When I first entered the Audi Q7 to take it for a test ride at the annual Midwest Automobile Media Association (MAMA) event, the Audi rep was sitting in the passenger seat. I was anxious to get it in gear and go, but first, he wanted to give me a lengthy explanation of the new voice command GPS System in the vehicle. That may be interesting to some journalists, but when you’re talking to a technically challenged guy like me, it doesn’t take long for my eyes to glaze over. Besides, I’ll have plenty of time to get to that option later, and I like to see for myself how easy or difficult it is to program an address, and work my way around the system myself, so I can either praise or rant about it’s ease of use. But I was a captive audience, and he was as insistent as he was excited to show me what the system could do.
|1. The Q7 TDI is powered by a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 that makes 225hp and 406 ft-lbs of torque. |
2. Fuel economy is rated at 17/25 mpg (city/hwy), which is significantly better than the gasoline V6, which is rated at 14/20 mpg.
3. The Q7 TDI starts at $50,900, but our tester topped out at $76,725 with options.
He started by telling me the system had 3-D capabilities, and right away I figured I’d have to now put on some special glasses to use the thing. But what he meant by that was you could “fly” virtually to your destination, such as the Sears Tower in Chicago, by the use of the joystick, and see how your route would look if you were a bird.
OK, I’ve seen that kind of thing on Google, and while it’s cool, it won’t really help me much, since I’m pretty sure the Q7 doesn’t fly. I just wanted to know how easy it would be to program an address and store it in the address book. “So what buttons do I need to push for that”? I asked. “Just this one,” he replied, “and now speak the address out loud and the GPS will enter it into the memory.”
Well, this got my attention right away. No tedious buttons to push, just speaking. I can handle that.
With that out of the way, the Audi rep said the words, “I’m hungry.” A second later up popped a choice of six restaurants on the screen, with dozens more listed if I wanted to scroll through the listings. It also listed just how far they were from my current position. If I had chosen Luigi’s Pizzeria, the NAV system would have started the route guidance to that spot. Pretty slick.
Then he said, “I need gas,” and the closest gas stations appeared on the screen. Then came the command, “Need coffee,” and there was the list of the closest Starbucks. Of course that feature isn’t so important, since you can be standing almost anywhere in America, and just look up and see one. But still, you get the idea.
Then he said, “Get Cash.” I half expected $20 bills to be spit out of the CD slot, but instead it just showed me the locations of the nearest ATM locations.
So without pressing a lot of buttons, I could just ask the car to satisfy many of my basic needs in life. I could ask the Audi to get me to a gas station to fill up the car, so I could drive to a Starbucks for a high-octane shot of espresso, and then later on when I was hungry, it could find me an ATM to get the cash to buy a nice plate of moo shu pork. Now if I could just speak the words for my review into it, and have the car print it out, I’d never have to leave the vehicle.
IT’S A DIESEL? REALLY?
By the time the Audi rep had finished the demonstration, which I prolonged because I was really into it, a half hour had passed. He finally left the vehicle, and I was on the road for my evaluation.
When I returned I began scribbling my comments and preliminary impressions for the review on a note pad when my friendly Audi rep approached. The first thing he asked me was what I thought about the turbo diesel motor. And that my friends, is the testament to this vehicle; I’d just driven it around the Wisconsin countryside, and didn’t even realize that it was a diesel powered SUV !
I always try not to know much about a car before I drive it, so I don’t bring any preconceived notions into my review. I don’t look at the window sticker or promo materials, and in this case, I didn’t see the badging on the rear liftgate. So the fact that it was a diesel – you know, one of those smelly, clattering, hard to start engines that really put me off – just amazed me. But this newest powerplant form Audi has caused me to rethink my prejudices against diesels.
The motor is a 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder, turbocharged diesel, that puts out 225 horsepower and a stump pulling 406 ft-lbs of mother lovin’ torque, which can get the Q7 up to 60 miles per hour in about 8.5 seconds. That may not be sports car numbers, but we’re talking about an SUV that weighs 5,270 pounds!
Apparently, Audi fits this engine into several European-only models, including the A4, so I’m sure that in those lighter vehicles, the performance is even more impressive. In the Q7 it provided more than enough power to pass cars on the two-lane roads without even downshifting. Best of all, the mileage rating on the window sticker is 17 mpg for the city and a whopping 25 on the highway.
