2007 Audi Q7 Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Audi Q7
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Audi Q7

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Audi

Didn't Audi hear the news? SUVs are dead, right?

Well, no. True, the SUV market has flattened out, but it's still a significant portion of the American personal-transportation marketplace. The SUV segments are changing, and the vehicles themselves are diversifying. SUVs are not what they used to be, and few illustrate this better than Audi's first luxury-performance SUV, the Q7.

Even a casual glance at a Q7 will show that the vehicle has proportions very different from a traditional truck-based utility vehicle. Its high sides and long, low roofline embody Audi styling themes that go back to the first-generation TT sports car, while its interior combines the industry-standard design that characterizes Audi with the comfort, space, and versatility associated with an SUV.

All Q7 models have quattro all-wheel drive -- that's where the "Q" in the name comes from -- and it fits in the company lineup between the mid-size A6 and premium-luxury A8 sedans, hence the "7". Currently, all Q7s are fitted with Audi's 4.2-liter V8, which, with direct fuel injection makes 350 horsepower, delivered through a six-speed automatic transmission. A 3.6-liter V6 will be offered later.

When I attended one of the media presentations of the Q7 earlier in the year, every Audi spokesperson there stressed two things. First, it is the most important vehicle in Audi's history in the US, and second, the Q7 is not merely a stretched version of the Volkswagen Touareg. There is only a 15 percent parts commonality between the two vehicles, mostly in suspension components. The Q7 is longer, significantly redesigned, and utilizes different materials in its construction. It's aimed both at current Audi owners who want an SUV and at new customers to the fold -- people who would have bought a competitor's vehicle.

There are plenty of reasons to look at the Q7. As I discovered first at the introduction, and more recently during a week at home, it is as quick, quiet, comfortable, and composed on the road as a luxury sports wagon, with no trace of traditional truck in its ancestry. Typically of Audi, great design and intelligent use of technology, in construction and in driver assistance and passenger comfort systems, puts it at the head of its class. I had one 250-mile day of driving during my week, a combination of freeway and secondary roads, that was a complete pleasure. The Q7's large and versatile interior was pleasant and functional, and the backup camera, which includes lines projecting the vehicle's path, was actually useful in backing out of my driveway.

APPEARANCE: There is an understated elegance to the Q7's styling. In the Audi manner, large geometric masses are accentuated by sharp character lines. There is none of the overly-detailed busyness that seems to have captivated other German manufacturers. Different aspects are exhibited from different angles. From the front, it looks large and imposing, in no small part due to the large and imposing "single frame" grille, prominent, sharply-lined hood, bright headlights, and wide tires. From the side, as a logical progression from the late Allroad crossover, the Q7 looks more like a tall sport wagon than an SUV. The relationship of the relatively low passenger cabin to the high vehicle sides establishes that, and it is accentuated by the aerodynamic line of the roof, a strong character line on each side that emphasizes the shoulder line, and distinctive wheel arches, which are filled with a choice of 18, 19, or 20-inch wheels and tires. The rear is pure Audi.

COMFORT: In design and appointment, the Q7 is closest to the A6 in the Audi lineup. That's a fine starting point. As outside, the interior styling is simple and understated. High-quality materials and tight panel gaps emphasize luxury comfort, and it's quiet without being overly insulating. Despite the elegant styling, with such fine details as aluminum-trimmed, teardrop-shaped instruments, function is not sacrificed to fashion. Instrument and control placement is very good, and the Multi Media Interface (MMI), which controls the navigation, air suspension, audio, and telephone systems, has a smoother learning curve than other such single-control interfaces. My test vehicle had the standard V8 seven-passenger configuration. The front seats are among the best in the business for comfort, and the 40/20/40 split second row scores high in comfort, space, and versatility, helped by its multiple split and separate fore-and-aft manual adjustment. With the optional four-zone climate control system, it's as good a place to be as the front, and the view skyward out the panorama sunroof is even better. Access to the third row is a little tricky, but the two seats there will hold people up to five-four in comfort. According to Audi, there are up to different ways to configure the interior. At the rear, height-adjustment buttons can help loading of air suspension-equipped Q7s, and a power-operated liftgate also adds convenience.

