words and photos: George Achorn
Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in the Fall 2017 issue of the Audi Club North America quattro quarterly print magazine. If you don’t receive quattro quarterly and wish to subscribe, join the Audi Club North America HERE.
There is no doubt that the Audi Q7 is one of Ingolstadt’s hottest selling models in North America. With awards such as Consumer Reports’ 2016 Top-Rated SUV and IIHS’ 2017 Top Safety Pick + under its belt, there are any number of reasons Audi’s 7-passenger crossover is flying out of dealerships. So, while the Q7 has a lot going for it, aggressive sporting appearance or look-at-me form maybe aren’t its strongest suits… unless ABT Sportsline has something to do about it.
For the uninitiated, “Abt” is the name (prounnced ah-bt, and very similar sounding to the English word “opt”) of the family that’s operated this German firm for more than 100 years and has been modifying Audi models since the brand’s early 1980s quattro resurgence… and maybe even a bit earlier.
In Germany, ABT is a powerhouse. The company manages several Audi dealerships, operates racing teams for the Audi factory in the DTM and Formula E, plus various GT3-based series campaigning the Audi R8 LMS under its own moniker. ABT also runs a well respected Audi tuning firm in Europe, known for OE quality TUV approved body kits, wheels and exclusive limited run models like their RS 6-R based on Audi’s RS 6 Avant.
In the last year, ABT Sportsline has moved to launch its own U.S. outpost with ABT America now operating in Miami, FL. That division has already set out to make a mark for itself in this market by setting up a channel of distributors and of course building cars. Amongst these earliest builds from ABT America was this Audi Q7 built as a team support transport for last summer’s Formula E Brooklyn ePrix.
Specifically, this particular Q7 began life as a nicely equipped Q7 Prestige with black optics, Aud tablet rear seat entertainment, Audi accessories rubber mats, trunk liner and roof rack. While subtly handsome already, the Q7 is a great target for ABT upgrades because all American Q7s get S line bumpers and there is no SQ7 here. In as much, most Q7s look nearly identical, creating an opportunity in the market for Audi enthusiasts needing a Q7 but seeking something more like an RS 7 in its ability to get attention. In that regard, ABT America and their Q7 offerings aim to please.
Specifically, this black Q7 is what ABT refers to as “slim body” (as opposed to wide body). The configuration consists of the ABT front bumper set with larger RS-inspired lower grille openings, door strip treatment with larger side sill blade, rear skirt set, and rear upper wing set in biplane style. The wheels are a handsome matte black and machined finish on the firm’s GR wheel design in 10×22 size.
Also part of this specific build is ABT’s sport muffler exhaust with tips matching the bumper cover and a deeper sound that also turns heads.
Accents such as the door side blades are painted dark grey to match the stock black optics accents that came from the factory. While this car wasn’t fitted with it, ABT also offers carbon fiber elements such as side blades, grille surround, chin spoiler and rear valance that will make for an even more exotic look.
So how’s the car in real life? First off, it’s quite handsome. The more aggressive look of the ABT bodywork combines with this menacing black optic Q7 quite naturally. The doorsills extend the length of the doors a bit, necessitating care around high curbs, but care and judicious use of the air suspension in such cases makes this no big deal.
In our use, we also learned ABT may be in better shape then even they suspected when it comes to launching the brand in the USA. Fans may call it A-B-T versus ah-bt, but they know the name and they like what the name brings to this Q7.
On first look, we assessed the setup as perfect for more look-at-me markets such as Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Outside of those cities, we wondered if the appearance changes might be too aggressive. Our experience proved otherwise however, because this Q7 gets all kinds of positive attention be it in the suburbs of Manhattan or in obscure small rural towns. It draws admirers from owners of competing vehicles such as Range Rovers, from valets, from admirers at gas stations and from other Audi owners. For someone seeking a solid family offering but wishing it were a little more Super Man and a little less Clark Kent, we suspect an ABT Sportsline Q7 such as this may be the perfect answer.
More Information: ABT-America.com