that the little four is plenty for the Q7. The four-cylinder is EPA-rated at 22 mpg (10.7 l/100km) combined, with 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg (11.8/9.4 l/100km) on the highway. In the real world, we saw an average of just under 21 mpg (11.2 l/100km) overall in our week with the Q7.

Those fuel economy estimates are about average for the midsize luxury class, but are welcomed because few others can provide the fun handling and excellent dynamics of the Q7 along with those kinds of MPG returns. Not only is the 2017 Q7 maneuverable, but Audi managed to give the driver plenty of visibility to the rear – unusual for an SUV. On the road, about town, the Q7 is zippy out of the light and careful in the parking lot. On the highway, it's so quiet that whispering is possible (parents will understand why this is good), yet it returns road feel nicely through the pedals and wheel.

Inside, the 2017 Audi Q7 is well-outfitted with good materials quality and an elegant design. Seating is well done for the front passenger and driver, and the second row is equally as comfortable with good support for the outboard positions and a usable middle section. Child safety restraints are easy to use in the Q7 as well, though sitting three children across can become a struggle with seat belt receiver positions.

The third row of the 2017 Q7 is mostly useful for children and teenagers, but adults will be squeezed and high-kneed back there. The second row is fully adjustable, though, and slides and tilts forward for better access to the third row. Cargo space is limited in the Q7, with just 14.8 cubic feet (419 liters) behind the third row and 37.5 cubic feet (1,062 liters) with the third row stowed. Most three-row crossovers in this segment offer substantially more cargo space by comparison, and the Q7's cargo is more on par with the sportier segment options like the Mercedes-Benz GLE43. We do like the hands-free tailgate option, however, which allows the tailgate to be opened by waving a foot underneath it (the keyfob must be in range of the vehicle).

Technology in the 2017 Audi Q7 is top shelf. Audi's MMI controller sits just ahead of the driver's right hand when the arm is resting at the arm rest and the wide gearshift handle is used as a wrist support. That controller spins through most of the infotainment's functions. On upgraded infotainment packages, a touchpad is also added just ahead of the MMI controller, giving fingertip input for the win. This allows not only touchpad-style mouse control on many menus, but also the ability to input letters and numbers by drawing them with a fingertip for navigation and the like. Redundant (and sometimes useful) controls are also included on the driver's steering wheel. The learning curve for this new infotainment setup is a bit steep, but well worth it.

At the base level, the Premium model for the Q7 includes a 7-inch center display with basic connectivity and satellite radio. The top fit Prestige model, which we drove, includes the 8.3-inch screen with a lot more functionality. That high-resolution screen is one of the best we've seen, and rivals many tablets and televisions for its clarity. Upgrade packages for the mid-level Premium Plus and the top-level Prestige trims include a driver assistance package with a lot of integrated technologies.

These include some future-is-now items like traffic sign recognition through the many cameras added to the Q7, along with lane departure intervention, adaptive cruise control, and improved forward collision mitigation. The rear-seat entertainment system (part of another package) is also very cool with large screens that have a myriad of input options for music, movies, and games.

One of our disappointments with the Q7 was in its driver-aids. Literature promises a near hands-free experience in heavy traffic and on long, empty stretches of highway. In reality, the vehicle will continually nag the driver about staying in the center of the lane and often has abrupt braking and speed changes when in traffic. For those used to driving in downtown Jersey or LA traffic, that might be the norm, but for those of us used to more sedate, frictionless driving in a quieter setting ... not so much.

In all, though, the 2017 Audi Q7 is an excellent luxury crossover that exceeded our expectations for its roominess and drivability. The second row is one of the largest we've seen in this class, coming obviously at the expense of cargo space, and the things we were less impressed with are relatively small compared to the overall excellence the Q7 offers.

Pricing for the 2017 Q7 starts at US$49,000, and the vehicle is in showrooms now.

Product Page: 2017 Audi Q7

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