AutoGuide.com gathered five of the most significant utility vehicles for the 2017 model year for our annual Utility Vehicle of the Year evaluations. This year, our contenders are the Kia Sportage, Jaguar F-Pace, GMC Acadia, Audi Q7 and Honda CR-V. There was no hard price cap on this year’s entrants, but we tried to make sure none of them were extravagantly priced. We will release a new video on each contender every day leading up to April 13, when we announce our winner. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out our Car of the Year and Truck of the Year series.
Of all the premium brands on the market, Audi has, at least until this point, kept things pretty simple when it comes to its crossovers and SUVs.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder; 3.0L supercharged V6
Output: 252 hp, 272 lb-ft; 333 hp, 325 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed auto
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 20 city, 25 hwy; 19 city, 25 hwy
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.9 city, 9.6 hwy; 12.6 city, 9.4 hwy
US Price: Starts at $49,000
CAN Price: Starts at $61,900
With three choices available, the 2017 Audi Q7 finds itself on top, looming large over its smaller siblings in more ways than one. Comparatively speaking, this latest version looks much smaller than before, though its dimensions are virtually identical. This is still a behemoth, but the new design makes the Q7 look far less bloated.
With its aluminum-intensive construction, the Q7’s size isn’t quite as noticeable as before. Some 474 lb (215 kg) was removed from its curb weight in this, its second generation, which isn’t quite as substantial as the weight loss plan by another 2017 AutoGuide.com Utility of the Year contender, the 2017 GMC Acadia, but it’s still an impressive feat.
That reduction in weight deserves most of the credit for the Q7’s newfound driving dynamics, which are vastly improved. Its platform-mate, the Porsche Cayenne, is still king when it comes to fun-to-drive full-size sport utilities, but this Audi can scratch the itch when called upon. It’s surprisingly agile for an SUV that stretches 199.6 inches (5,070 millimeters) from bumper to bumper, though all 4,938 lb (2,240 kg) of its curb weight with the V6 under the hood can certainly be felt through fast corners.
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The best way to cut down on the amount of weight that can be felt during the drive is to opt for the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. With the engine outputting 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft, the six-cylinder isn’t inundated with power but proffers far more than the turbocharged 2.0-liter base engine. And considering just how similar their fuel economy ratings are — the 2.0-liter is rated at 22 mpg (10.8 L/100 km) combined, while the 3.0-liter is rated at 21 mpg (11.1 L/100 km) combined — there is no inherent advantage to the smaller engine on this side of the Atlantic.
The Q7’s ride quality is as smooth as its power delivery, something that’s only enhanced by the optional air suspension. As is to be expected, the adjustable setup is far more comfortable than the standard steel suspension, and does well to roll over all sorts of uneven surfaces without transferring much of it to driver or passenger.
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When it comes to passenger space, there’s plenty inside the Q7. Seating for seven is standard, though folks relegated to the third row are unlikely to be thrilled about it. Instead — and understandably — it’s the first two rows that provide the most comfort and space to stretch out. The cabin feels cavernous yet cozy, with more than 38 inches (965 mm) of headroom in the first two rows of seats to go along with 41.7 inches (1,059 mm) of legroom up front and 38.8 (986 mm) in the second row. Better still, shoulder room in the first and second rows stands at 59.5 inches (1,511 mm) and 58.5 inches (1,486 mm), respectively, for an added sense of space.
There’s also tons of technology in the Q7’s cabin, though most of it doesn’t come cheap. The infotainment screen still isn’t touch-sensitive, which means the finicky, laptop-like touchpad on the center console is the best method to navigate the infotainment system. There’s also a slick new gauge cluster screen dubbed the “Virtual Cockpit” that can display Google Maps directions directly in front of the driver, but it’s optional, along with pricey features like the phenomenal Bang & Olufsen stereo, which will alone add $5,000 ($5,100 in Canada) to the price tag. Add in options like adaptive cruise control, air suspension and heated rear seats, and the price can soar to the range of $90,000.
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The 2017 Audi Q7 is big and brooding, yet it somehow finds a way to remain civilized. Add in all the fancy tech you could ever ask for, and it’s an impressive SUV that’s right up there with the Volvo XC90, last year’s AutoGuide.com Utility Vehicle of the Year and easily one of the segment’s best. Of course, cost can be a factor, and the base price is a bit deceiving. But if money’s no object, there’s plenty of reasons to like Audi’s biggest — and best — sport utility.