By on June 17, 2006

101.jpgI’m a not-so-well-known writer for a not-so-well-known car mag and an equally obscure website.  I’m standing, jet-lagged and a little smelly, in the courtyard of a hotel I can't afford in front of a new SUV that costs more than my state college education.  I’m here on Audi's dime.  Come, Constant Reader, and join me for the auto writer's Holy of Holies: the press launch. A gaggle of my fellow egomaniacs and I are here to drive the brand new Audi Q7 SUV. 

I open the door and haul myself in. The door slams. Chunk. Solid as rebar. I look around and face the first of many moments of confusion. Audi has just flown me across three time zones.  My Malaysian-made Tag-Heuer knockoff says 8:16 in the morning, but my body clock ain't buying it.  It looks like A8 in here.  Or A6.  Where am I again? I fiddle with the Multi-Media Interface, Audi's slightly-less-screwy answer to BMW's entirely screwy iDrive. I find the navigation system, but can’t be bothered to GPS myself. Other menus control the air suspension’s relative puffiness, the stereo’s wikkidness and a complication of user-definable functions– like how long the headlights interrogate wildlife after you walk away.  Ah, the Germans: Masters of Convoluted Simplification. 

501.jpgI look around for the fancy gadgets highlighted in the crack of dawn press briefing.  Panoramic sunroof to brighten Audi's deluxe but dour materials?  Check.  Rear temperature controls to forestall the thermal implications of the panoramic sunroof?  I perform a quick center console reach around.  Check.   And what was that about the wipers?  Wasn’t there something about them parking in a different position each time so the blades won't wear out as fast?  How Phaetonesque. Too bad they couldn't apply all that engineering genius to something more useful, like designing a third-row seat roomy enough for those of us who actually have legs. 

Moments later, I'm cruising down the road with a fellow hack, praying that he’s got kids or some other reason not to endanger my life by showing me what a great driver he isn't.  As always, my goal is to probe the press car’s dynamic abilities without starting a pissing contest.  As I hit the expressway onramp, I floor it.  The Q7's acceleration is as thrilling as an Antique Road Show rerun.  Just what I expected from a 350hp V8 pulling a 5500lbs. SUV (seven second zero to sixty time notwithstanding).  I’m not stupid enough to drive a Tahoe-sized SUV like a Miata, but my co-driver has no such qualms. He horses the mighty Q7 into the first bend at a speed that exceeds his abilities. Remarkably, the Q7 stays the course.  My colleague’s post-corner commentary is insouciant, but his eyes have the haunted look of a man who's just had an electronic intervention. I fight an urge to pierce his right kidney with my Audi-branded pen.   

1001.jpgFast-forward to the off-road portion of Audi's militarily precise schedule.  It's really just a dirt road with attitude. No surprise there: I've seen what happens when jaded journalists take expensive SUVs on genuine off-road courses. Better to send the SUVs directly to the crusher and save the towing costs.  Still, it makes one wonder how much faith Audi has in the Q7's electronic stability program, which includes a trick, Land-Rover-like hill descent mode.   

Before we can raise the question, our German-employed minders distract us with lunch. My co-driver questions one of Audi's smiling press reps over prime rib and onion tarts.  Actually, he's not questioning, he's telling. It’s something about feeling the Quattro all-wheel-drive system shifting power to the front wheels as the Q7 transitioned from understeer to power-on oversteer.  I snigger into my Dasani.  I love listening to PR guys trying to tell journalists that they’re full of shit.  

Lounging in the hotel bed that night, I try to figure this one out.  For my paper paymasters, I’ll write about how the $50k-plus Q7 drives like an Audi sedan on stilts.  I’ll snipe at the SUV’s disastrous fuel efficiency– the one complaint that’s beyond all censorship.  Not that its petrochemical consumption matters to anyone other than left-leaning journalists.  Q7 buyers will be image-conscious people who are too image-conscious to buy a BMW X5 or Mercedes GL because they don't want people to think they are image-conscious.  

