Despite the damage, this was an important exercise in evaluating the new 2007 Audi Q7. Its maker bills it as a “performance SUV,” one equally capable on and off the pavement, and thanks to the varied terrain and roads north of Phoenix we were able to give the Q7 a thorough shakedown to determine if this represents a case of truth in advertising. Indeed, Audi has crafted a performance SUV by its definition, a handsome, luxurious, and spacious do-it-all kind of vehicle that the well-heeled will thoroughly enjoy on the road and off of it.
It’s about time Audi built the Q7. Until now, it had no SUV in its stable, unless you count the impressive but unfortunately overlooked Allroad, which was the German automaker’s interpretation of the classic Subaru Outback recipe – take one station wagon, add ground clearance, attach rugged design cues and knobby tires, and you’ve got an interim solution to market miscalculation. Trouble is, Audi waited so long to develop a real SUV that the trend passed. Ironically, today’s buyers want what the Allroad delivered: the looks of a truck with the ride and handling of a car. But today’s buyers also want jump seats in the cargo area that rob space, add weight, and are useful only for shuttling children – seats that remain folded down until Gram and Gramp come to spend the weekend. Thus, the 2007 Audi Q7 – it is alive.
In creating the Q7 – “Q” for Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system, “7” for seven-passenger capacity – Audi focused on four goals: design, performance, versatility, and safety. Based on our day-long ride and drive covering hundreds of miles of Arizona freeways, city streets, twisty two-lane roads, and dirt trails, we’d say the 2007 Audi Q7 delivers on all counts.
When the first 2007 Audi Q7s arrive in showrooms in June of 2006, each will be equipped with a 4.2-liter V8 engine and a “4.2” badge on the tailgate. Standard equipment will include leather upholstery, a power tailgate, bi-Xenon headlights, a Bose audio system with 14 speakers, a navigation system, Bluetooth communications technology, and the all-important third-row seat in the $49,900 price. If you can wait half a year, and don’t mind losing the goodies listed here, a less expensive about $40,000 model with a V6 engine and a “3.6” badge on the rear end will go on sale for about $40,000. Even at that price, parking assistance, power folding and heated side mirrors, dual-zone climate control, and a full complement of safety features comes standard on every Q7.
If those prices sound like a bargain, and they might given the size and capability of the Q7, keep in mind that Audi offers a stunning array of options and stickers rise rapidly as you add complexity to the SUV. Starting simply, there are larger wheels and tires available, and metallic paint is going to run extra. Interior upgrades like aluminum-look trim and LED lighting, Alcantara headliner and pillar trim, a cargo rail system that helps to secure loads in the cargo area, and second-row bucket seats separated by a large storage console in place of the standard bench are also optional. Other goodies include heated front and rear outboard seats, the Open Sky three-part sunroof, four-zone automatic climate control, and manual rear side window blinds.
Technology geeks who sank every penny into Google’s IPO can go even further with the Audi Q7. You can equip the SUV with a rearview camera for backing assistance, a navigation system with voice control, and a keyless locking and ignition system. Headlights that automatically swivel to illuminate corners are offered, as well as a lane-change warning system called Side Assist that monitors the Q7’s blind spots. Adaptive cruise control that operates between 0 and 90 mph and automatically adjusts speed based on traffic conditions is available, and the adaptive air suspension adjusts ride height for both off-roading and loading while managing cornering forces on twisty roads.
Enthusiasts will appreciate the S-Line Package with its 21-inch wheels, sportier front and rear fascia design, three-spoke sport steering wheel, and embossed leather sport seats. There’s also an Off-Road Package with skid plates, brush guards, and more rugged-looking side trim for people who might wish to explore regions less traveled, and risk insurance deductibles in the process.
Nuts and Bolts
Thanks to a rather portly 5,269 curb weight, the 2007 Audi Q7’s 4.2-liter direct-injection V8 is tuned to deliver 350 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 325 lb.-ft. at 3,500 rpm. And, to make sure the Q7 feels sprightly off the line and around town up to 85 percent of peak torque is available at less than 2,000 rpm, helping to give what should feel like a ponderous machine a lively feel. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph takes about seven seconds according to Audi, and the Q7 4.2 reaches an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. Standard towing capacity with V8 is 5,500 pounds, but the Q7 4.2 can tackle a 6,600-lb. load with the proper equipment.
