2009 Audi Q7 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 17, 2009

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

TheCarConnection.com read the latest reviews on the new 2009 Audi Q7 and assembled highlights in a comprehensive Full Review. Here, to bring you an authoritative Bottom Line, the editors of TheCarConnection.com have included insights and observations from driving experiences with several different Q7 models, including the new Q7 3.0 TDI, to help you make the best purchase decision.

The Audi Q7 was the first sport-utility vehicle from Audi, introduced back in 2006, though for 2009 it’s going to be joined by the smaller Q5. In addition, the Q7 gets a new, more fuel-efficient clean-diesel TDI model for the lineup.

Unlike most other utility vehicles at the time, the Q7 doesn’t lay claims on off-road enthusiasts or look ready to churn mud; its classy, stylish appearance hints of ruggedness, yet is decidedly urbane. Sharp cutlines give athletic definition to the profile, and the body curvature on the rear end around the taillamps manages to look clean and simple when it's really a complex set of shapes.

On the Q7, buyers have two different gasoline engines to choose from—a V-6 or a V-8—and a turbo-diesel V-6 is newly available. If gasoline consumption weren’t at all on our minds, our pick of the line would still be the smooth 4.2-liter V-8, which makes 350 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The engine doesn’t have the low-rev torque of many other SUV V-8s, but power swells with revs and it barks out a muted hammering above 4,000 rpm that’s great for passing or spirited driving. A 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is standard; it has adequate performance but can feel a little wheezy moving the 5,000-pound Q7 with a full load. Audi says the Q7 accelerates to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds (8.2 seconds with the V-6) and hits a top speed of 130 mph. Neither is great on gas; the V-8 is rated at 12 mpg city, 17 highway, while the V-6 gets 14/20.

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A good alternative that TheCarConnection.com recommends for those who balk at the mileage is the new 3.0-liter turbodiesel (TDI) V-6 in the model termed Q7 3.0 TDI. The clean-diesel engine has 221 horsepower and, more importantly, 406 pound-feet of torque, which makes it especially well suited for those who tow. Although the TDI doesn’t have the instantaneous throttle response of the V-8, it’s almost as quick overall.

The TDI engine is one of the cleanest diesels ever sold in the United States; it employs a new urea-injection system to help reduce NOx emissions, meeting U.S. emissions standards in all 50 states. Although official EPA figures haven’t yet been released, the company expects EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway. It’s even better in real-world driving; TheCarConnection.com averaged 29 mpg in normal highway driving—using about half the fuel of the V-8.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

Across the model range, a six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox does an invisibly good job of managing the power if you decline to use its sport-shift mode. An all-independent suspension and quattro all-wheel drive grant the Q7 comfortable, capable handling and up to a 6,600-pound towing capacity. A three-mode air suspension—sport, comfort, and automatic—varies the damping of the vehicle according to conditions and speed. It also raises the vehicle in off-road driving and lowers it at highway speeds. The Q7's power steering has ideal effort as well as—unusual for an SUV—some feedback and a bit of road feel.

The Q7 has a very comfortable interior, available in either five- or seven-passenger configurations. The optional third-row seating is small but works for kids. The third-row seats fold flat, and the second-row seats move back and forth 4 inches to create more legroom, as well as fold flat. With two seats up and two rows folded, there’s 88 cubic feet of cargo space. The front bucket seats, upholstered in somewhat breathable leather, are very supportive for long trips, and there’s plenty of adjustability for all sizes, while the second row has plenty of legroom for adults. For second- and third-row passengers, the nearby trim panels have molded cup holders. Getting access to the area is no chore; the power-operated tailgate is skinned in lightweight aluminum.

The richly appointed interior, with leather, suede, and wood is smooth, elegant, and attractive, with a generally uncluttered appearance. Automatic climate control, a power tailgate, the Multi-Media Interface (MMI) system, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, and keyless entry are all standard. Major options include a cold-weather package with heated front- and second-row seats and a heated steering wheel, as well as a rearview camera, a DVD navigation system, and four-zone climate control.

Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard on the Q7, along with anti-lock brakes, stability and roll control. Rear thorax side airbags—a feature that’s not widely available—are optional.

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2009 Audi Q7

Styling

The 2009 Audi Q7 makes a break from the SUV norm with its sleek silhouette and rich interior.

Easily the best-looking of a trio of SUVs from Germany—including the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne—that share a common set of pieces, the 2009 Audi Q7 has a classy, stylish appearance that hints at ruggedness, yet is decidedly urbane. Sharp cutlines give athletic definition to the profile, and the body curvature on the rear end around the taillamps manages to look clean and simple when it's really a complex set of shapes.

Cars.com says the Q7 “looks a lot like a tall, bulked-up wagon; it's about six inches longer and 10 inches taller than an Audi A6 wagon,” while MyRide.com points out that it is "more tasteful and elegant than either of its platform mates, the Porsche Cayenne or VW Touareg." They approve of the way the "horse-collar grille works...on this high-riding SUV, and...like the tapered greenhouse which maintains the familial resemblance with the Avant wagons." ForbesAutos also expresses admiration for the Q7, declaring, “There’s no mistaking a Q7 in your rearview mirror…with its V-shaped prow and enormous mesh grille bisected by a black bar.” The sport-ute’s “coupe-like roof arch” gives it a racy look, they contend, and it looks best from the side.

Car and Driver is the odd one out here; they clearly think the Q7 is overwrought and describe the Q7 as a “doodle pad for the design department, wherein every detail from the roof rack to the load-floor molding has been sculpted, massaged, and polished until it delights everyone on the Christmas-card list.”

