- Elegant, advanced SUV styling
- Detailed, finely trimmed interior
- Handling and ride balance
- Three-row seating
- Diesel fuel economy
- Gas-engine fuel economy
- One hefty ute
- Ballooning price of top models
The 2010 Audi Q7 tames the SUV bad-boy image with subtler looks, diesel fuel economy, and good on-road performance.
The first sport-utility ever from sports-sedan specialists at Audi, the Q7 returns for the 2010 model year with a refreshed exterior and a touched-up cabin-and a new smaller stablemate in the Audi Q5. Part of a joint product plan with the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne, the five- or seven-seat Audi A7 is offered with a choice of V-6, V-8, and diesel V-8 engines and comes standard with all-wheel drive. Priced from $47,725 for the V-6, the Q7 diesel costs $51,725 and the V-8, $61,825. The competition includes the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and Lincoln MKT.
A subtle, elegant approach defines the Q7. It's not a brutish off-roader in the Land Rover vein, nor a monster truck like the bling-encrusted Cadillac Escalade. The Q7's fastback shape is classy and stylish, with only a high ground clearance to give away the off-road appeal. Audi's huge nose-to-ground grille dominates the front end, while sharp cutlines define the curvy body and athletic profile. The clean look-it's actually a complex sculpture-integrates new LED taillamps, new headlamps and front and rear bumpers, and two-tone or body-color skirts, depending on the model chosen. The Q7's richly appointed interior wears leather, suede, and wood well. It's tightly integrated and attractively styled, with a generally uncluttered appearance save for some of the minor switches.
Audi's threesome of engine choices gives the Q7 a wide appeal, particularly to green-minded shoppers. The base engine is a 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. According to Audi, it accelerates to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds and tops out at 130 mph, with fuel-economy ratings of 14/20 mpg. The smooth, swift 4.2-liter V-8 kicks out 350 hp, and though it's thin on low-end torque, it barks out a muted engine growl that's a great soundtrack for spirited driving. With it, the Q7 accelerates to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, but fuel economy falls to 12/17 mpg. The third choice? Audi's turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 diesel. It has 221 hp but 406 pound-feet of torque, which puts it performance between the other options-and its fuel economy at 18/25 mpg. It doesn't have the quick throttle response of the V-8, but highway passing power is strong and there's very little noise to let on that it's a diesel.
Across the 2010 Q7 lineup, Audi installs a responsive six-speed automatic with a sport-shift mode. The Q7's power steering has ideal effort-pretty unusual for an SUV-with some feedback and a bit of road feel. Ride and handling are far above the SUV norm, since the Q7's fitted with an independent suspension and all-wheel drive, which team up for comfortable, capable handling and a big 6,600-pound towing capacity. The Q7 also uses air shocks for a choice of driving modes (sport, comfort, and automatic) that lifts and lowers the vehicle for driving extremes-off-roading, high-speed interstate runs.
In both the five- or seven-passenger versions, passengers in the Audi Q7 will find wonderfully supportive seats in the front two rows. The leather-covered front bucket seats are supportive enough for long rides, with plenty of adjustability for all sizes of people. The second row has adult-sized legroom and headroom, but three across won't be happy after more than an hour or so. There's an option for third-row seating; it's small, but it's large enough for children. The third-row seats fold flat, and the second-row seats move back and forth 4 inches to create more legroom. The rear two rows also fold flat to open up a significant 88-cubic-foot cargo hold. Accessing that cargo is no chore; the tailgate is power-operated, and it's crafted in aluminum.
The Audi Q7 is among the safest SUVs on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Q7 its highest ratings for front and side impact protection. It also awards the Q7 four stars for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the Q7 as "good" in front, side and rear impacts, and calls it a Top Safety Pick. Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard on the Q7, along with anti-lock brakes, as well as stability and roll control. Rear thorax side airbags-a rare feature on any vehicle-are optional, as are a rearview camera, a lane-departure warning system, and a blind-spot warning system.
The Audi Q7 slots above most of Audi's vehicles in mission and size-and price-so its standard-equipment list is long. Every Q7 has automatic climate control; 18-inch alloy wheels; a power tailgate; cruise control; and keyless entry. Audi's Multi Media Interface also is standard, and this year's version is significantly updated with a joystick controller, integrated real-time traffic from Sirius XM, and 3D mapping displayed on a larger, high-resolution LCD screen. Major options include a cold-weather package with heated front- and second-row seats and a heated steering wheel; a DVD navigation system; and four-zone climate control.