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Audi's debut in the sport-utility set returns for the 2011 model year still carrying the refreshed exterior and touched-up cabin it wore last year. And this time around, they're joined by a simplified powertrain lineup that deletes a V-6 and a V-8, and swaps in a supercharged V-6 in their stead.
The Q7 is part of a family of SUVs that includes the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne, but the Q7 is unique in the trio, in that it comes in five- or seven-seat models.
The Q7 is no brutish off-roader, nor is it a blingy hip-hop street machine. It's simply stated, elegant while not looking feminine or masculine. Only its high ground clearance gives away its off-road appeal. A vast grille punctures the front end too deeply, we think, but the remainder of the Q7's body flows from crisp cutline to effortless curve around its athletic profile. The sculptural look sports some jewelry, like LED taillamps and two-tone skirts, depending on the model. Inside, it's appointed in rich leather, suede, and wood, and attractively styled, with an uncluttered feel save for some of the clusters of switches controlling climate and audio systems.
The base engine is a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. Audi's taken the unusual step of offering it in two power levels: there's a 272-hp version in the base Q7, while an upscale version moves the needle to 333 hp. The diesel V-6, meanwhile, makes 225 hp but a huge 406 pound-feet of torque. The diesel's still the slowest model to 60 mph, by 1.5 seconds, but its 17/25 mpg fuel economy is the best of the bunch. The fastest 333-hp version will accelerate to 60 mph in just under 7 seconds, but gas mileage dips to 16/22 mpg, Audi says. All-wheel drive is standard on either, with either powertrain.
In any version, ride and handling are far above the usual SUV benchmarks. An independent suspension and all-wheel drive team up for comfortable, capable handling and a useful tow rating of 6,600 pounds. Credit goes to an air suspension that enables sport, comfort, and automatic modes to lower and lift the SUV for better on- and off-road behavior.Audi's crafted a wonderfully supportive, spacious interior. Leather buckets in front are great for long rides, while the second row is sized for adults. The third-row seat is big enough for children, and the cargo area opens to a significant 88 cubic feet when the second and third rows are folded. Accessing that cargo is no chore; the tailgate is power-operated, and it's crafted in aluminum for a light touch.
The Audi Q7 is among the safest SUVs on the road, according to both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It also offers rear side airbags, an unusual feature, along with a rearview camera, a lane-departure warning system, and a blind-spot warning system.
The standard features on Audi's big ute leave little on the options list. The usual list includes automatic climate control; a power tailgate; keyless entry; and cruise control. Audi's Multi Media Interface also is standard, and the current programming is significantly easier to use, via a joystick controller. A DVD navigation system and four-zone climate control are among the big-ticket options.
Priced from about $47,000 up to nearly $60,000, the Q7 has strong competition including the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and the Lincoln MKT.
- The sleekest SUV we know
- A great cabin, too
- Ride and handling approaching car standards
- Third-row seat is available
- Long-range diesel
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- Supercharged V-6 isn't great on gas
- It's a heavy, heavy ute
- Gets expensive quickly