Full disclosure: I really like Audis. I own two of them: an A4 Avant and an A4 Cabriolet. So when Audi offered me the chance to review a Q7, Ingolstadt's answer to "how late can you be to an SUV party and still not wonder why you bothered to show up in the first place," I said game on. After all, it's an Audi. What's not to like?
The Q7 is huge. It shares familial DNA with VW's Touareg and Porsche's Cayenne. The key difference: the Audi's platform's been stretched to add an Audi-exclusive third row of seats. Dimensionally, it's within two inches of a Chevrolet Tahoe in every direction. The Q7's hood is as high as a TT's roof. Form follows gigantism.
The Q7's front end is dominated by Audi's now-familiar, still-voracious trapezoidal grill. The flanking headlights are pulled tighter than Joan River's eyelids. Smaller grills below the headlights help visually balance the beast, but stick a U.S. license plate on its snout and the whole thing falls apart, At the back, power-operated tailgate wraps around the Q7's curvaceous butt, carrying a pair of "eagle's head" taillights.
The Q7's cabin offers the usual Audi haptic heaven/haven. Audi festoons the "4.2 Premium" version with enough luxurious surfaces and standard toys to takes you to Infiniti– and beyond! Our loaded tester added panoramic sunroof, voice control and parking assist. Like all but the cheapest Audis, a Multi-Media Interface (MMI) controls the Q7's toys, sound and HVAC. While the MMI is A-OK for techno-literate– it's the easiest of the joystick-style control systems to master– there are "complications." Directing AC to a specific vent, for example, requires push, twirl, push, push. And then repeat if you want to do the same on the other side.
The Q7 driver and front passenger ride in supreme comfort. The rest, not so much. Well, at all. To provide a flat load floor, the SUV's second row seats are set so low that summer thigh-sticking is a non-issue. The center chairs also recline: a one-way ticket to backache city (they're articulated about three inches above the ideal location). A bar directly overhead separates the front and rear sunroofs; anyone knocking-on six feet tall risks spinal compression.
Make sure anyone older than ten headed for the third row doesn't have a personal injury lawyer on speed dial. To their credit, Audi does its best to prevent legal trouble; good luck threading through the second row for way back access. Once there, the chairs are as low as the second row AND there's all of five inches between the front edge of the seat cushions and the back of the center row (center row denizens can slide forward to provide a few extra inches, if they're generous). Still, fourteen cup holders.
Under the hood, Audi's sweet-spinning 4.2-liter V8 churns out 350hp and 325 lbs. ft. of torque. That's enough oomph to propel the two-and-a-half ton behemoth from rest to
the nearest gas station 60mph in 7.1 seconds. With the optional towing package, she'll pull 6600 lbs. The downside: EPA 12 mpg in the city, 17 highway. It doesn't take long to suck the 26-gallon tank dry. Regularly refilling the Q7 with the recommended premium fuel requires a corundum credit card.
I didn't take the Q7 into the wild, despite the $2.6k Adaptive Air Suspension's "offroad" setting. Rock climbing in $2k summer performance tires sitting on 20" chrome wheels struck me as a particularly easy way to break/scratch something VERY expensive. The Q7 was at home navigating the switchbacks on narrow two-lane roads in the Georgia mountains. It was fast, sure-footed and, despite the shoes, comfortable. Just be careful choosing the suspension setting. Selecting anything but "dynamic" makes the steering feel twitchy and over-sensitive.
Effortless highway cruising is the order of the day. With George Benson's guitar stylings slipping from the 14-speaker BOSE surround sound system and the cruise control set to a [theoretically] extralegal speed, the Q7 leaps long stretches of asphalt in a single tank of gas. Bound. I mean bound.
Audi's given us a $67k SUV that can do what SUVs do. Which is something of a problem. If you need a vehicle that'll carry seven people while towing three tons, and you can do without the technotoys, you could buy a used Chevrolet Suburban. And then use the money saved to buy an A6– a damn fine automobile– to drive the rest of the time. But hey, that's me. If you like the idea of an Audi-on-stilts, and can afford the freight, well, here it is.
[Audi furnished the car, insurance and a tank of gas for this review.]