Armed with this new knowledge, I took the car back out on the road, this time with the windows open. And yes, I could hear some diesel clatter at times, especially under hard acceleration, but it was nothing like what I would have expected from a diesel, and I was purposely tuned into listening for it. So, overall, I’d have to say that the old negatives I had stored up in my mental “diesel folder” were erased by this engine, including the hard to start notion, since Audi claims that even in the coldest weather; it will take no more than two seconds for the engine to fire up. I remember a buddy of mine had an Oldsmobile diesel in the mid ’80’s that would take up to 60 seconds for the plugs to heat up enough to fire the engine, and on many a cold day, it just wouldn’t start at all.
QUIET DIESEL BUT STILL A TRUCK-LIKE DRIVE
On the road, the Q7 feels like a behemoth when it comes to cornering, and made me crave the smaller dimensions and cornering abilities of the Q5. You get a fair amount of body lean and you can feel the Q7’s heft. The ride can feel a little harsh at times on rough pavement. Overall it feels more truck-like than car-like. The brakes felt strong and had good feel. Naturally there’s ABS and Electronic Stability Control, and since this an all-wheel-drive vehicle, it will do a lot for snow and bad weather driving confidence.
In true Audi fashion the cabin is quite satisfying. The seats are a bit firm, but wide. Leather abounds, with rich looking wood trim, and the look and feel of the cabin surfaces and controls is excellent. Every imaginable luxury amenity is present, and I couldn’t even think of one they left off. Even the rear passengers had their own dual climate controls and heated seats. In particular I liked the Panorama moonroof, which is great for letting in plenty of light as it runs almost the full length of the top for an open and airy feel inside. The test vehicle was equipped with the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System, which is a $6,300 option. It was like sitting inside a symphony hall (and perhaps another reason I didn’t pick up on the diesel engine!) Of course it should sound great for that price.
Even though this is a huge vehicle, it’s not as roomy inside as you’d expect. The third row seats are only for kids, especially in the headroom department, due to the sloping roofline that makes the Q7 look so stylish on the outside. Even the second row can feel a bit cramped in legroom if the front seats are pushed too far back.
Cargo space is a bit tight with the third row seats upright at just 10.9 cubic feet, but I suspect that most of the time that row will be lowered for the extra cargo room, expanding the space to 42 cu.-ft. And even the second row seats can be folded flat for a total of 72.5 cu.-ft. of carrying capacity. Still, if you’re looking for cargo room in a luxury SUV, I’d suggest a Lexus LX of Mercedes GL – which can be had as a diesel.
The base price for the Q7 TDI is a bit of a shocker at $50,900, compared to $46,900 for the base 3.6-liter gas engine and $61,000 for the 4.2-liter V8. OK, that seems stiff, but after all this is a large vehicle, and it is really nice inside and out.
What really floored me, however, was the total cost of my tester at $76,725. That’s right, $26,000 worth of options. There’s that $6,300 for the Bang & Olufsen stereo, plus another $6,000 for the Luxury Package that includes an Alcantara headliner, and premium cricket leather for the top of the instrument panel, center console, door armrests and pulls. (Who knew cricket hides were so expensive?)
Then there’s the $5,900 Prestige Package that includes a front park assist and the rearview camera for the GPS screen, the voice control NAV system and DVD player, driver side memory seats, auto-dimming and power folding side mirrors, Xenon headlights and the advanced keyless entry. $2,600 gets you the Adaptive Air Suspension. $1,850 for the Panorama Moonroof. The S Line package gets you 20-inch wheels with all-season radials, brushed aluminum decorative inlays and the multi-function steering wheel with shift paddles. The Warm Weather Package for $1,150 buys you the Four-Zone climate control, and manual window shades for the rear door and tailgate. With the $825 Destination Charge, it all ads up to $76,725. When you’ve got that much extra on a car, it’s a little hard to tell what it would look like in more basic trim. The basic vehicle doesn’t change, but my enthusiasm for the cabin look and feel, with only the standard features might be much more subdued. Too bad, since I had rather gotten used to sitting on Cricket Leather.
The Q7 is a large heavy vehicle that drives like one, but isn’t quite as large and useful as its size would suggest. The turbo diesel engine offers excellent gas mileage and performance without the usual diesel engine drawbacks. The fit and finish is excellent as with any other Audi, and the styling is unique and handsome. Personally I prefer the smaller Q5, but if that third row seating is necessary, and you need more cargo capacity then the Q7 is what you’re left with – and you’ll have to give up some driving excitement to get it. The real kicker, however, is the price once you start checking off option boxes. No wonder Audi offers the Q7 with a voice-activated navigation system, which can help direct you to the nearest bank for a loan.