SEATTLE, WA, April 29, 2014 — Big, bold, brawny, capable, powerful, killer fuel economy. What? How can one use those adjectives in describing a modern SUV then end talking about its great fuel economy? Well the solution is easy – it’s all about the Turbo Diesel.
In Europe, diesel cars are what the majority of commuters use. In America there are far too many stigma’s we’ve attached in our minds to diesel technology because of how noisy and smelly the ones of yesteryear were.
Well, a great deal has certainly changed when it comes to auto-technology and clean, powerful, quiet, economic diesel engines have also evolved. In fact, for most drivers, I’d be willing to bet they would have no idea this latest Q7 TDI model was running on diesel.
It’s ultra-quiet, ultra odor free and has enough torque to give even the best gasoline engines out there a run for their money.
Outside of the fuel economy diesel engines bring to the table, the reason why TDI makes so much sense in today’s vehicles is because they are torque-driven. After all, torque, not horsepower, is what makes the most of how people commute in their cars. It’s the “power” we feel when accelerating off the line and provides that extra “umpf” we need with passing a slow moving vehicle over a mountain pass.
This is not your “grandpa’s diesel”, it pumps out 240-horsepower with 406 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1750rpm which propels the Q7 from zero to sixty in only 7.7 seconds with a top speed of an electronically limited 130mph (Audi-supplied data). Towing capacity is rated at 5,500 lbs or 6,500 lbs if you opt for the towing package. Audi mates the 3.0 engine to a very smooth 8-speed automatic transmission and provides paddle shifters as well. The EPA rates the Q7 TDI at a 19mpg around town, 28 on the highway for a combined of 22mpg. Not too shabby when one considers the weight of the Q7 which tips the scales at just over 5,400 lbs.
In typical Audi fashion, the interior is absolutely top-notch in its use of materials, fit and finish. This Premium Edition S-Line pulls out all the stops as well, including: Xeon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, leather seating surfaces, a panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, sunshades for the rear side windows and cargo area, aluminum door sill inlays, power tilt/telescopic steering column, twelve-way adjustable front seats that are also heated/ventilated, hill decent control, anti-theft system and a tire-pressure monitoring system (please don’t mention a partridge in a pear tree).
The S-line features all of the above but has standard 21-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension, an upgraded Bang and Olufsen 14-speaker audio system with tweeters that pop-up out of the dash, adaptive cruise control and the S-line interior trim package.
One of the beautiful things about the Q7 is that it is setup to deliver a great driving experience around town as well as double as an ultra-comfortable touring vehicle. Its seats are ultra-supportive in the right areas and yet have enough cushion to leave driver and passenger feeling refreshed after extended drives.
Audi’s MMI system serves as the central nervous system in Premium Q7 which also features Google Earth for mapping creating a really well thought-out, responsive system. While the multi-channel Bang & Olufsen system provides very clear audio, its overall bass response and linearity could use some improvement. It’s the same complaint we had in the A8L test vehicle last year. There are certainly better-sounding solutions in this premium vehicle bracket and it would be nice if Audi would find a new partner for its high-end audio.
Overall leg room for the front and middle-row passengers is very good but the third, pop-up row is seriously on the struggle — good luck fitting anyone larger than a typical 10-year old child back there. It’d be nice if Audi would spend some time figuring out a way to improve space back there so it’s more of a viable third-row option. Overall cargo space sprawls out to 72.5 cubic feet with the third row down.
The most compelling feature of the Q7 is the way it drives. This TDI has tons of off-the-line get-up-and-go and will easily push you back into the seat. Additionally, the handling is very good, its adaptable air-suspension is not too stiff but far from being soft. This adaptable system is also user-adjustable from the MMI controls in real-time. Audi’s engineers have done an admirable job of providing a very good “road feel” to the Q7 so fans of that kind of tactical feel will love it.
Given its few flaws, it’s hard to not really enjoy the Q7, it starts at $47,700 for the baseline model and tops off at around $72,000 for a model like our test model. All in all, it’s competitive to offerings from BMW, Lexus, Infiniti and Mercedez-benz yet still retains its own unique driving experience.