2008 Audi Q7
The Audi Q7 offers strength and refinement in a large, luxurious SUV. It is a paragon of driving elegance and interior refinement.
The Q7 shares its solid architecture with the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne. The Audi rides on a longer wheelbase, however, and the Q7 has a more compliant ride than the Volkswagen and Porsche. The Q7 is the longest of the three, and thus is the only one to offer three-row seating. To make its cabin more luxurious and inviting, Audi has equipped the Q7 with features not found on the Touareg or Cayenne. And when the weather turns sour, the Q7 benefits from Audi's decades of experience with Quattro all-wheel drive.
With a base price of considerably less than $50,000, the Q7 is priced close to others in the luxury SUV segment, which also includes the Cadillac SRX, Lexus GX 470, and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. With all-wheel drive, a choice of powerful V6 and V8 engines and arguably the classiest interior in the segment, the Q7 deserves serious consideration when shopping for a luxury SUV.
For 2008, its second year, the Q7 gets only minor changes. The model lineup has been streamlined and the base model gets more standard equipment. New wheel designs are available, and optional equipment is shuffled. The Q7 was launched as a 2007 model.
Audi Q7 3.6 quattro ($42,500); 3.6 quattro Premium ($48,350); 4.2 quattro Premium ($58,600)
Walk AroundThe styling of the Audi Q7 offers no surprises, just typical Audi class, as if the A6 wagon experienced an unexpected growth spurt. The Q7 is bigger than it looks. The blunt front end features Audi's signature bold grille flanked by menacing headlights at the leading edge of the sculpted hood. A heavily stylized front end helps mask the formidable mass of the Q7's nose. Fog lights are set into the lower moldings.
Crisp side-view styling with articulated fenders and an arching roofline also do much to lessen the generous dimensions of the Q7. The exterior mirrors are perhaps the largest we've ever seen on a vehicle in this class, which should come in handy when towing. Two stylish, full-length metal rails on the roof provide anchor points for accessory crossbars for securing cargo on the roof.
The Q7's rear view is dominated by high-mounted, horizontal taillights with LED illumination and fiber-optic/LED turn signals. The cut line for the tailgate sweeps outward around the taillights to become a styling element of its own.
Lower moldings are rendered in a durable, unpainted, chip-resistant material that is color-keyed to the paint above. With the available S-Line appearance package, they are replaced by more aggressively styled lower moldings that are painted to match the body.
Cold weather features include pull-type door handles that are easy to use with gloves and wide-sweeping windshield wipers that, when not in use, rest on an area heated by the interior vents in order to prevent freezing.
InteriorAudi designed the Q7 interior with flexibility in mind. All told, it reportedly offers 28 different passenger/cargo arrangements between three available seating configurations.
With the conventional 40/20/40 split second-row bench seat, the Q7 seats five; add the third-row seat and it'll seat seven. A six-passenger arrangement is available with second-row bucket seats separated by a center console, with the third-row bench behind it. All second-row seats slide for/aft four inches to maximize legroom, which Audi claims gives the Q7 the most stretch-out room in the class. We find second-row bucket seats more comfortable than bench seats, however, the bucket seats with center console diminish cargo capability and dog friendliness so consider this carefully before ordering second-row buckets.
The driver's seat is comfortable and most drivers should find the driving position nearly perfect. Getting in and out of the front seats or the second-row seats is easy thanks to large doors and a reasonably low floor. Accessing the third row is not as easy: The second-row seat slides and folds forward to grant access, but never quite enough for an adult to get back there smoothly. In Audi's defense, the seat was designed to accommodate people no taller than five feet, four inches. As with most, if not all, SUVs, the third row is best left to the kids.
Interior trim speaks of high quality, with padded surfaces everywhere one can touch and virtually no hard plastics. Three different kinds of wood are available, as is patterned aluminum trim. The mix of materials conveys a level of luxury that matches, if not exceeds, the Q7's price.
The gauges are clear and bright with an information display between the speedometer and tachometer which cycles through several menus via buttons on the steering wheel. Redundant navigation messages are also communicated through this display, even when the dashboard screen displays something else, a useful feature. The stalk-mounted cruise controls and the switches for the wipers and lights have a supple, expensive feel.
The Multi-Media Interface, or MMI, controls the stereo, navigation system, and other functions. Designed to reduce the amount of buttons on the dashboard while adding even more features, MMI adds layers of complexity that require considerable time and practice to operate smoothly. The system features a central control dial and some 15 buttons to control the climate, audio, phone, and navigation systems, as well as relevant vehicle system information. The controls are situated on the horizontal surface behind the shift knob. In addition to the added complexity, using the MMI often requires a longer look away from the road.
Stereo choices for the Q7 include an AM/FM/CD unit with eight speakers, an AM/FM/6CD unit with 14 Bose speakers, and a 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen system with 14 speakers. Sirius satellite radio is standard on all but the base model. We found the 14-speaker Bose system to be outstanding; sound remains clear at high volume and the system has a lot of power. While most of the audio adjustment functions are incorporated into MMI, the controls used most often, such as the volume and seek functions, are adjusted with clearly labeled buttons and knobs mounted sensibly and attractively on the center console, just in front of the armrest. The system also responds to voice commands.
The Rearview Camera and Parking System incorporates a camera in the liftgate to provide a view behind the vehicle when backing up. The image is clearly projected on the screen, with parking guide lines showing the path the vehicle would take given the steering wheel angle at the time. As the wheel turns, the guide lines change accordingly. We found this to be an extremely useful feature. It's especially valuable when backing up to a trailer, allowing the driver to position the receiver ball directly below the trailer hitch. It's also a great safety feature, whether back
Driving ImpressionsOn the road, the Q7 behaves like an Audi. The fully independent suspension delivers a comfortable ride and controlled handling. Road imperfections are managed without being transferred into unbecoming jolts or booming sounds in the cabin. Even at high speeds, interior noise level is low enough for conversation to be held without raising one's voice. Not as pillowy as the Lexus GX 470 nor as stiff as the BMW X5 or Infiniti FX, the Q7's ride hits the sweet spot many luxury SUV shoppers desire.
Power from the 280-hp 3.6-liter V6 is more than adequate for most drivers, with plenty on tap for quick, smooth acceleration in spite of its high curb weight of over 5000 pounds. The V6 emits a satisfying growl under full throttle but goes virtually silent when coasting or cruising. The throaty 350-hp 4.2-liter V8 offers more power than most drivers need and even more impressive acceleration numbers (0-60 in just 7.0 seconds, according to Audi).
The six-speed automatic transmission shifts so smoothly it's almost imperceptible except during full-throttle acceleration. The Sport mode provides faster shifts and automatically holds gears a bit longer for more responsive performance. If the driver wants to shift manually, the Tiptronic manual shift feature is selected by moving the shift lever to the right, then tapping it up or down as desired. The multi-information display in the instrument cluster clearly displays the selected gear.
Quattro all-wheel drive works full time and requires no driver input. Normally, power is delivered to the front and rear wheels in a 42/58 percent split to create a rear-wheel-drive sensation for confident dry-weather handling. When driving conditions become such that traction becomes compromised, the torque split is automatically adjusted between the parameters of 65/35 to 15/85 percent, front-to-rear.
Electronic stability control, or ESC, manages wheel slip by applying brakes at the slipping wheel without interrupting power deliver to the wheels with grip. The system helps maintain stability in corners by lightly applying the brakes to individual wheels when the vehicle's path doesn't match the driver's intentions. The Q7's electronic stability control system is enhanced with an off-road mode that can be switched on to allow some slip for smooth power delivery on gravel roads. For steep, slippery grades, Hill Descent Control automatically maintains a 12-mph speed by applying the brakes to individual wheels without driver input, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering.
Fuel economy with the 3.6-liter V6 is an EPA-estimated 14 miles per gallon City and 20 Highway. The 4.2-liter V8 is thirstier, rated at 12/17 mpg City/Highway.
Towing capacity starts at 5500 pounds for all models but rises to 6600 pounds with the optional towing package. The Adaptive Air Suspension features a trailer mode that helps manage the unique physics of towing. The Adaptive Air Suspension functions as a self-leveling suspension, so when towing you're not blinding other drivers with your low beams. The Q7 also has a Tow mode for the electronic stability control calibrated to counteract swaying motions that can become dangerous when pulling a trailer.
The power steering is speed-sensitive, reducing the amount of assistance at higher speeds to deliver more road feel. Steering isn't as heavy as that in the BMW X5, for example, but nor is it as light as that of the GMC Yukon. On-center feel is outstanding, with steering inputs met by quick response, and it's just 2.7 turns of the steering wheel from lock to lock.
Handling is superb for a vehicle of this size. The Q7 is only two inches shorter than a Cadillac Escalade and actually has a longer wheelbase. Nonetheless, it feels much smaller, reacting readily to quick changes of direction. Only in close quarter handling, like in parking lots or parallel parking does the Q7's size become evident.
The Adaptive Air Suspensio
The Audi Q7 represents a winning combination of comfort, style and space. It offers significant towing and hauling capability and serious off-road capability. It can seat up to seven and features a tall roof for lots of headroom and a high seating position for a commanding view of the road ahead. All of this is infused with Audi's luxurious accommodations and high-grade interior materials and design.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell reported from Chicago, with Mitch McCullough in Los Angeles; Steve Siler filed the initial report from Scottsdale, Arizona.