First Look: Audi Q7

First Look

Audi's Q7 continues to be one of the finest large luxury SUVs on the market. With a 6.0-liter V12 TDI that's available for Europe only, US buyers are offered instead a 3.0-liter TDI with up to 225hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. A 3.0-liter supercharged gasoline V6 is also available.

It was a bit worrying when Audi announced that they would be dropping the 4.2-liter V8 and the 3.6-liter V6 in favor of a pair of 3.0-liter TFSI V6's tuned for different outputs. It made us think of the time, a few years ago, when Audi decided that the US didn't appreciate diesel enough to make it worth offering their monstrous 6.0-liter V12 TDI in the Q7. Truthfully, the 3.0 TDI we did get is quite a good engine, but we still feel as though we're missing out.

Well, it is true that the 3.0 doesn't offer quite as much horsepower as the engines it replaces, but you'd never notice. The difference is small, and the 3.0's Roots-type supercharger more than makes up for the smaller displacement. In the higher-output (333hp) trim, torque output is the same as it is in the engine it replaces, and in lower-output (272hp) trim there is a noticeable bump in torque over the old 3.6-liter V6. This torque is also very smooth in application, and that kind of thing is important in a vehicle weighing just shy of 5700lbs.

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Helping with this smooth delivery of power is a new eight-speed automatic transmission, previously found only in the A8. This new transmission seems to have a much easier time finding the proper gear than the old six-speed did, especially when bolted up to the higher-output engine. When selecting the diesel option, you get the same 3.0 TDI as before, but now with the new eight-speed auto. With its 225 horsepower and 406lb-ft of torque, the TDI actually makes for a surprisingly capable off-roader, not that many Q7 owners are likely to take them off road.

The interior is, well, an Audi interior. That is to say it's fantastic. Spacious, comfortable, well appointed and well laid-out, we have no complaints on the interior. The exterior doesn't work quite as well, particularly the front fascia. Here the Q7 suffers in much the same way as its platform-mate, the Porsche Cayenne. In attempting to use styling cues from a much smaller vehicle, they have made a front end which seems incongruous with the rest of the vehicle. To date, the Volkswagen Touareg is the only vehicle to use this platform that isn't odd-looking in some way, and for some reason, the more you spend the odder it gets.

The Q7 is neither small nor light, and the handling does not disguise this. Driving the Q7 is quite a bit more enjoyable than driving a school bus, for example, but you will be aware of the vehicle's heft when behind the wheel. The $48,000 base price in keeping with what the competition is offering, and the option list is less of a license to steal than it is with certain other German companies. Fuel economy has been improved as well, so the Q7 will hurt less while you're standing in front of the pump than most of the competition.

We would have a hard time justifying the purchase of a Q7 in situations when the Q5 would do, but assuming you have the need for more room, the Q7 is a good way to go.