150.jpgMy print editor would shit a kitten if I turned that in (which might make it worth doing). So I'll feed him some crap about the wonders of FSI direct injection, heap praise on Audi’s new blind-spot monitoring Side Assist system, and gently chide Audi for the cramped third row seat.  He'll be happy, I'll get paid and life will be good.  I wonder what they'll serve at next month's Cadillac event, and drift off to sleep.

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14 Comments on “Audi Q7 Review...”

  • avatar

    How can there be no comments on this one?

    This is exactly the sort of review TTAC needs. Sure, it doesn’t say much about the car, but plenty of sites have reviews. What no one else offers is true insight into the process through which most reviews are written.

    Only one thing could make it better: let’s hear some names!

    Another alternative: reviews of others’ reviews, noting portions that could only have been written under the influence.

  • avatar

    Bwaahaaa… if I could extrude a small cat, orifice-wise I would do so myself right now. Having just led the big bastard to the petrol trough and watched it chug its way through a large wad of my paycheck… I only WISH that I could write a review like that. Instead… I’m hoping to recoup some of what I’ve just spent on it by keeping my job.

    Although… if you can navigate your way around the boggling array of switchgear well enough to find the “Dynamic” mode on the setup – the handling is tight enough that even a bloated journo on a press junket should be able to stay out of trouble on the off-ramps.

    Hey… you didn’t mention the eyes in the back of its head… err butt.

    Lesley/Peterborough Examiner

  • avatar

    With a long weekend and plenty of miles to cover ahead of me, I returned the big Audi to the VW mothership three days early – the first press car I’ve ever done that with. Less than a week of driving and I was $120 out of pocket. It would be much happier with the kinda people who are used to menus with no prices.

    It’s over-the-top electronic comlexity was becoming a bit irritating anyway – it shouldn’t take a day of reading the manual to figure out how to adjust climate control. Like… how much is too much? Is there a level where badge-conscious snobbery is finally satisfied, or do they just keep shovelling it in, not because it’s better, but because they can? I mean, really, the simple act of going from too warm to just cool enough can be performed easily enough with the turn of a blunt knob, is it really necessary to bring it up onscreen to manipulate a virtual fan? Or does the mere fact that I’m even venting about it confirm that I just don’t get it (reminds me of a local fringe theatre that puts on stilted, pretentious productions that the hairy insiders fawn over and its detractors are dismissed with a pitying sneer).

    However, with dynamic mode engaged, I did enjoy pushing the big guy to its (not my) boundaries on the twisties. It certainly had the Audi “cornering on rails” thing going for it. Even with one wheel intentionally dropped onto the shoulder, it remained stable, in fact it would be hard to shake it into losing composure I think. (which leads me to conclude that your driving partner… simply couldn’t drive).

    It was nice vehicle to drive for sure, I just couldn’t imagine living with it.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one that finds the Q7 plain fucking ugly? It looks like a pregnant A6 Avant on stilts. It looks over-inflated, like someone put an air-compressor up its skirts. It looks absolutely hideous.

  • avatar

    “Am I the only one that finds the Q7 plain fucking ugly?”

    No sir, you are not. Am I the only one who can’t believe Audi thought that 2006 was the right time to build an SUV? WTF is the point? It looks like a silver plated school bus.

  • avatar
    Claude Dickson

    I hate this car. I’ve never driven it and likely never will, but I don’t need to drive this car to hate it: I hate the concept of all these overweight, over priced, gadget ridden cars for people who like the image these cars project of off road macho when, in reality, their idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service. I look forward to their extinction by high gas prices. It can’t come soon enough,

  • avatar

    Q7 vs X5:

    X5 4.4i – 4.4L 315 hp/324 tq – $53,600
    Q7 4.2q – 4.2L 350 hp/325 tq – $49,900

    X5 city: 16, highway: 21
    Q7 city: 17?, highway: 24? – taken from Audi A8 4.2L V8 data

    X5 max seating: 5
    Q7 max seating: 7

    X5 rear legroom: 35.4 in.
    Q7 rear legroom: 37.1 in.

