2007 Audi Q7 Review
AUDI Q7 OFF TO CHICAGO
No Slippin’, No Slidin’, Just Confident Gliden’
By Steve Purdy
Steve Says: In the large, luxury SUV category the Q7 is not only at home but may be in a leadership role.
It’s often a disappointment to have a competent all-wheel-driver for a test car on a week when there are no adverse conditions with which to have some fun or time to find off-road opportunities. That was not the case this week – at least the former. Our Audi Q7 arrived just in time to challenge over a hundred miles of lake-effect snow on our way to the Chicago Auto Show.
After an exceptionally mild early winter Mother Nature pounded us with a vengeance these past few weeks – temperatures around zero, chill indexes approaching 20-below and winds over 30 mph. I’ve become convinced this week that global warming is a good thing. I had no idea what to expect as I left home in south central Michigan for the drive to Chicago. Lake effect snow coming off Lake Michigan had plagued the western counties for more than a week as bitter cold winds blew in from Canada picking up moisture across the big lake that, because of the mild winter, had not yet frozen.
Roads were clear and dry with just a few slippery patches under the underpasses until just west of Kalamazoo. Then, without warning the left lane of I-94 turned white with packed ice and snow and the right lane was quickly glazing over with freezing slush – not black ice, just a sort of grey ice. The translucent slush in the right lane was much slipperier than the white packed hard stuff in the left. Just as the conditions changed cars began to find their way into the ditch and the median at an amazing pace – probably two or three per mile. Most were facing the direction from which they had come. An 18-wheeler was on its side having plowed along the median coming to rest a few feet from the bridge abutment.
I stuck to the left lane where, without fuss or drama, I was easily able to move along well faster than everyone else. I felt no squirm or wiggle. Whenever I was in the open without traffic nearby I would ease onto the brakes to assess the surface tension between my tires and the moisture between them and the road. Our test car has huge, wide 20-inch tires with an aggressive summer performance tread. The ABS kicked in easily and appropriately. Then I would punch the throttle to see if I could create a little drama. I could get perhaps a degree-and-a-half off straight before the Q7 would put itself right. Wow! I’m impressed. This is just the vehicle for this kind of driving.
Then, for an even better test I moved to the slushy right lane. As I eased over I could immediately feel a little fish-tailing as I backed off the throttle. Again, just a gentle squeeze of the brakes activated the ABS and a gentle ease onto the throttle brought her straight again. Audi’s 25 years of experience and development of the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive with rear-biased center differential has paid off. The Audi Q7 gets an A+ from this humble evaluator for slippery road performance. As much as 65% of power can be dedicated to the front wheels and 85% to the rear as needed.
The closer we came to Lake Michigan the worse visibility became – probably ranged from about ¼-mile at best to about 50-yards. From Benton Harbor to Chicago we’re within a few miles of the lake most of the way. The trip took just a half hour more than it takes me on dry roads.
The Q7 is Audi’s big new 7-passenger crossover SUV, sharing some underpinnings with VW’s Touareg and Porsche’s Cayenne (only 15% commonality – they say). Q7 has a commanding presence visually with smooth, massive front end featuring Audi and VW’s wide-mouth grille and its own personality quite different from Touareg and Cayenne. Not a truck-based SUV, nor a car-based CUV platform, it’s somewhere in between with lots of aluminum in the substructure as we might imagine. With three rows of seating Q7 is noticeably bigger than the others. Seat configurations are many, up to 28, says Audi. Second row, center seat can be a console instead of a butt spot and, like most SUVs the third row will accommodate small and/or agile folks. With the second and third row seats folded we have about 88-cu.-ft of cargo space available.
This test car is the Q7 “3.6 Premium,” with a 3.6-liter, 280 horsepower V6, and tons of standard stuff. Base price is about $46,000. Standard are 18-inch wheels, power rear lift gate, bi-zenon headlights, leather seats and trim, 14-speaker Bose audio with 6-CD changer, 6-speed Tiptronic transmission, quattro permanent all-wheel drive, speed sensitive steering, dual-zone climate control, lots of airbags, MMI Advanced system with 7-color screen, heated seats, wood inlays, anodized aluminum roof rails and plenty more. Options on our $57,470 test car are the Infotainment Package (Navigation system, Bluetooth compatibility, Sirius Satellite radio) for $2,800, Technology Package (parking assist with rear-view camera, side assist, advanced key and voice recognition) for $2,400, extra long sunroof for $1,850, 20-inch cast alloy wheels with summer performance tires for $1,600, Convenience Package (power tailgate, Homelink ®, adaptive front lighting, auto-dimming and electrically folding exterior mirrors, memory driver’s seat) for $1,200 and premium Cricket leather for $1,000. Destination charge is $720.
Q7 can be had in a 4.2-liter V8 iteration making 350 horsepower, zero-to-60 in seven seconds flat getting 14-mpg city and 19 highway. Both come with the competent Tiptronic 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode. Shifts are reasonably quick and decisive in both automatic and manual modes. And, of course Quattro comes standard. Torque split is defaulted at 42% front and 58% rear for nimbleness. Coefficient of drag is a respectable .34.
Inside we feel like royalty as we luxuriate in the high quality leather, wood and aluminum surrounded by plastics that do not call attention to themselves. Lots of room and understated aesthetics characterize this comfortable, stylish cabin. The controls, on the other hand, are more complex than they need to be. It took me most of the week to understand many of them. The MMI operating system that Audi claims is informative and empowering may be both but the learning curve is more than a week’s job for this reporter. I find the same frustrations with the navigation system. At least for this simpleton neither system is as intuitive as I’d like.
Passive and active safety are top-of-the-heap as you might guess from Audi. Plenty of smart airbags, advanced roll-over protection, electronic stability system, chassis dynamics. Other Audi models have done well in the IIHS “Safety Picks” though Q7 has not been tested yet.
While we thoroughly tested Q7’s slippery-road manners we did not test its substantial off-road capability. Q7 can be had with skid plates and adjustable height in case we want to climb some rocks.
In the large, luxury SUV category the Q7 is not only at home but may be in a leadership role.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved