New & Used Audi Q7: In Depth
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The Audi Q7 is a large luxury crossover with capacity for up to seven passengers. Though it has gone largely unchanged since its introduction in 2007, the Audi Q7 continues to compete with the Mercedes-Benz GL- and ML-Class crossovers, the BMW X5, the Lincoln MKT and Acura MDX, the Volvo XC90, and the Infiniti QX60. A redesigned Q7 is due for the 2016 model year, carrying new styling, improved technology, and a thoroughly updated powertrain menu.
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 review
Shown 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 new Q7
Audi has announced a second-generation Q7 that will arrive for the 2016 model year. The look is more like that of a tall wagon than a hulking SUV, and the new interior is the most luxurious and refined yet for any Audi crossover. The new platform lowers weight by a claimed 700 pounds, enabling Audi to offer a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder as the entry-level engine; it will be joined initially by 3.0-liter gas and diesel V-6 engines, as well as a diesel plug-in hybrid sometime after launch. Audi managed to make the Q7 slightly narrower and shorter overall while increasing cargo room and second-row legroom; headroom has also been increased, and the Q7 continues to offer a third row of seats. The Q7 will again share its platform with the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, and will form the basis for a new crossover model from Bentley, as well as one from Lamborghini, if and when that project is given the green light.
At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Audi provided more details about the new Q7's tech-filled cabin. The interface will use a version of the Virtual Cockpit digital-instrument/infotainment combo first used on the TT, but the Q7 will fortunately benefit from a second control screen located in the center stack. It will also offer integration with iPhone and Android smartphones through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the option to add Android tablets for back-seat passengers. This is the most advanced Audi infotainment setup yet, and should make its way into the rest of the brand's lineup shortly.
Audi has shown a plug-in hybrid version of the new Q7, dubbed e-tron, which uses electric motors and either a diesel or gas engine. The model may be offered here, but it's likely that a U.S.-bound e-tron would eschew the TDI engine for one that sips gasoline. Beyond that, Audi is rumored to be planning its first high-performance Q7 variant, which could be called SQ7. Such a model would offer a V-8 TDI engine with twin electric turbochargers; there's no word on whether it would come to our market, however.