After sitting out the 2016 model year in the U.S., the Audi Q7 has returned for 2017 as an all-new vehicle. In remaking its flagship 3-row SUV, Audi touched pretty much every aspect of the its design in ways that significantly enhances its appeal versus key rivals like the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Infiniti QX50 and Volvo XC90. Our recent encounter with the first of these new U.S. spec Q-ships solidified the impressions gained from driving European versions.

Creating a more dynamic personality 

Spun from a revised version of the VW Group's MLB architecture also slated for the next-gen Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg, the new Q7 leverages a lighter, stronger core with all-new, aluminum-intensive front/rear 5-link suspension and aluminum body panels. Those enhancements shed a stunning 474 pounds. As confident and sure-footed as it is with the standard steel suspension/adjustable shocks, the new Q7 gains an extra shot of sportiness when underpinned by an optional multi-mode/height-adjustable adaptive air suspension with 4-wheel steering. Available only on the top-line Prestige trim, it takes the already solid handling to a new level and trims the turning circle by three feet to make the Q7 easier to thread through crowded parking lots. 

Also: Class of 2016 -- New Cars Ready to Roll 

While Audi says a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline-fueled 4-cylinder and a 3.0-liter TDI turbodiesel are waiting in the wings, the sole engine at launch for the Q7 Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trims will be a carryover version of the turbocharged 333-horsepower/3.0-liter gasoline V6. Backed by a smooth-shifting 8-speed Tiptronic automatic that ships power to each wheel via Audi's Quattro system it gives the new Q7 an impressive 7,700-lb tow capacity and a claimed 5.7-second 0-60 mph acceleration. Although it didn't feel quite that quick on the twisty back roads of California's wine country, there's no question the mass-jettisoning redesign imbues the 2017 Q7 with an amazing degree of agility.  

The exterior dimensions of this new Q7 are nearly identical to its precursor but bolder and sleeker (0.32 coefficient of drag) exterior styling imparts more curbside presence. The aggressive style is suitably set off with distinctive LED-infused lighting -- including optionally available full LED headlamps -- along with standard 19-inch (Premium/Plus) or 20-inch (Prestige) wheels and tires. 

Cabin charm enhanced

Inside, the Q7's cabin also displays a more upscale character with standard equipment including leather upholstery, tri-zone climate control, an enhanced MMI all-in-touch system with retractable 7.0-inch center display and a panoramic sunroof. Other items include a 35/30/35 second-row, power-activated 50/50 third-row and a power tailgate. Optional features include Audi's virtual cockpit instrumentation, a head-up display, larger 8.3-inch MMI with Navigation screen, Bose and Bang & Olfusen audio upgrades and 4G LTE with new infotainment/security/safety features plus support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Equally important, the remake takes advantage of packaging efficiency improvements from the new rear suspension setup which yields significant increases in both people and cargo space. The latter aided by flat-folding aft seats that can increases cargo capacity from 14.8 to 71.6 cu ft when seats are stowed.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Finally, the new Q7 offers an array of driver assists and safety tech including Audi Drive Select, Pre Sense, Pre Sense City with pedestrian recognition/auto braking and a rearview camera. The option list includes adaptive cruise control, active lane assist and side assist, night vision assist and a full 360-degree top-view camera. Pricing for the 2017 Audi Q7 Quattro Premium starts at $55,750 with the Premium Plus opening at $59,750 and the Q7 Prestige commencing at $65,250.

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