AUDI'S latest generation of the Range Rover rival, the Q7, is a big lump of a car and there is no doubt that it has an on-road presence to match Land Rover's products, but the engineers have managed to maintain that size, but without the weight.

The latest version has had the equivalent of four grown men taken out of it in avoirdupois, making it much cheaper to run and noticeably lighter on its 'feet' than it used to be. The stats might show that it is slightly shorter and narrower than the original, but that's in no way apparent - it still has a rather austere, Teutonic presence.

There's a choice of engines, but the one on test was probably the most ubiquitous - the well-proven 3.0 TDI V6 lump which is rated at 215bhp in S-line specification.

It can't half lift its skirts up, though, and will do the timed 0-62mph run in 7.3 seconds, yet you can still expect to get pretty close to 50mpg on normal running. A lot of that is down to the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox which comes as the norm.

The test vehicle costs £51,250, but there are other, slightly cheaper versions and some ridiculously powerful and considerably more expensive ones too (more of that later). Unlike the Range Rover, though, the standard Q7 comes with three rows of seats and it's this seven-seater configuration that's bound to appeal to family buyers and the third row, while suitable really for children, pop in and out of play at the touch of a button.

There's a lot of clever touches to the latest Q7s, including some optional gizmos which will give you almost a self-steering capability at low speeds (traffic jam assist), and there's heaps of 'connectivity' in the cabin, including having the option of Audi tablets mounted on the back of the front seats for mid-row passengers to tinker with and all with integrated SD card reader, USB, wi-fi or Bluetooth.

Another worthwhile 'extra' is adaptive air suspension, which can be twiddled about with to suit the kind of terrain you are driving on, with settings for motorways, winding roads, and off-road. You can also pre-set the steering system to get the best out of it too.

The four-wheel-drive system is, as you would expect, Audi's highly respected quattro system. While it's not as sophisticated as those in the Range Rover stable, there's not much going to phase it in muddy fields or tracks. Under normal conditions it sends 60% of torque to the rear and 40% to the front, but reacts within a blink of an eye to changes in underfoot conditions.

A more powerful version of the V6 is also available. This is rated at 268bhp 3.0-litre TDI and is only slightly less fuel efficient that the lower powered one. Also expected soon is a plug-in hybrid version, the Q7 e-tron, which combines a 254bhp 3.0 TDI engine with a 124bhp electric motor integrated into the gearbox. This gives a theoretical 368bhp and 700Nm of torque on tap, but Audi reckons it can return up to 166mpg economy and have a tax-busting 50g/km of CO2.

An electrically deployable trailer hitch is on the long list of options and the Q7 is rated to tow up to 3.5 tonnes (braked). Standard equipment on both SE and S line models includes rear parking sensors, cruise control, an adjustable speed limiter and a low-speed auto brake function and they come with a 36-month/60,000-mile warranty - pay £600 extra to cover up for an extra year or 75,000 miles and £1300 for a five-year/90,000-mile warranty.

*If the current Q7s seems just too slow for you, then just announced is Audi's new bi-turbo, 4.0-litre V8-engined SQ7 TDI - only the second ever S-specific Audi SUV and the first in the world to have an electric powered compressor on a production car. This all adds up to making it one of the most powerful SUVs on sale at 430bhp and a whopping 900Nm. Able to do 0-62 mph in just 4.8 seconds, pricing will be confirmed closer to expected start of UK ordering in May and first deliveries will begin in August - just don't expect it to be cheap. The new electrically powered compressor is said to bring 'breathtaking' response and consigns 'turbo lag' to history.