Though the V8 is the more suitable engine for the heavy Q7, the 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 coming in September manages an acceptable level of performance thanks to its 280 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 265 lb.-ft. of torque that’s available across a flat power band from 2,500 to 5,000 rpm. Given its acceleration estimate of just over eight seconds to 60 mph, and a top speed of 130 mph that’s identical to the Q7 4.2, the lower price of entry and greater fuel efficiency of the V6 seems a worthy trade-off. Both engines require premium fuel.
Each Q7 is equipped with a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission driving all four wheels through Audi’s legendary Quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system. The Tiptronic transmission can be manually shifted using the gear selector, or it can be left in normal automatic mode where Dynamic Shift Program software allows the transmission to adapt to specific driving styles. There’s also a Sport mode that delays gear changes and performs them faster for better engine response. Quattro delivers traction in a 42/58 front/rear power split, ensured by its self-locking center differential. When the Q7’s wheels slip, Quattro can divert up to 65 percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels or, if necessary, as much as 85 percent to the rear wheels. Electronic differential locks brake individual wheels that are spinning to better control the apportioning of power and maximize traction. Audi says that by splitting power to favor the rear wheels, Quattro helps to negate torque steer when accelerating, and gives the Q7 a more sporting feel under normal driving conditions.
Speed-dependent Servotronic steering guides standard 18-inch aluminum wheels with 235/60 tires (4.2 models get 255/55) and tire pressure monitors that are attached to an aluminum double wishbone front and rear suspension. An optional adaptive air suspension features five automatic or driver-selected ride heights and includes dynamic roll stabilization to counteract the tall Q7’s natural tendency toward body roll.
With the adaptive air suspension, three primary modes are used for driving on the pavement: Dynamic, Automatic, and Comfort. Dynamic lowers the suspension more than half an inch for greater stability and less aerodynamic drag, and automatically engages at speeds over 75 mph. Comfort softens the dampers for a smoother ride quality. Automatic does exactly what its name implies; it automatically adjusts to create an optimal blend of ride quality, responsiveness, and stability. Dynamic roll stabilization manages the Q7’s weight transfer in turns by increasing outboard damping forces to counteract body roll. For off-roading, the adaptive air suspension offers Off-Road and Lift features. Off-Road can be used up to 60 mph, and raises ground clearance an inch. Lift adds almost another half inch for really tricky spots. For loading, a button in the cargo hold lowers the air suspension and the Q7’s load floor by 2.8 inches.
Sophisticated four-wheel-disc antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and Audi Braking Guard, a feature that automatically dries the brake pads during inclement weather. Traction and stability control systems are also standard and include an off-road mode with downhill speed regulation that can maintain the Q7’s speed below 12 mph for careful descents. Speaking of off-roading, Audi says the Q7 can ford water that’s 20 inches deep, can climb a 31-degree slope, and features a 21-degree breakover angle (24 degrees with the adaptive air suspension).
Aiming to convey elegance, dynamism, and robustness, Audi designed its new suv to have what it calls the sportiest proportions in the luxo-ute class. Above the beltline, designers wanted the Q7 to be smooth and flowing. Below the beltline, the styling goal was to impart a more rugged and expressive appearance. Up front, Audi’s characteristic single-frame grille leaves no question as to which company makes this SUV, while at the rear the tapered roofline terminates in a lightweight aluminum hatch that is deftly integrated into the design with virtually no shut lines visible when viewed from the rear. Audi offers 10 paint colors from which to choose, six of which are shades of black, white, or gray.
Not surprisingly, Audi patterned the Q7’s cabin after its A6 and A8 luxury sedans. Inside, the Q7 oozes class and quality, abounding in muted colors, soft touch points, and tight panel gaps. Audi offers three kinds of wood trim: burr walnut, olive ash, or tamo (a Japanese dark wood). Optional aluminum inlays, decorative rings and strips on the controls and switches, and special LED interior lighting is optional. You can also decorate the air vents with aluminum-look trim, but we advise against this because it causes distracting reflections in the side windows, making it hard to view the mirrors. You can also dress your Q7 in Alcantara suede for the headliner and pillar trim, and Audi offers a choice of leather upgrades, including a heavily-grained pattern unfortunately named Cricket.
We think the 2007 Audi Q7 is a handsome machine, and the exterior captures exactly what stylists wanted when they set out with paper and pen. However, at one point during our drive, we assumed we had caught another group of journalists on the highway only to discover instead that we’d closed in on a Toyota Sienna minivan. Oops. The interior, like any Audi, is lavishly appointed and feels upscale even in a lightly equipped model, but we highly recommend you skip the fake aluminum trim for the dash vents. The reflections are quite irritating when checking mirrors for lane changes or when reversing.
