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2007 Audi Q7

Slow and Stylish Wins The Race

    Can’t you just imagine a Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps three or four years ago, where all the car companies gathered together for the annual tradition to give thanks for their blessings.
     “I’m most thankful for my luxury SUV,” Cadillac said. “It’s keeping the lights on in Detroit.”
     “I second that,” Porsche said. “Who knew there were so many people willing to pay crazy money for a 5,000-pound brick—and an ugly one at that!”
     Of course, it would be about this time that Audi realized it had seriously missed the boat on the whole giant-SUV craze.
     “I’m thankful for Grandma’s health,” Audi blurted, trying to change the subject.
     Much laughing probably ensued. But we’re not sure that was a good idea because we just drove Audi’s first SUV, and now that it’s on the market it’s Audi who may be laughing—all the way to the bank.
     The Q7 may look small and wagon-ish in photos but in the metal this is one of the largest luxury SUVs on the road. Stretch a tape measure from badge to badge and the 200.2-inch Q7 reveals its true size. Mercedes’ new GL450 casts a shadow 0.1-inch longer and the Escalade and Navigator put another couple inches on that, but it’s clear that Audi has a big dog in the fight. This kind of length means the Q7 has room for a small third row of fold-flat seats that, according to Audi and verified by us, are meant for people under 5-foot 4-inches. Thankfully, they easily fold completely flat when not needed, so there really isn’t a compromise for carrying around the additional people capacity. Soccer moms are the main benefactors here.
     In the second row our tester came with the standard 40/20/40 bench seat that we judged too stiff for long trips, but we did appreciate the outboard seatback adjustments allowing passengers to dial in a more comfortable angle when wanted. As part of the $850 Cold Weather Package, the second row seats are heated in addition to the front chairs and steering wheel. That’s money well spent if you live in our neck of the woods, and if you add in another $950 you can kiss arguments about the temperature goodbye thanks to the 4-zone climate control system. We found the second row plenty roomy with more than 37-inches of legroom, and standard manual side shades are a nice touch. We haven’t sampled them ourselves, but if you don’t need max people capacity the $1,200 Second Row Comfort Seats (captain’s chairs with a center console) sound like an upgrade that frequent passengers would appreciate.
     A6 owners will feel right at home upfront because the Q7 borrows heavily from the midsize sedan’s successful IP layout. We like Audi’s lighter earth-tone color combinations better than our truck’s all-black interior, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t like the cabin. On the contrary, Audi must be the only automaker that can make this much black plastic look good. We think the key is the aluminum trim used here and there to break up the monotony. The clean instrument cluster is incredibly easy to read, all four doors have useful molded-in cup holders in the map pockets and MMI is still the best of the menu-driven control systems. Other praiseworthy items include a top-notch dead pedal, a decent Bose surround sound system, comfortable front seats and a power tilt and telescope steering column.
     AT staffers fell in love with the Berber carpet and the fast-acting power liftgate, but opinions were split on the $1,850 Panorama Sunroof. On one hand it does create an airy, naturally lit atmosphere that makes the interior seem bigger than it really is, but on the other hand it’s a lot of money for a noisy hole in the roof. The $2,400 Technology Package is way overpriced in our estimation, although the rear view camera is handy with its moving parking guide lines and Audi Side Assist (a blind spot warning system) seemed to work as advertised in our week with the vehicle.
     As good as Audi’s 4.2-liter FSI V8 is, it didn’t work as advertised. Oh sure, it’s plenty smooth, makes great mechanical noises and turns out 350 hp at 6,800 rpm, but Audi claims our truck should have scooted to 60 mph in seven seconds flat, which is sort of like asking a 5,269-pound brick with the frontal area of the Kremlin to accelerate like a cheetah—it’s not gonna happen, at least not with only 325 lb-ft of torque. No matter what technique we used with the 6-speed Tiptronic transmission we couldn’t get any closer than an 8.0 second run to 60 mph. The tranny’s manual mode was useless as it upshifted at the same point it does under full automatic control. We were disappointed in that finding because Audi’s transmissions are usually among the best in allowing driver control. When we kept our foot down the quarter-mile fell in 16.2 seconds at 87.3 mph, but too many of those runs will put a serious dent in the Q7’s already mediocre EPA estimates of 14 mpg city and 19 highway.
     Thanks to the optional $2,600 Adaptive Air Suspension, the Q7 could hunker down for stable high speed running or be pumped up to clear off-road obstacles. Audi certainly hasn’t included the hardcore hardware like parent Volkswagen did with its Touareg. For starters the quattro system is completely automatic, there’s no low-range and the low-profile 20” wheels on our example looked ready to deflate at the first sign of a sharp rock. We think this was a smart move because Audi owners don’t seem particularly likely to leave Suburbland behind.
     On the road, where it matters, we found a pleasant, controlled ride and the dynamic roll stabilization kept the big brute from keeling over in moderately fast corners. Powerful six piston front calipers and 13.8-inch front discs help slow the Q7 in a praiseworthy 117 feet; a number that some far lighter cars can’t even match. And if you can’t stop in time rest assured Audi has included a full compliment of air bags, including curtain air bags that reach all the way to the third row.
     From its muscular flowing lines to its first class accommodations for five—plus two in a pinch—the latest luxury SUV to hit the market looks like it has brought game. It may not be as fast as Audi claims but there’s a lot to like in the new $63,770 as-tested Q7.

The Good:
Stylish, comfortable, luxury options galore, can tow 6,600 pounds.
The Bad:
Slopping roofline cuts into cargo capacity, glove box and center console storage is limited, stiff second row seats, weight reduces performance.
The Verdict:
The typical Audi luxury car experience now comes with a command seating position.


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