|December 19, 2007
Quick Take: 2008 Audi Q7 4.2 TDI
The Q7 4.2 TDI represents the current flagship of the Audi Q7 model offering both from a performance and pricing perspective. Unfortunately it will not be offered for sale in the United States any time soon, with Audi opting instead to focus solely on the 3.0-liter TDI which can theoretically be used ubiquitously across the entire Audi lineup. The Q7 4.2 TDI will be aimed at very high end European buyers who appreciate the smart fuel economy to power ratio of a diesel combined with this Q7's stealthy performance.
Our first and lasting impression of the Q7 4.2 TDI was that it was a vehicle purpose-built for the autobahn. Outwardly it doesn't look any different from other Q7's, so one would not being driving it for the sheer impression it makes from exterior. Behind the wheel it handles on par with the rest of the Q7 lineup, meaning very car-like in its approach albeit with a higher stance. It is only when the driver presses on the accelerator that the Q7 4.2 TDI sets itself apart.
This vehicle is easily summarized as being relatively high performance with much, much better than ordinary fuel economy.
Our test vehicle was loaded with all of Audi's most recent goodies, including Audi lane assist, adaptive cruise control, side assist and deluxe climate control. The interior was otherwise identical with the rest of the Q7 lineup - which was generally fine by us. We contend that Audi continues to maintain some of the finest interiors in the entire automotive industry, and particularly appreciate how Audi did not try to make the Q7 into a truck-like interior.
Most people realize that diesel powerplants are inherently big on torque, and Audi's 4.2-liter TDI is no exception. A staggering 561 pound-feet of torque is available very low in the rpm band (from 1800-2500 rpms). This available torque helps get the Q7 4.2 TDI moving quickly, even effortlessly. Once moving the vehicle feels as if it offers never-ending power at essentially any speed. Interestingly, it does not necessarily feel fast - something we attribute to the size and stance of the car. The only way the driver knows that they are tapping into rarified performance is by watching the speedo make its quick ascent.
Performance is of course not just about acceleration, but also a measure of how the car handles itself at speed. This is where the Q7 4.2 TDI really shines. It is definitely one of Audi's best luxo-cruiser vehicles ever because it is comfortable, capable and very polite even at excessive speeds.
The literature says that top speed is electronically governed at 240 km/h (or about 145 mph), but we routinely went closer to 250 km/h screaming down the autobahn outside of Munich. All the while the interior remained oh-so-quiet, allowing a very normal conversation if one dared to use brainpower for speech rather than concentrating only on driving duties. Stopping comfort is provided by the oversized 355mm, 6-cylinder front brakes and 358mm rear brakes since it is no trivial feat to quickly slow from 150 mph to more normal highway speeds.
The styling of the Q7 4.2 TDI was one of our biggest disappointments. With so much capable performance wrapped into the vehicle we would have liked to have seen some exterior differentiation offered as well. The Q7 is a very masculine looking vehicle in its own right, so perhaps Audi decided that no further enhancements were warranted. Another possibility is that Audi indeed embraces the stealthy performance concept and prefers to keep the Q7 4.2 TDI burly under the hood and mild-mannered everywhere else.
It is almost unfair to talk about value for a car in this class. The Q7 4.2 TDI sells for nearly €96,000 - which equates to well over $100,000. Clearly the owner gets super performance and can generate all that performance knowing that 21mpg is a distinct possibility, but we doubt that people buying $100,000 SUV's are too concerned with the cost of fuel. Again we would point out that Audi is not providing distinctive styling or interior treatment for this vehicle, so all of the cost is associated with the powerplant.
The Q7 4.2 TDI is a bit of a novelty. We had never hurtled at 145+ mph down any stretch of road in a vehicle resembling an SUV until we got behind the wheel of this one. That said we can understand Audi of America's decision behind not offering it in the US market. For one thing there is no highway here where it would be legal to drive 145 mph or anywhere even remotely close. For another, the cost of the product makes it an extremely niche offering.
Kudos to Audi for showing us what diesel is capable of. And now can we implore them to hurry up and get that Q7 3.0 TDI on the market in the States?