Of course, Audi includes as standard equipment its Multi-Media Interface (MMI), which controls various climate, entertainment, communications, and navigation systems. Today’s vehicles, especially luxury models, have so much technology on board that it’s impossible to offer a hard key on the dashboard to operate individual functions, so we concede that systems like MMI, and BMW’s iDrive, and Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND, are necessities. However, as anyone with experience driving a high-end Lexus can tell you, a touch screen is superior to what the Germans insist on installing in their products.
Audi’s MMI might be more intuitive than others on the market, but it is unforgivable to place oft-used controls on the center console where they require the driver to look so far away from the road that traffic ahead isn’t even visible in his peripheral vision. In a Lexus, you get a big touch screen placed high in the dash, and a minimal number of hard keys on either side of it to access specific menus. As a result, your eyes are never far from the road. This wonderful touch screen is complemented by hard keys on the dashboard for critical stereo and climate functions, as well as satellite controls on the steering wheel. We’ve yet to find a system that works better than what Lexus supplies, and advise that every luxury automaker on the planet immediately purchase a Lexus GS and copy, or better yet, improve, the design. Simplistic, touch screen technology is not proprietary to Lexus.
Safety and Technology
Safety is the price of entry in the 21st century automotive marketplace, and the 2007 Audi Q7 arrives with plenty of features and technology designed to keep you, and your loved ones, out of harm’s way. Standard equipment includes dual two-stage front airbags, front side-impact airbags, and Audi’s Sideguard system of side-curtain airbags that, in the Q7, inflate to protect occupants of all three rows. Audi offers side-impact airbags for the second row of seats, too. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters further protect against injury, and the Q7’s structure is designed to deflect crash energy away from the high-strength steel passenger cell.
Working in tandem with the braking system, the Audi Q7 is equipped with a stability control system that includes an off-road mode with downhill speed regulation to assure safe descents. Audi also features brake assist on the Q7, which senses a panic stop and produces full braking power before the driver can, as well as Audi Braking Guard, which automatically dries the brake pads during inclement weather.
These, along with the Q7’s rain sensing wipers and parking assist system with reverse-view camera, are increasingly common features in the luxury class. Uncommon, for now, are features like adaptive front lighting, adaptive cruise control, and a lane-change assistance system that Audi calls Side Assist. Side Assist constantly monitors the Q7’s blind spots. During normal driving, yellow lights visible only to the driver when she looks at the outside mirror will illuminate when vehicles are within 16.5 feet of twin radar sensors mounted in the Q7’s rear bumper. When the Q7’s driver signals a lane change and a vehicle is located in the blind spot, the warning lights glow brighter and flash to warn that other motorists are too close for a safe lane change. In practice, Side Assist is brilliant, and effectively negates the need for an over-the-shoulder look into the blind spots, which can be especially dangerous if traffic ahead suddenly brakes to a stop.
The Q7 also marks the world premiere of adaptive cruise control in an Audi product. Adaptive cruise control monitors traffic conditions ahead of the Q7 using a radar unit mounted to the front of the SUV. Active at speeds up to 90 mph, adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts the Q7’s speed for traffic conditions, maintaining a safe distance from vehicles ahead. Additionally, it works in rush-hour traffic, too, able to bring the Q7 to a complete stop without intervention by the driver. Once traffic ahead starts to move, the driver simply taps the cruise control button to re-engage the adaptive cruise control.
Now, let’s say all this technology has put you at such ease that you fall asleep behind the wheel. Suddenly, traffic ahead comes sliding to a stop, but since you’re off in dreamland you haven’t noticed. The Q7 has, and will warn you with an audible alarm and a flashing red light on the dashboard. If that doesn’t rouse you to action, the Q7 tries to shake you awake with a sudden jolt as the braking system automatically prepares for the most panicked stop of your life. If you still don’t stab the brake pedal, well, there’s always airbags and seatbelts.
Comfort and Convenience
Filip Brabec, product planning manager for Audi of America, told us while describing the 2007 Q7’s comfort and convenience features: “We even have cupholder test drives.” Oh, how the once proud and steadfast Germans have bowed to Americans’ insatiable thirst for beverages on-the-go. We didn’t stop by the local 7-11 for a Big Gulp to conduct our own cupholder test, but we did climb into every row of seats to see whether the Q7 is good to shuttle three couples and a picnic for an evening at the Hollywood Bowl.
