Hands up for who’s up for hands-off?


Stuck in a line of traffic, having to stop/start your way along the highway, must be one of the most brain-numbingly boring features of modern driving.

Yet, this reality of our congested urban streets is also massively stressful with one study showing that driving in city traffic produces dangerous levels of anxiety compared to using public transport.

Research in 2010 by Dr David Lewis, from the University of Sussex, involved measuring the heart rate and Electro-Dermal Response (EDR) of 30 commuters while taking similar journeys by car as a driver and by bus as a passenger.

The experiment’s results suggested stress levels were 33% lower on average for bus passengers.

Lewis, who is credited for coining the phrase ‘road rage’, says this kind of stress can have adverse long-term physiological and emotional health effects on people.

So, no doubt medics will be relieved to hear that the new Q7’s Traffic Jam Assist feature will alleviate much of that stress thanks to its autonomous drive mode.

Simply activate its adaptive cruise control, with its Stop&Go capability, then its active lane assist and the car will trundle along at speeds of up to 37mph holding station in the traffic queue without the need of any input by the driver for at least seven miles.

Needless to say, there are plenty of other stress-busting features on this magnificent new motor that addresses the old car’s large external dimensions with limited interior space. The new Q7 is narrower and shorter while boasting more cabin and luggage space with all seats in place.

Having a hugely powerful 272PS V6 diesel helps too because with a 0-62mph sprint potential of 6.5 seconds, overtaking slower traffic is remarkably stress free. A radical programme of weight loss also shaves up to 325kgs off the new car compared to its predecessor, destressing high speed corners which the new Q7 takes as well as some saloons I could mention.

The optional all-wheel steering also takes the anxiety away from manoeuvring what remains a large SUV which now enjoys a turning circle even tighter than Audi’s own little A4.

Possibly, the only blood-pressure boosting feature is its on-the-road price ticket because, while the stock tag of £50,340 may sound competitive, my test car carried a wallet-squeezing £20k worth of options.

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try out the autonomous technology in a real-world test during a surprisingly traffic free blast across the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire on the way to the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed to sample the quattro four-wheel-drive system on its off-road course.

However, I’m now looking forward to get the car another time for a more challenging test of the system to see how it can nurse itself through the hellish city congestion of London.

That said, Audi is unlikely to have brought a system to market that won’t do exactly what it claims to achieve so we know the autonomous technology is here on UK streets and the debate about how the new relationship between man and machine, and exactly who’s to blame when things go wrong, begins from now.

So now, it’s over to you Mr Lawyer.

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