SAFETY: The Q7's structure is designed to give the highest level of protection to its occupants. Front, front and second-row side, and three-row head airbags offer further passive protection, while a high level of maneuverability and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with antilock, electronic brake-force distribution, and ESP stability assistance give a high level of active safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: With a unibody structure built largely of high-strength and ultra-hight strength steel, the Q7 is commendably rigid, improving both its quietness - from a reduction is squeaks and rattles from parts moving against each other - and its driving characteristics. Its construction, and the use of aluminum for the hood, front fenders, and tailgate, make it relatively light for its size at around 5300 pounds. Despite its 8.1 inches of clearance, the center of gravity is low, for very car-like handling. My test vehicle had the optional adaptive air suspension. With settings for high-clearance dirt-road use, luxury car comfort, sport, or all-around "automatic", the Q7's character can change with the twist of the MMI button. On the introduction, I drove a Q7 through some steep, wet and very slippery mud-road terrain; it made it through easily and unscathed with the suspension set as high as possible. If in comfort mode it feels like a soft, comfy, and heavy SUV, a simple flick to sport will firm the spring and shock rates significantly and bring out its "world's biggest quattro" aspect - and quattro traction and massively wide tires will see to it that grip is excellent. My tester had the 20-inch wheels, with 45-series tires. On dry summer pavement they were wonderful, but if seriously inclement weather and mud or snow is in the plan, the other choices would be better.

PERFORMANCE: In the Q7, Audi's 4.2-liter twin-cam, 32-valve aluminum alloy V8 develops 350 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm. FSI direct fuel injection improves efficiency, for greater power output with lower fuel consumption than with port injection. Dual-stage intake manifolds and continuous cam phasing adjustment further improve power delivery and emissions. The Q7 is not particularly light, but it's light on its feet thanks to the six-speed automatic, which allows lower low gears for better acceleration and higher high gears for improved fuel economy, with minimal gaps between gears. It works well in D, and "Sport" mode delays shifts for faster acceleration and works well for sporty driving on secondary roads. Even better, move the shift lever to "Tiptronic" manual-shift mode and really exercise the engine - with its wide torque band and quattro grip, the Q7 can seem to be more of a sports car than sport utility. In a mix of highway, secondary road, and city driving, I averaged 17.5 mpg, not bad at all for a 5000-pound SUV. Acceleration, at around 7.0 seconds to 60 mph, is also commendable.

CONCLUSIONS: Audi may be the last luxury manufacturer to build an SUV, but sometimes, as is the case with its Q7, the wait is worthwhile.

SPECIFICATIONS
2007 Audi Q7

Base Price			$ 49,900
Price As Tested			$ 64,520
Engine Type			dual overhead cam, 32-valve aluminum
				 alloy direct fuel injection V8
Engine Size			4.2 liters / 254 cu. in.
Horsepower			350 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			325 @ 3500 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with
				 manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		118.2 in. / 200.2 in.
Curb Weight			5269 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.0
Fuel Capacity			26.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91-octane unleaded premium gasoline
				 for best performance
Tires				275/45 YR20 Bridgestone Dueler
				 H/P sport (opt)
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc, ABS,
				  EBD, ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		8.1 inches (adjustable to 9.4 with air
				 suspension)
Drivetrain			inline front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		14 / 19 / 17.5
0 to 60 mph				7.0 sec
Towing Capacity			6600 lbs. (5500 std.)

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Sycamore Green Metallic paint			$   750
Adaptive air suspension 			$ 2,600
Technology Package - includes:
  rear-view camera with rear Parktronic(r),
  Audi Side Assist, Advanced Key, 
  voice recognition				$ 2,400
Panorama sunroof				$ 1,850
Audi navigation system				$ 1,800
20-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires	$ 1,600
4-zone climate control				$   950
Cold Weather Package - includes:
  heated front and rear seats,
  heated steering wheel				$   850
Towing package					$   550
Sirius satellite radio				$   550
Destination charge				$   720

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