Notably, 10.8 cubic feet of cargo space is available behind the third-row seat – enough for cheese, crackers, bread, pasta, and a few bottles of your favorite Pinot. But room for adults in the third-row is scant. If lanky adults occupy the second-row seats, forget about putting anyone much taller than five-feet back there. And if you can con anyone in your sextet to take the rearmost jump seats, make sure they’re limber, because entry and exit constitute a warm-up at the local gym. Once they clamber aboard, they’ll find the third-row seats very low and very flat, but with surprisingly good foot space. Though it’s tempting to offer to drive your new Q7 to the Bowl so you can show off your new set of wheels to friends, we’d recommend letting the couple with the minivan drive instead. Mainly, the Audi Q7’s third-row seat should be reserved for kids, or adults you dislike.
The second-row seat is for people you like. It sits a bit low, but offers good thigh support once you get settled. Leg room is good, foot space is generous, and when you order the optional four-zone automatic climate system the rear seat riders get individual controls mounted on the back of the front center console. If you’re toting toddlers, the Q7’s optional manual sun shades are perfect for blocking light that might reach sensitive eyes.
Obviously, the front seats are the place to be. You sit tall behind the steering wheel on a multi-adjustable driver’s chair, with clear sightlines everywhere except through the rear window, which is obscured a bit by the second-row head restraints and significantly if the third-row is raised but not in use. The driver faces a handsome instrument panel, and Audi offers decent storage space in the doors, center console, and glove box (check out the elegant opener for that last item). But the Q7’s control layout needs a major overhaul. For a vehicle touted to be a “performance SUV,” Audi asks the driver to lower her eyes too far from the road to operate the climate, audio, and MMI systems. Cognitively, finding the right MMI key, referencing the display screen, deciding what to do next, and how to do it, is far too distracting while underway. Good thing it’s a voice-controlled system, with selected auxiliary controls mounted to the steering wheel spokes. Does Berlitz offer a course in MMI?
Audi hits a home run when it comes to using the Q7 for hauling cargo. The third-row seat quickly folds flat without removing the head restraints to create a sizeable 40 cu.-ft. cargo area, though vertical stacking is compromised by the fast D-pillars and tapered roofline. There’s a deep cargo compartment under the floor behind the third-row seat and above the spare tire well. Our Q7 4.2 test sample also featured Audi’s adaptive air suspension, which could be lowered 2.8 inches for easier cargo loading and unloading. Like the third-row seats, the second-row seats drop quickly and easily without removing the headrests. Maximum cargo volume is a healthy 88 cu.-ft., putting the 2007 Audi Q7 solidly in mid-size SUV territory by our informal standards.
Audi of America’s product planning manager, Filip Brabec, told journalists “the Q7 combines the dynamism of a sports saloon with the performance of an off-roader.” So that’s pretty much how we drove it, once we escaped the unmarked SUVs containing photo radar units that line the streets of Scottsdale and Fountain Valley, Ariz.
Starting the first half of the day in the 2007 Q7 4.2, it didn’t take long for characteristic Audi traits to materialize – sublimely fluid and linear steering with perfect assist levels regardless of speed, responsive brakes with a pedal that felt a touch too sensitive and difficult to modulate in the city, the sweet sound of the V8 engine when it was revved, a seemingly endless reserve of power underfoot, and a transmission that glides between gears under hard acceleration.
Comfort is king in the Q7, for the front seat occupants, anyway. The leather on the steering wheel is butter-soft and wonderful to hold, the seats supportive and easy to adjust to a wide variety of body types. Ride quality is exceptional with the optional adaptive air suspension dialed in to Comfort. In this mode, the Q7 floats over the surface, cushioning passengers from road zits and wrinkles but never letting the body wallow about. Want to take things up a notch for that favorite stretch of country road? Select Dynamic mode and every whoop, de, and doo will get transferred to the cabin.
For an SUV, one that weighs closer to three tons than two, handling is impressive. Body roll and motion is effectively minimized by the adaptive air suspension, and we had a terrific time tossing the Q7 down a canyon road until a sheriff’s deputy, frustrated by six weeks of speeding journalists from around globe ripping through his rural desert outpost, took our velocity unkindly and rewarded us with a citation. After that, we kept the suspension dialed to Automatic and let the Q7 handle the all the guesswork.
Our afternoon drive took place in the 280-horsepower Audi Q7 3.6. This model arrives in September with less equipment and a sticker price shaved by $10,000, but after a few hours in the saddle we decided it just might be the Q7 to get. This is a torquey V6, delivering peak power across a broad rev range, and sounds good while doing so. It’s not as quick as the Q7 4.2, something we definitely noticed while running an uphill on-ramp into Phoenix freeway traffic, but if you’re just carting around a couple of kids most of the time, the 3.6 makes sense. We mustered a 16.1 mpg average according to the Q7’s handy trip computer, compared to a 15.2 mpg average in the 4.2, but our jaunt in the V6 model included plenty of first-gear four-wheeling, and lots of idling while we inspected body damage and made feeble attempts to clip the Q7’s side cladding back onto its flanks.
