November 25, 2007
By: Johannes Erdfelt
I love traveling. Well, I love the destination when I get there, but maybe not so much the actual grind of getting there. It can be grueling work sitting behind the wheel and navigating your way through traffic for hours on end. It can be even worse when you’re caravanning and you have keep track of other people.
My fiancé and I were invited by a few friends to join them and their families on a trip to Disneyland. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to see if the long term Q7 lived up to it’s luxury reputation and see how it would fare when being put to use just as the typical family might use it.
Our trip began with two other families and their packed cars. Looking at the trunk space in our Q7, I almost felt guilty only filling it with a couple of bags. It seemed like it was craving more luggage, enough to clothe a family of six. Our caravanning friends were quick to take us up on the offer to stow some of their excess baggage in the Q7. The said, the Q7 could have still held more.
While the first part of our trip was through some backroads in San Jose and Gilroy, the vast majority was on I-5. This is where the Q7 shined. Audi does extensive testing on the German Autobahn and boy does it ever show.
First, the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) made staying with our caravan easy. All I had to do was set my desired speed and car-length distance and then no matter how much the vehicles in front of me sped up or slowed down the Q7 would keep a safe distance. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like the cruise control worked exactly like it was meant to work. My right foot thanks the Audi engineers who developed it.
Finally, Some Curves
The Q7 made the long stretches of I-5 a breeze, but sometimes a little variety is welcome. Our trip across the Grapevine on I-5 showed off how well the Q7 maneuvers at high speeds. Taking the grapevine at about 100mph (umm, I had to catch up to the caravan) is what truly impressed me about the Q7. The Q7 isn’t a small car, but it sure doesn’t drive like a large SUV. The handling was downright sedan-like, surprisingly like an A4 or A6 through the high speed sweepers. The Q7 displayed very little body roll and the summer tires kept the car on the road without ever causing me to sweat.
I’ve always heard that traffic in the Los Angeles area was horrible – and this turned out to be the honest truth. We tried to plan our trip to avoid arriving during rush hour, but it was a futile goal. We hit downtown Los Angeles at around 2pm, but traffic was already starting to slow down. We were in stop and go traffic for a number of miles arriving into Orange County. This emphasized the slightly laggy automatic transmission on the Q7.
Once in Anaheim the Q7 firmly entrenched itself as the limo of choice for the group. I found myself chauffeuring people around the Anaheim area as we picked up supplies for our stay or did other errands. While the Q7 does have third row seating, we found it was probably best left for the kids. It proved a bit cramped for adults and getting in and out behind the second row captain’s chairs was awkward.
Most people know Buttonwillow for Buttonwillow Raceway Park, the SCCA owned track in the area. We weren’t here to see how the Q7 behaved on the track, but to see how it behaved off the paved road.
Being the main geek behind Audiworld I’ve always had a variety of geeky hobbies, the most recent one being Geocaching. The goal of geocaching is to find caches hidden by others given a set of GPS coordinates. They can be hidden everywhere from inner cities to extremely remote locations (and everywhere in between). We took the trip home as an opportunity to find some caches that were a bit more out-of-the-way than we usually are able to find.
After winding our way past the cotton farms (and the biggest bails of cotton I’ve ever seen), we arrived into an undisturbed desert. We found our goal of the abandoned Buttonwillow airport. There are still flights out of the airport, but they are now limited to the radio controlled model variety. Getting there required taking a variety of barely paved, unpaved and never-meant-to-be roads. While far from crawling down rocks, the Q7 handled all of the terrain without it ever feeling like it was a struggle. As an added bonus I never felt like I was going to rip the oil pan off like if I was in my sedan.
Overall, the Q7 definitely lived up to it’s billing as a luxury SUV. The technology, in particular the Adaptive Cruise Control, made our trip easy. A normal cruise control will always be a disappointment to me now. While I have XM in my daily driver, the Sirius radio in the Q7 was quite welcome. I love that I never had to change channels, not that my fiancé didn’t try each and every one of them.
The most suprising part of the Q7 was the sedan-like ride. If it wasn’t for the height of the driver’s seat, I could have easily forgetten I was driving an SUV. While Audi did a great job with the handling, there is no German magic to make it easier to squeeze into the seemingly ever-shrinking parking spots. I did manage to squeeze the Q7 into a compact spot thanks to the wide angle rear camera (just don’t tell Audi!). We found, however, the rear camera becomes almost useless in the rain as the water drops prevent you from seeing anything clearly.
The gas mileage wasn’t a surprise. Being a big car, gassing up hit the wallet harder than a smaller car would. Thankfully the size of the fuel tank gave an acceptable range despite the disappointing V8-enduced gas mileage. Given the choice it would be a difficult trade off to give up the Q7’s power for better mileage though.
After the trip in the Q7, I found it hard to go back to riding in my fiancé’s American SUV. Practically everything about the Q7 made the trip significantly easier, more comfortable and, yes, enjoyable.
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