No getting around it, the 2009 Audi Q7 is heavy; that said, it’s surprising how well it performs and how enjoyable it is to drive—especially with the economical new turbodiesel offered for ’09.
A 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is the base engine on the Q7, and Audi promises it will accelerate to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Edmunds says “the 3.6-liter V6 is noticeably lacking in oomph.” In either version, Cars.com warns “it'll be saddled with a lot of mass to haul around”—up to 5,500 pounds. Hence, neither Audi Q7 is great on gas; the V-8 is rated at 12/17 mpg, the V-6 at 14/20 mpg. A diesel version coming for the 2009 model year is expected to lift highway fuel economy into the mid-20-mpg range.
The next step up is the brand's smooth, forceful 4.2-liter V-8, which churns out 350 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque in the top models. Though it's tuned for better low-end torque, the strongest impression the eight-cylinder leaves behind is the muted hammering it barks out above 4,000 rpm. The Audi “isn’t especially quick or athletic,” ForbesAutos admits, while Cars.com says, “The V-8 engine moves the Q7 capably despite the SUV's substantial bulk, and there's fluid power for high-speed acceleration and passing.”
Later in the model year, a diesel model will join the Q7; simply called the 2009 Audi Q7 TDI, it comes with a 221-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine. What makes the engine so noteworthy is that it achieves a hefty 406 pound-feet of torque and returns EPA fuel economy ratings of (tentatively) 17 mpg city, 25 highway, yet can get to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds.
Reviewers have almost unanimously positive remarks about the diesel. Automobile Magazine observes that “the ample torque made the big Q feel ready to accelerate at any moment,” calls it “comfortable and quick,” and notes the lack of diesel soot and smell. Edmunds says that the diesel has a bit more “growl” when maneuvering around parking lots or at low speed, but they point out that once up to speed, it’s actually quieter than the gasoline engines. “Background noise levels measure a decibel or two lower than the V8 when cruising at freeway speed,” they report.
“We recorded a 22.7 mpg average in just over 1,500 miles of our usual mixed ‘normal’ driving,” observes Edmunds, later noting that they saw an even better 24.1 mpg in a 110-mile route without any freeway miles. Automobile Magazine points to another positive: driving range. With the TDI, you should easily be able to go 600 miles on a tank on the highway, the reviewer declares, “so you'll want to be sure to hit the restroom before you leave.”
The transmission across the 2009 Audi Q7 model line is a six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox, which does a good job of managing the power if you decline to use its sport-shift mode. “The transmission features a manual mode and adapts to driving style,” ForbesAutos observes. “For instance, if a driver is accelerating aggressively, the transmission will downshift sooner and hold gears longer for stronger acceleration.” Edmunds reports “the six-speed automatic transmission is also not the smoothest in the world, providing a jerky response when accelerating slowly.”
“Standard towing capacity is 5,500 pounds,” ForbesAutos says. “A $500 tow package increases it to 6,600 pounds.” And though its quattro all-wheel-drive system is designed mostly for on-road use, the Q7 proves to be “extremely capable while driving off-road through a narrow forest trail in upstate New York,” they add. With quattro, “up to 65 percent of engine power can be sent to the front wheels or 85 percent to the rear wheels by means of the self-locking center differential,” Cars.com explains.
The Q7's power steering, with lovely effort and feedback, is hydraulically actuated. MyRide.com says it has "Sublimely fluid and linear steering with perfect assist levels" and yields a "comfortable ride both on and off the road." ForbesAutos feels “There’s certainly plenty of handling grip, especially with the huge, optional 20-inch wheels and tires. But the steering, while well-weighted, feels noticeably numb just off center, and this big Audi is reluctant to change directions quickly.” Cars.com contends “the steering wheel itself turns with relatively little effort and amazing smoothness, but the driver is deprived of any feedback.” Edmunds notes, “placed in 'Dynamic' mode, the vehicle can be hustled relatively easily on a curvy road.”
An all-independent suspension and quattro all-wheel drive grant the 2998 Audi Q7 comfortable, capable handling. The Q7 also has an optional three-mode air suspension—sport, comfort, and automatic—that varies the damping of the vehicle according to conditions and the speed of the vehicle. It also raises the vehicle in off-road driving and lowers it at highway speeds. The Cars.com reviewer “spent most of my time switching between the softest available setting, Comfort, and the tautest, Dynamic. In Dynamic mode, the ride is so firm you might find yourself wondering if the suspension is damping anything at all; all bumps and holes in the road are keenly felt.”