Driven: 2009 Audi Q7 TDI

June 10, 2009
2009 Audi Q7

2009 Audi Q7

Last week the editorial team at High Gear Media convened in the Bay Area for some fun, some food, and some SEO training. Thanks to the 2009 Audi Q7 TDI, we traveled as a pack and only once (okay, twice) almost left one team member stuck in the third-row seat as we broke for Starbucks and a break from the thick, rich (okay, wealthy) smug surrounding Palo Alto, a city so well-to-do it probably emits venture capital as a greenhouse gas.

One early morning, before the caffeine kicked in, we realized this was one rare opportunity to judge a car as a group, in person, conflicting views and all. While we here at High Gear Media do full meta-reviews for you on a regular basis, sampling other opinions from around the Web, we've never done a meta-editor review--until now.

So, what did the collective brain trust think of the big-boned Audi sport-ute and its clean-diesel engine?

Surprisingly, there was little conflict on the Q7's basics. Green Car Reports' John Voelcker pointed out the TDI's new small diesel is "a good alternative that recommends for those who balk at the mileage" of the gas-powered versions. The new 3.0-liter, turbocharged clean-diesel (TDI) V-6 has 221 horsepower and, more importantly, 406 pound-feet of torque, which makes it especially well suited for those who tow, he points out. "Although the TDI doesn’t have the instantaneous throttle response of the V-8, it’s almost as quick overall, too."

Once in motion,'s review ninja Bengt Halvorson had kind words for the Q7 TDI's ride. "It was very composed, never queasy or rough on the hoppy 101, and it was one of the more pleasant back seats I've ridden in recently," he noted. "But even sliding the second row back, there was less legroom than I'd expected, and there's no way I could have fit in the third row. If passenger space is the priority, shoppers would be much better off with an R320 BlueTec," Bengt said, with the caveat that at 6' 6", few rear seats make him truly comfortable.

For real pain in entry and exit, we turned to Detroit editor Rex Roy, who offered to clamber into the third-row seat without much fuss. At first. "Being flexible helps make the Q7's third-row seat livable...but being alone back there helps even more. Head and legroom were cramped for my modest 5'9" frame, so I sat mostly sideways, thankful that the rider in the second-row slid his seat up some. So far in the rear of the dark interior, I was also once forgotten by the second-seat passengers who when the big Q parked, promptly exited and closed me in. Made me think about what the first moments of being buried alive might feel like." Um, sorry, Rex. Twice.

For good measure, we had Motor Authority's Nelson Ireson join us and chime in on the Q7's big-nosed look--mostly because he's also a lawyer and knows his way around the basics of libel. He was kinder than some on the Q7's massive, black-hole grille: "Some say it looks ready to eat unwary pedestrians, but the Q7 actually does an admirable job of hiding its size without impinging too seriously on the functionality of what's inside or looking out-of-proportion on the street." He must have been referring to the small woman who stared down the Q7 at a stoplight, worrying to herself as she double-timed it across the crosswalk.

As for me? As the warden of the Audi Q7 in our full review section, I was reminded of how different the Q7 is in its class: it's a truly good-looking SUV that only feels big at the gas pump. The interior's a stunning piece of mass-produced wood, leather and plastic, though Audi's interiors really were better in the past. As we pointed out in our Bottom Line road test and Full Review earlier this year, the Q7's sophisticated looks and lavish interior are well complemented by its performance and the third-row seat missing from its ute-alikes, the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg.

The TDI version makes up for the Q7's normally low fuel economy, but it can't erase any of its 5000-plus pounds. Nor can it impact the sticker price: our tester wore a $62,000 price tag like it had never heard the word "recession." In all, the Q7 TDI confirmed our overall rating of 8.8 out of 10--with a diesel component that moderates its big thirst for fuel.

The Bottom Line? The 2009 Audi Q7 TDI is a good choice for those who want sophistication and style in an SUV but don’t need the overwrought off-road look.

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