Big, bold and beautiful, the new Audi Q7 is set to take the 4x4 world by storm, enthuses Charles Rangeley-Wilson.

We review the new Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro SE 272PS

It’s been 10 years since the Audi Q7 lumbered onto our roads. In the Jurassic war in which size is all, the Q7 was a noted heavyweight contender. It had something of the bronto- saurus about it, with those smooth sides, drooping to a ruminant nose or wallowing rear. It tipped the scales at a ground-shaking 5,070lb, was 16½ft long and 7ft wide.

We were just getting used to a new class of large SUVs back then, but, even so, I remember seeing my first Q7 and the image that came into my head was of Benny Hill negotiating with Michael Caine in The Italian Job: ‘Are they big? I like ’em big.’ Benny would h‘ave loved the Q7. It was bigger.

As with a house, however, you’re mostly inside a car looking out and even the first Q7 shrank somewhat from that interior perspective. Plus, it was an Audi: if you have to spend hours in a car, an Audi is a fine place to spend them. On the move, the first Q7 was surprisingly agile, although no one would have called it lithe. It liked its drink, too: few models saw better than 30mpg. Even so, it was popular: more than half a million Benny Hills fell for its Rubenesque charms.

Ten years is a long time in the world of upmarket SUVs and a new Q7 was long overdue, but now it’s here. I guess I had a slight size bias and wasn’t expecting to love it, but I did. We all did. I had the Q7 for a long weekend and undertook every driving activity I could contrive: dog walks, school runs, shopping and a bit of off-roading.

I concluded that I could very happily live with a Q7, that it was the most imperious of mile munchers and, if I had to rally it to Peking or take salmon rods and five adults to Sutherland (in fact, it’s a potential seven-seater), the new Q7 would be a great machine to make the journey in.

Although this version isn’t smaller than the last (it’s a teeny bit shorter and a teeny bit wider), it looks and drives as if it were: the slab expanses have been diminished, with neat styling folds and creases that suggest a slimmer shape. The car is lighter, too: 770lb of liposuction leaves the Q7 feeling miles more sprightly. You’re still on it rather than in it, but, even so, the giant drove effortlessly and cornered well: nice and flat, even on the ‘comfort’ setting.

The magic-carpet quality of the travelling experience was magnified by the impressively tamed engine and road noise. Stop-start tech means the engine does stop at lights and in traffic jams, but even when it was running, I could hardly hear it. On the move, there’s a whisper of airflow round the mirrors, but, otherwise, not much to bother the calm drive.

Engine choice is from two versions of a new three-litre diesel with an e-tron coming later. Aside from the fact that it’s a bit cheaper, I can’t see any reason to go for the 214bhp version. Claimed miles per gallon are about the same, although 150 plays out at 153g/km of CO2 emissions, sneaking it into an F not G tax band. The 268bhp version is as refined and powerful as anyone could desire and will shove you up to 60mph in under seven seconds. Overtaking is effortless, with gallons of mid-range shove, and the eight-speed auto is a delight. With a direct-shift gearbox, who needs manual anymore?

There’s an impressive range of suspension settings: off-road, comfort, dynamic and so on. Comfort was stiff enough. Dynamic was too choppy and who hustles a Q7, anyway? Off-road helps you through the gloop. I tried some steepish winter-mush tracks and hardly noticed them. Although it’s not about to outgun a Discovery across the plough, I reckon the Q7 would—with the right tyres—happily cope with all but the hardiest shooting terrain.

Quick skim: readable satnav screen, handy reversing camera, impressive audio, excellent sports seats, reclining rear seats, bags of leg room and three isofix points across the rear, too.

Apart from for the utterly maddening telephone interface, there’s nothing to dislike about this car, except perhaps the person in it. Was it me or were the motorists I met on narrow lanes or filtering around parked cars in town a teeny bit less charitable than when I’m in my humble A4? Oh well, let them eat cake, I say: where’s that lottery ticket I left in the wash?

On the road: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro SE 272PS
Price: £50,430
Annual Road Fund Licence: £180
Combined fuel consumption: 47.9mpg (I got 35mpg round Norfolk)
Power: 272bhp
0–60mph: 6.5 seconds