exterior photos by Jil McIntosh
December 1, 2006
The Q7 has to be the first vehicle I’ve ever driven that was made in Bratislava, Slovakia, the home of a new ultramodern plant in which Audi produces its first SUV.
Just thinking about someone ploughing this luxury-class vehicle into a mud bog or a rocky crevasse makes me cringe. Yes, it has a four-wheel drive ‘quattro’ system, good ground clearance and short body overhangs, but the Q7 is simply too ‘nice’ to abuse. A cross-utility-vehicle (CUV) classification seems more appropriate.
Although it looks quite different, the Q7 is related to the Porsche Cayenne and the VW Touareg. It’s big, the longest of the three, and according to Audi, “Big can be Beautiful”. Whatever you think of the outside, it’s sublime on the inside and there’s seating for up to seven passengers.
The Q7 is available with V6 and V8 engines in two trim levels: base and Premium. V6 models, which start at $54,500, offer a 280-hp 3.6-litre V6 and six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission. My tester was a V8 Premium model powered by a 4.2-litre FSI engine which can produce 350 hp and 325 ft. lbs. of torque. The transmission is also a six-speed Tiptronic automatic and it also comes with the Quattro all-wheel drive system.
Even a base Q7 is loaded with comfort and convenience features and the Premium version adds second-row "captain’s chairs," a rear-obstacle detection system, four-zone automatic climate controls, a power sunroof, a navigation system, a rear-view TV camera and heated front/second-row seats, plus keyless entry and starting.
The front styling is a formidable piece of work that reminded me of a bullet train. Its tall grille is flanked by a menacing pair of headlight clusters. It must be an intimidating view in a rear-view mirror. Hmm, I wonder if that’s why all those cars pulled over.
Anyway, the styling is much softer from a side-view with its sweeping windshield, arched roofline and nicely rounded rear. The Q7 certainly does not have your typical boxy SUV silhouette.
Audi is known for splendid interiors that benchmark the industry and the Q7 lives up to that reputation. Extra-large side doors also make first and second row seats very easy to access. The third row seats are, in reality, just occasional-use seats.
The so-called ‘easy access’ feature (to the third row) on the second row seats is not so easy. And if you care to struggle into a third row seat, you’ll also discover its space limitations – especially for your feet. The manual mentions a height limitation of 1.57 metres (5 ft. 2 in.).
Leather upholstery and 12-way (power) adjustable front seats are standard. I particularly liked the tightly woven durable carpets, flip-down style head restraints (allowing better driver rear vision) and the side rear door windows with pull-up sun shades.
My base Q7 came with the Panorama Sunroof ($2,300) option, which transforms most of the steel roof to glass, has two sections that open, and includes opposing inside power shades. It also came with the navigation system ($2,200) option.
A central rotary knob with four keys controlled the navigational functions in addition to audio and climate control functions, similar to BMW’s iDrive. Easy enough to use, after you figure it out, but why make it complex in the first place?
A central button opens the glove box (no need to lean over) – that’s sophistication! Apparently there are ten cup and bottle holders and a power tailgate opens to 1136 litres of cargo space (with the third-row seats folded). If fitted with an optional air suspension ($3,200) it has a rear drop-down feature for easier loading.
Safety features include side curtain air bags that span all three rows of seats and optional rear-seat side torso air bags. Adjustable seatbelt shoulder anchors are provided on the second as well as first row seats.
Audi Side Assist is a unique new ($650) option that uses radar sensors to monitor vehicles hiding in what’s commonly referred to as the ‘blind spot’ off the rear quarter. An LED strip on the side-mirror housing illuminates when a vehicle is detected (five-metre range – speed dependent) and an alarm sounds if the turn signal is activated.
Generally, child seat compatibility is very positive, however the centre rear seat was not fitted with a UAS (universal anchorage system). And in practice, if you install a child seat in a second row seat, the third row seat is impossible (for me anyway) to access.
The Q7’s keyless ignition system has separate buttons to start and stop the engine on the centre console. That’s assuming you have its remote fob in your pocket or purse, etc.
Smooth and composed, the V8 engine was never lacking in the power department but fuel consumption is another matter. Judging by the huge 100-litre fuel tank it must be a thirsty beast. I couldn’t get official figures and don’t expect it to be any better than the VW Touareg’s city /highway rating of 17.3/11.3 L/100 km with the same V8.
My test vehicle came with an optional ($1,700) 20-inch wheel package. Considering its size, the Q7 was surprisingly easy to manoeuvre and had a tight turn circle. At full steering wheel lock the big front wheels pivot to what appears to be an extreme angle – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The air suspension made the ride outstandingly comfortable. This system also helps eliminate body sway in corners and has multiple mode height settings. The body automatically drops about four cm at highway speeds to reduce wind drag and ground clearance can be increased for rough terrain.
Under normal driving conditions the Quattro drive system splits torque 42/58 (front/rear), which gives it the rear-drive bias that’s favoured by many drivers. It’s a full-time system so no driver input is required to change power distribution, however, there’s no low-range gearing for off-road use either (confirming my cross-utility claims).
A capable tow vehicle, the Q7 claims a 2,495 kg (5500 lb) capacity that rises to 2,994 kg (6600 lb) with an optional ($750) tow package. Its air suspension and electronic stability control systems also have adaptive trailer tow modes.
A little late to the party, the Q7 offers Audi flair, uniqueness and high-tech innovations in a luxury class crossover utility vehicle.
Pricing 2007 Audi Q7 4.2L Premium
Base price $68,900
(Panorama Sunroof ($2,300) navigation system ($2,200) 20-inch wheel package($1,700) air suspension ($3,200) Audi Side Assist ($650))
Freight $ 700
A/C tax $ 100
Price as tested $80,200
Manufacturer’s web site