    X5 rear shoulder room: 57.2 in.
    Q7 rear shoulder room: 58.1 in.

    Comparisons of X5 iDrive vs Q7 MMI usually state the MMI being more intuitive.

    The Q7 is about as elegant an SUV as you are going to find. It’s a giant station wagon, after all…at least it has some styling to it. You want f-ugly, you got it: the X5 is plenty fuckin ugly.

    Like it or not, the SUV is not going away any time soon. Doesn’t matter if gas is $10 per gallon here in the USA. At least the Q7 has a V6 version and will have diesel and hybrid versions out soon.

  • avatar

    EPA estimates for the Q7 4.2 are 14/19. So there goes that advantage.

    More thorough price analysis ( finds that the price difference when you adjust for feature differences is closer to $5,000.

    A new X5 with room for seven is around the corner.

  • avatar
    crackity jones

    Claude, I don’t think I’m drawn to this car because of badge snobbery. I might be so shallow that I don’t see it. What attracts me to the Q7 is actually how compact and not-piggish it looks compared to a Ford Expedition or even a X5. The fact that it has technology, or lots of technology, or mind-numbing technology, is not something that distinguishes it as bad in the luxury car market. All its rivals have technology. You sound like you hate the potential Q7 drivers–or what you see as an Audi driver–more than the car itself, which to me seems like a next-generation 7-passenger van that happens to have AWD and some off-road credentials thrown in. If you need all that room, would a Dodge Minivan be a more down-to-earth moral choice? Someone with the class bias that you seem to exhibit should not write about luxury cars. Its value is in the eye of the beholder. In the end it’s just a large car for people who need (or feel they need) that much space (or think they do). Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • avatar

    I still think that Audi did a great job with the Q7. And since interesting Audi’s new gadgets were integrated in this one makes this all the more exciting.

  • avatar

    Who cares what your personal needs are when it comes to a car, truck, or suv. This about whether the car is good or bad.

    Exterior: The Q7’s face is so aggressive and bad ass one can feel his testosterone taking over. The lines are conservative not too aggressive. The overall shape may be a bit to jelly bean like. All is nothing like the X5 with the typical no-line-lineup bmw sheet metal. I personally love how they took the trunk door and had it continue around putting the live on the side for more loading area.

    Interior: The Q7 has what you would expect form Audi. High quality materials that are fitted well together. Not very flashy, but nothing that screams something bad. Oh no it doesn’t have a third row seat to fit a six foot adult. What premium suv does? And if it did would you sit back there? Of course not.

    Performance: If I’m looking for something fast, I’m not looking for an suv. 7s 0-60 is a good time, and the Q7 handles well, far better than your standard tahoe. The X5 gets around 6.3 0-60 which is a sizeable advantage, but hey, that x5 is up at 70K+. I could pay the same for a Z06 and flip the digits to 3.6s.

    Value: The Q7 is expensive, but lets compare it to other suv’sof the same class. Go ahead, go to the websites and see for yourself $60k is a small max price.

    Oh: And don’t forget, you can’t get quattro anywhere else. So if you want to push your SUV in rain and snow, this is the one. Yes Benz’s 4-matic is a good system too, but I do not feel the GL looks too sporty compared to this and the X5.

  • avatar

    Man the Q7 is so ugly, I can’t find the words to describe it. It looks like something an 8 year old kid would see in his nightmares.

  • avatar

    Audi waited until well after America’s obsession with the SUV had begun to cool before introducing one. Although late to the game, Audi’s Q7 manages to impress as a triumph of technology, elegance, performance and quality.

    Technically classified as a light truck by the EPA, the Q7’s character is much more akin to a luxury sedan. It delivers great driving dynamics along with a slew of technical goodies while offering a spacious interior and off-road capability.

    Video Review:

  • avatar

    Now a days audi is becoming more famous because of it’s luxurious look and feel.
    People now a days buy audi for it’s performance and speed.

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