Inside, the 2009 Audi Q7 bears a rich, inviting cabin. Cars.com feels “the cabin features first-rate materials and an attention to detail seen in relatively few mass-produced vehicles.” Edmunds simply calls it "sharp” and says it has a “superior interior design, while Car and Driver exclaims, “You haven't seen gorgeous until you've beheld the dried-herb sumptuousness of the Cardamom Beige interior.”

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2009 Audi Q7

Performance

The 2009 Audi Q7 is bulky, yet it’s very enjoyable to drive—and the new clean-diesel option soothes fuel economy worries.

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.”

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2009 Audi Q7

Comfort & Quality

An exceptionally rich interior in the 2009 Audi Q7 makes up for a cramped third row and a few missing details.

The 2009 Audi Q7 is a bit roomier than its Volkswagen and Porsche relations; it has three rows of seats and, Audi says, 28 seat/cargo configurations. Yet as TheCarConnection editors and various reviewers find, the third row isn’t all that usable.

The 2009 Q7 seats two in the front buckets, three across in the second row, and on most models, two in the third-row seat. “All but the base 3.6 Q7 come standard with a third row,” Edmunds explains, “providing either six- or seven-passenger capacity depending on whether the buyer selects second-row captain's chairs.”

In front, “The seat servos into the posture of your choice,” Car and Driver says. “I was able to get comfortable in the Q7's leather front bucket seats,” Cars.com’s reviewer reports, “though very tall drivers might wish they could move farther back.” In the second row, “There's generous foot and legroom,” and “these seats recline and slide fore and aft.” ForbesAutos notes “a $1,200 'Luxury Six-Seater Configuration' replaces the center second-row seat with a storage console. “

MyRide.com calls the third row "a penalty box," echoing sentiments expressed by most Q7 reviewers. “As with many vehicles in this category, the third-row seat is cramped and useful for children only,” Edmunds explains. “Considering the Q7's size, this is a little disappointing.” In a comparison test, the Q7 ranks lowest at Car and Driver with the Cadillac Escalade, since “entry and exit are contortionist exercises in both of them.”

The 2009 Audi Q7 has decent cargo space, but it’s not as convenient as in some other luxury utes. The third-row seats fold flat, and the second-row seats move back and forth 4 inches to create more legroom, as well as fold flat. The power-operated tailgate is skinned in lightweight aluminum for easy access. Audi says the cargo hold, with two seats up and two rows folded, leaves 88 cubic feet of space for ferry duty. “The seats fold down into an intricately interlocked set of panels, as flat as the deck of a Nimitz-class carrier,” Car and Driver reports. “But you can’t erect them while standing at the tailgate,” ForbesAutos moans. “Instead, you’re forced to walk around to the rear side doors, which can be annoying.”

“Like other Audis, the Q7 is a model for high-quality construction and materials,” Edmunds says. “If you buy one for its luxurious interior alone, you won't be disappointed.” The 2009 Q7’s interior appointments are lauded by even the most critical reviewers. ForbesAutos describes a cabin in which “aluminum trim is mated to a choice of three wood inlays: burr walnut, olive ash or dark, mahogany-like tamo.” Cars.com contends “the cabin features first-rate materials and an attention to detail seen in relatively few mass-produced vehicles,” and Car and Driver sums it up: “Sometimes gorgeous is its own reward, and this is one of those times.”

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2009 Audi Q7

Safety

The 2009 Audi Q7 is about as good as it gets for safety and security in an SUV.

The 2009 Audi Q7 scores extremely well in federal crash tests, with a laundry list of standard safety features.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested the Q7, but 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.

Edmunds lists the Q7’s safety features thusly: "antilock brakes, a stability control system with hill descent control and rollover detection, traction control, front occupant whiplash protection, side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers, and front-seat side airbags. Seat-mounted side airbags for the second row are optional.”

Audi also offers adaptive cruise control, plus Side Assist, which activates a blinking light on the outside mirrors when objects appear in the blind spots.

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2009 Audi Q7

Features

The 2009 Audi A7 comes with plenty of features that will leave you delighted—except maybe the MMI interface.

The Audi Q7 comes with a wealth of features, including a sometimes-maligned MMI controller that is required to access some functions.

Edmunds echoes the concerns of other sources regarding Audi’s MMI: "Utilizing an LCD screen controlled by a knob and various menu buttons mounted on the center console and steering wheel, the driver can operate entertainment, climate, communications and navigation functions" through it. Edmunds adds, “the system is effective at corralling the Q7's various features and is certainly more intuitive than BMW's reviled iDrive.” ConsumerGuide notes that the driver is faced with "numerous buttons and switches, despite the aim of the MMI system to reduce such clutter" and says that something as simple as changing the radio station could be "distracting and time consuming."

Otherwise, the 2009 Audi Q7 comes with a delightfully long list of standard features. Leather seats are included in the 2008 Audi Q7, along with automatic climate control, a power tailgate, the MMI system, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, and keyless entry. Cars.com adds that the base version includes “a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 12-way power driver's seat and bottle holders in each door.”

Major options include a cold-weather package with heated front- and second-row seats and a heated steering wheel, as well as a rearview camera, a DVD navigation system, and four-zone climate control. “The optional panoramic sunroof has three large panels that extend over nearly all three rows,” ForbesAutos reports. “The front panel slides open, while the rearmost panel can be raised at an angle.”

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