New & Used Audi Q7: In Depth
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With the Q7, Audi gained a bigger companion to its Avant wagon models, one with more all-weather capability. The Q7 shares those traits with the vehicles that share its platform--the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg--even though those vehicles come only in five-passenger configurations.
MORE: Read our 2015 Audi Q7 reviewShown first as a concept vehicle, the Q7 was Audi's first SUV when it joined the U.S. lineup in the 2007 model year--although Audi had offered a higher-riding "allroad" version of the A6 Avant wagon in prior years. The Q7 was designed to appeal to sport-ute shoppers expressly.
Initially, the Q7 came with only a single powertrain: a 4.2-liter V-8 with 350 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. Still, it proved a major upgrade over the usual SUV handling--and most of all, the usual SUV styling, with its sleek side view.
In the 2008 model year, Audi addressed the fuel-economy shortcomings of the V-8 somewhat with a new 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 option--and then again in 2009 when it introduced a turbodiesel V-6 version of the Q7 capable of 17/25 mpg. A 333-hp version of the gas-powered V-6 has since been added, while the V-8 has been dropped from the lineup.
All three V-6 versions continue to be offered, with the sweet-shifting automatic transmission delivering power to all four wheels and with an adjustable air suspension tuning the ride quality to near-ideal, as long as you stay away from the larger wheel options. Audi says the Q7 can also tow up to 6,600 pounds in the most rugged diesel versions.The Q7 may share some of its running gear with other Audis, but its high ground clearance and quattro all-wheel drive pairs it most closely with the Audi Allroad.
The Audi Q7 has been among the safest SUVs on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Q7 its highest ratings for front and side impact protection, and has also awarded the Q7 four stars for rollover resistance, but it changed its criteria in 2011 and has not re-rated the SUV since. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the Q7 as "good" in front, side and rear impacts, but no longer calls it a "Top Safety Pick"--due to the addition of roof-crush standards to its Top designation. (The Q7, like many vehicles introduced prior to the 2013 model year, simply hasn't had its roof-crush durability tested by the agency.)
Though the Audi Q7 remains mostly unchanged, enhancements to the V-6 TDI diesel engine have improved fuel mileage by 10 percent.
Audi has tested the waters with more powertrains for the Q7, but to date none of the experimental versions--a planned Q7 Hybrid displayed at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, and bigger V-8 and V-12 diesel versions--have been confirmed for sale in the U.S. This could change in future versions, however.
The Q7 is due to get an extensive redesign soon, expected for the 2016 model year. It will again share its platform with the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, and may form the basis for new crossover models from Bentley and Lamborghini, if those projects are given the green light.