Slip behind the wheel of the refreshed Audi Q7 for the first time, and a prospective shopper almost assuredly will feel a sense of surprise and delight.
Sure, the materials are first-rate, the seats fit like a glove and the whole interior exhibits harmonious design in this German luxury CUV.
But it’s the ’20 Q7’s three brilliant, full-color display screens that will demand your long-term attention – a key reason it earns a 2020 Wards 10 Best UX trophy.
There’s the reconfigurable Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster straight in front of the driver, plus the two large horizontal, tempered-glass displays stacked on top of each other in the center console. The lower MMI screen controls climate and comfort settings, while the upper screen is a portal to vast amounts of infotainment.
It’s easy to get lost mentally in these innumerable menu screens, and some people don’t really want to be that engaged with their vehicle. But the early adopter techy types will understand how quickly the Q7 can be customized to one’s preferences.
For instance, the driver can create an “individual profile” with sensitivity settings for driver-assistance technologies.
Do you want to be alerted of heavy traffic detected ahead? Need the car to slow or brake hard in the event you’re not paying attention? Sound an alarm if you’re about to open a door as an unseen car approaches from the rear? Need efficiency suggestions for consuming less fuel? Want to turn up or down the volume for front and rear parking sensor aids? Want to decline text messages if they arrive while driving?
However you want to interact with the Q7, it’s a willing companion – as easy to customize as the ubiquitous smartphone.
In the realm of the automotive user experience, this is where the magic happens, like a sound engineer sitting at a massive mixing console with hundreds of buttons, sliders and knobs, producing the next hit single. Only it’s much simpler in the Q7.
If owners take the time to drill down into the immense customization content, they will have a rewarding ownership experience.
Judge James Amend praises the Virtual Cockpit and the “View” button on the steering wheel that allows for quickly switching between gauge configurations.
“I may never tire of the Virtual Cockpit,” he says. “And the richness of the display content, as well as how quickly it pages back and forth, is impressive.”
Amend appreciates the haptic feedback as the central screens are tapped. “And this richly detailed information is backed by a strong voice system so you’ll never be punching in addresses ever again.”
He says the driver-assistance technologies “work splendidly” in the $75,290 Q7 55 TFSI evaluated by Wards judges, and functionality is basically the same as the $101,095 Audi A8 L that earned a Wards 10 Best UX trophy a year ago.
“This is another well-done large, German crossover,” Amend says. “Audi, BMW and Mercedes are conducting a game of one-upmanship in the luxury CUV segment.”
The 10 Best UX competition is about assessing the user experience – what it’s like for the driver to interact with the vehicle, and vice versa.
We look for elements of surprise and delight, and the Q7 delivers on many fronts: plenty of charging plugs, a Wi-Fi hotspot, extensive climate controls for second-row occupants, quick and easy phone pairing and an overall design that replaces most hard buttons with reconfigurable virtual ones.
Along the way, access to information has never been easier. It’s like walking into a library, without having to finger through a tattered card catalog.