The driver’s immediate first impression upon climbing into the Q7 is that it affords a commanding view of the road. In many ways it is the same feeling as the A6’s cockpit although as mentioned the vehicle definitely sits higher. Our Q7 4.2 quattro tester came equipped with the adaptive air suspension and 20” polished wheels. Even despite the huge rubber we were impressed with the direct steering and handling feel of the Q7 with the suspension dialed into “dynamic” mode. The ride was surprisingly firm for such a large luxo cruiser, but not harsh in any way which is a testament to Audi’s attention to detail in this area. As with most higher profile vehicles the Q7 does suffer from significant body roll, however this was never a real concern during our testing except during very quick transitions.
With the suspension set to “off-road” we next set off on dirt roads to test the Q7 in the wild. Turning DSP off, the 40/60 split Torsen center differential makes its presence felt – the vehicle is much eaiser to steer with throttle and the back end can be kicked out under a heavy pedal.
Although Audi launches the Q7 in North America with just the 4.2-liter V8 initially, we also spent time behind the wheel of the 3.6 and 3.0 TDI variants. It is fair to say that all three engines propel the Q7 with authority, but as one might expect the 3.6 has to work harder in higher revs to maintain spirited driving. The sleeper powerplant that we came to lust after was the 3.0 TDI with its copious torque (369 lbs/ft versus 325 lbs/ft for the V8). The 3.0 TDI actually feels quicker off the line than the V8 (although the V8 will catch it mid-2nd gear) and is incredibly quiet. From inside the cabin we could barely tell we were driving a TDI.
The 3.6-liter V6 standard unleaded gasoline engine will be introduced in North America later in the year and the 3.0 TDI diesels will come to our market when low sulfur diesel fuel becomes available. We expect Audi, as a major proponent of diesel technology, to continue to keep the market updated on the availability of its TDI powerplants in North America.
Testing the adaptive cruise control definitely took some getting used to in order to overcome basic “trust” issues. We engaged the brakes sooner than the system a few times in early testing, but once our fear of crashing into the car in front of us was overcome, the system took over without any further intervention. In rush hour traffic the Q7 was able to vary its speed accordingly to maintain the set distance and would bring the vehicle to a complete stop if necessary. When stopped for more than a few seconds the system disengages with an audible tone.
We also tested the Q7’s fully integrated Bluetooth by pairing a Motorola MPX 220 with the onboard system. The MMI interface made the setup intuitive and quick. Working flawlessly, the radio was automatically muted upon receipt of an incoming call or when an outgoing call was initiated. Caller ID information was displayed in the driver information area on the dash. Based on feedback we were told that call clarity was almost as good as a handset.
With the new C6 allroad not currently scheduled to be released in North America, the Q7 is the next step for the active lifestyle Audi brand loyalist. With no manual transmission offered and a higher center of gravity some of the sporty nature is lost in the Q7 (versus the allroad), but the addition of the 40/60 asymmetric torque distribution really adds a new element of fun. The Q7 has higher ground clearance than the old allroad and the added features of downhill assist and ESP (now with roll-over detection) make it a competent soft-roader.
We were particularly happy with the extended chassis which creates a longer internal loading and storage bed than anything else Audi has to offer. We were equally happy with the Q7’s luxury. This is truly a versatile automobile.