July 11, 2007
By: Neil McGarry
- 2000 miles to 4200 miles
When I was offered the AudiWorld long term Q7 for an extended test, the first thing that popped into my head was ROAD TRIP! I got on the phone with my buddy Damion and asked if he would be interested in a little trip from the Salt Lake City area to the West coast.
While we planned to camp, we also planned to pack the Q7 to the hilt and pull a camping trailer in order to preserve at least a few creature comforts. Having pulled this same trailer across the country four previous times with an allroad I knew that the Q7 would be able to handle it without any issues. I also purchased a set of Q7-specific cross bars from Strong Audi and mounted a 19.5 cu. ft. PackaSport box on the roof for even greater cargo capacity.
We headed west on I-80 towards California and it didn’t take long to realize that 80+ mph speeds combined with towing a trailer and a roof box meant something on the order of only 14 mpg. With the news that new all time high gas prices were being set we knew we needed to adjust our fuel budget enroute. At 70 mph we improved gas mileage to ~16 mpg, however with 850 miles to cover the first day it was difficult to stay disciplined and hold speeds down. Our first destination was the O’Connor Flight School for a 3-day “Safety in Flight” Training clinic over
Don Pedro Reservoir.
Counting down the miles on the Audi Plus navigation system also gave us time to get familiar with the various advanced option features included on our Q7. The adaptive laser guided cruise control quickly became my favorite advanced feature. While it does take some time to trust the system, I have moved past hovering my foot over the brake during obvious upcoming braking situations. A few times that day vehicles did jump right out in front of us going 20-30 mph slower. The system can brake quite forcefully when necessary to avoid a collision.
A Stop at STaSIS Engineering
After our three days of flight training over the water our next stop would take us to Infineon Raceway, home of long time AudiWorld supporter STaSIS Engineering. I have known the guys from back when they were located in Los Gatos, CA and my friend Damion grew up with Sean who manages the race team. STaSIS gets well-deserved credibility for actually putting its shop at a race track! Infineon is also the location for the ACNA Frank Beddor Nationals hosted by the Golden Gate Chapter on October 4-7th. As part of the full tour of the STaSIS facilities we checked out the transmission test and run in machine.
Video: STaSIS transmission test and run in machine
Length 1:05 – Right click, save
1440×1080 37MB or
1280×720 28MB or
720×480 3.6MB or
After the tour Stasis suggested we put the Q7 on their dyno. I pulled the Q7 onto the rollers with the trailer still attached, a most unusual setup. Sean ran the Q7 for a number of passes, but could not get near the numbers they had seen for other Audi V8 engines. We were seeing lower peak numbers than expected, but did see an earlier torque spike. We realized after we had backed off the rollers that the Q7 had been in trailer towing mode. We were not running on the best engine maps because the automatic sensing by the Q7 of the trailer connection. We will revisit dyno testing again in a later update to the long term Q7, but here is a video of the Q7 on the rollers.
Video: Q7 on dyno at STaSIS
Length 1:14 – Right click, save
1440×1080 44MB or
1280×720 34MB or
720×480 4.1MB or
Northern California Coast Line
After our time with STaSIS we set a route up Highway 1 through Northern California. For those who have never had the opportnity to drive this route we can provide our hearty recommendation. There simply aren’t too many places where drivers can find beautiful twisty roads on cliff edges overlooking the Pacific ocean. The forest meets the ocean in many spots and the views are just amazing. Considering the Q7’s towing responsibilities we were forced to adopt a more leisurely pace through most of the twisties, but we were still able to corner relatively aggressively as the trailer handles incredibly well behind the Q7. We wanted to paraglide somewhere along this section however the wind was just too strong. We settled for a little kiting at Goat Rock State Park.
Video: Kiting at Goat Rock State Park
Length 0:41 – Right click, save
1440×1080 24MB or
1280×720 19MB or
720×480 2.2MB or
After kiting and a swim out in the large Pacific waves, we continued north. With darkness upon us the adaptive bi-xenon headlights showed their true value in the very curvy, unlit back roads. Our journey along the coast line ended in Eureka (Humboldt County). At the southern tip of the Eureka jetty is a cliff a few hundred feet tall called Table Bluff.
Video: Table Bluff
Length 2:43 – Right click, save
1440×1080 24MB or
1280×720 19MB or
720×480 8.7MB or
On to Oregon
From Eureka we headed in a northeast direction through Bigfoot country. Our route took us through Avenue of the Giants which is a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101. The Avenue of the Giants is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world. It is by far the most outstanding display of these giant trees in the entire 500 mile redwood belt. Unfortunately we did not encounter Bigfoot and were of course disappointed we were unable to show him the Q7.
Our ulimate destination would be the 2007 Starthistle Fly-In on WoodRat Mountain in Ruch, OR where 60+ paragliders and hangliders come together for a long weekend of flying. This was our first foray into the world of off roading in the Q7 as we drove the rig up the dirt road up to the summit and launch.
Following the WoodRat event we headed for Lakeside, OR which was the home of the 2007 national paragliding championship. We flew the main site just above the town and then headed toward Hogerty Slide on the Oregon/Nevada border.
To get the launch and setup camp the Q7 was again asked to do some offroading – this time on a short 4-wheel drive trail. Damion launched into strong thermals and within 15 minutes was at an altitude of 16,700 feet. He followed highway 140 in the general direction of I-80 as I gave chase. He landed next to our Q7 some 40+ miles downwind from where he had launched.
The fun and flying was over and it was time to head home. In all we spent 13 days living in and around the Q7 and trailer. The Q7, as it turned out, was very much up to the task of hauling the trailer and carrying all of our gear. Cargo space in the rear of the vehicle was ample, although at times we were impatient with the slow action of the automatic rear gate.
When we were on the road we were wrapped in comfortable luxury – very car-like despite its truck capabilities – with plenty of power to pull. While the Q7 certainly can suck down the gas, we couldn’t complain about the available power and understand that that is the tradeoff here. The lighting system is amazing at providing visibility around corners.
We used the telematic systems extensively and we were surprised with the number of dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere that were actually mapped. My Cingular 8525 mobile phone was simple to pair with the Bluetooth system and provided reliable handsfree functionality. The Sirrus satellite radio was also highly appreciated on such a long trip.
The wide angle backup camera proved invaluable, as it allowed me to precisely navigate the trailer ball directly under the hitch every time.
On the down side, I was not impressed with the 4-zone climate control. We found the system to be rather sluggish in cooling off the big cabin.
Ultimately the softroading never did require us to actually put the air suspension into “Off-road” mode, although we did use the system to level the trailer a few times – without having to disconnect the trailer. The conclusion is that the Q7 is a true first class SUV, a capable hauler and tow vehicle and a vehicle which provides a high level of comfort during long road trips.
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