Lift mode would have helped. We set the Q7 3.6’s adaptive air suspension to Off Road while goofing around on trails that Audi didn’t approve for the test drive, bumping ground clearance to 9.1 inches. It wasn’t enough. In Lift mode, we could have extracted almost another half inch, up to 9.5 inches of air between the Q7 and the earth. That might have been enough to keep from settling the right rocker panel onto a jagged rock and damaging our test car. But what’s a trashed trim panel when you can provide your reader with the real scoop on a new SUV?
The 2007 Audi Q7 proves to be a much better four-wheeler than you might expect, even if you do know it’s based on the same platform that underpins the equally remarkable Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg. While AWOL from the rest of the Audi group, we took this thing up a rock-strewn, faintly visible canyon trail no owner would tempt. The self-locking center differential and electronic differential locks did a terrific job of keeping the Q7 moving, the turning circle proved impressively tight, and visibility was quite good. The optional rearview camera and parking sensors really helped to gauge distances in tight situations.
If there’s room for improvement, without building a Paris-to-Dakar rally machine, it’s with regard to the Q7’s downhill speed regulation system. When engaged, this safety net is supposed to automatically limit the Q7’s rate of descent to 12 mph so that the driver can concentrate on steering rather than braking, but that’s a little too fast, in our opinion. Audi should cut the maximum descent rate by half to provide a proper comfort zone. But then, given the Q7’s on-road handling bias and the target market, it possesses more off-road capability out-of-the-box than 99 percent of its owners will require.
*photo by Christian Wardlaw
Is the 2007 Audi Q7 more like a ditzy supermodel, or a hot rocket scientist?
The 2007 Audi Q7 has more in common with a hot rocket scientist than a ditzy supermodel. It looks good, it’s smart, and it won’t embarrass you in mixed company. But the Q7’s beauty and brains haven’t given it an inflated sense of self. It can handle just about any normal suburban chore you throw at it.
Can adults ride in the 2007 Audi Q7’s third-row seat?
Adults can squeeze into the 2007 Audi Q7’s third-row seat, but they won’t like it much. Reserve this space for kids, reviled in-laws, or mouthy colleagues who need to be taken down a notch during the lunch run to Hooters.
Is the added power and prestige associated with having a “4.2” on my 2007 Audi Q7’s rump worth the extra ten grand, or should I wait for the Q7 3.6 and get the dealer to take the badge off the back so that my sorry, insecure ego won’t get bruised?
Punk McMansion-dwelling neighbors making you feel bad about the smaller engine in your new 2007 Audi Q7? Man up, keep that shiny “3.6” badge, and smack ‘em upside the head with better EPA numbers, which translate to fewer pollutants, which means palm trees might not be growing in Pittsburgh next year. Then, show ‘em the 60-inch flat screen connected to Bang & Olufsen surround sound hanging in your den, and tell ‘em to think about that every time they beat you to the next traffic light by one Mississippi.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Audi Q7 3.6; 2007 Audi Q7 4.2
Price of Test Vehicle: $40,000 (est. 3.6); $49,900 (4.2)
Engine Size and Type: 3.6-liter V6 (3.6); 4.2-liter V8 (4.2)
Engine Horsepower: 280 at 6,200 rpm (3.6); 350 at 6,800 rpm (4.2)
Engine Torque: 265 lb.-ft. between 2,500 and 5,000 rpm (3.6); 325 lb.-ft. at 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed Tiptronic automatic with manual shift feature
Curb weight, lbs.: 5,269 (4.2)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): NA
Observed Fuel Economy: 16.1 mpg (3.6 – included off-roading jaunt); 15.2 mpg (4.2)
Max. Seating Capacity: Seven
Max. Cargo Volume: 88 (10.8 behind 3rd row)
Max. Towing Capacity: 6,600 pounds
Min. Ground Clearance: 8.1 inches (standard); 9.5 inches (optional air suspension in Lift mode)
Competitors: Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac SRX, Chrysler Aspen, Chrysler Pacifica, Infiniti QX56, Land Rover LR3, Lexus GX 470, Lexus LX 470, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, and Volvo XC90.
Photos courtesy of Audi