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Compared to similar big crossovers, the 2015 Audi Q7 is a smart compromise—as it trades off some off-road prowess in the name of on-the-road responsiveness and comfort. While it's not a serious off-roader, it's one of the most luxurious, family-friendly vehicles you'll find that can handle deep snow.
There's a lot to be desired here, from a spacious, premium cabin, to reasonably good towing ability.
The interior is warm and inviting, and it lives up to first impressions with supportive front seats that are well-suited to longer-legged drivers. There's plenty of thigh support and just the right of lateral support to hold you in place on backroads and freeway ramps. In the second row, adults will also be happy, and a large panoramic sunroof helps brighten it, keeping the rear quarters from feeling at all claustrophobic. It's different in the third row, where smaller seats, as well as a bit less legroom and headroom (and tougher entry and exit) conspire to make this a kids-only zone. Cargo versatility is great, though, with the second and third rows folding easily down to open up 88 cubic feet of cargo space—easily accessed via a power tailgate. Our only disappointments here are that the cargo floor is relatively high, and total cargo space isn't quite on par with expectations—if you've cross-shopped some other vehicles that are as big as the Q7 on the outside.
The Q7 looks adult and sophisticated on the outside, without being stodgy, and crisp sheetmetal with smooth, taut surfaces combine well with one of the best sets of proportion in this class of vehicle. With rich leather, suede, and wood, the Q7 cabin is one of the best in this class--even considering the top luxury offerings--and it's both warm and refined. Climate and audio controls are a bit busier than they are in Audi's other models, but overall there's a sleek, clean look to the controls.
Don't count on all that much off-road ruggedness. While the related Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne do hold their own off-pavement, the Q7 doesn't do quite as well with its longer wheelbase and road-oriented all-wheel drive. On the other hand, that extra wheelbase improves ride quality and composure while maintaining (most of) the relative nimbleness for a large SUV. And the all-wheel drive system aids on-the-road stability and traction--the kind you need when negotiating snowy driveways, or slick highways.
The V-8 engine that the Q7 used to have is long gone, but the engines replacing it are no letdown for performance. And on the flip side they're far more fuel-efficient. There are essentially three different power levels (and three trims): 3.0T models get a 280-horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V-6; then TDI models get a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6; and at the top of the performance ladder is the S-Line, with its higher-output, 333-hp version of the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. Of those, the TDI is our pick, as it returns a solid 19/28 mpg city/highway and is just as quick as the base engine (0-60 in 7.7 seconds). It's fun to drive, and just like the entire Q7 lineup, includes Audi's quattro all-wheel drive. Tow ratings up to 6,600 pounds are available with the right equipment, making it easy to tow the boat or jet skis to the lake.
The 2015 Audi Q7 is a stoutly constructed utility vehicle with a reputation for safety and an extensive list of security extras and useful driver aids. The rather long list of advanced safety options include a lane-departure warning system, and a blind-spot warning system. We've found that the thick roof pillars can limit the view when parking, but overall visibility is quite good. This year Audi has added its 'xenon plus' headlamps to all Q7 models, as well as LED running lamps, and it says that the combination improved visibility.
You won't mistake the Q7 for anything but a luxury vehicle in its base trim; but if you're willing to pay a little more you can give this SUV a more high-end feature set that includes things like Bang & Olufsen audio system--complete with tweeters rising magically from the dash on startup. Also worth the premium is Audi's internet-connected MMI interface with navigation. With it, there's wifi hotspot capability, Google Earth maps, and a well-integrated point-of-interest interface.