- The sleekest SUV we know
- A great cabin, too
- Ride and handling approaching car standards
- Third-row seat is available
- Long-range diesel
- Supercharged V-6 isn't great on gas
- It's a heavy, heavy ute
- Gets expensive quickly
With a diesel option and a softer silhouette, the 2011 Audi Q7 does its part to tame the SUV bad-boy image.
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 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.)
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.
2011 Audi Q7
Its sleek outline and its rich, detailed interior help the 2011 Audi Q7 break out of the sport-ute pack.
A subtle, elegant approach defines the Q7, once you get past its immense grille.
The Q7 has nothing in common with most of the sport-ute milestones in automotive history. It's no brutish off-roader in the Land Rover vein, nor is it a monster truck like the bling-encrusted Cadillac Escalade. Despite its ample off-roadability, it's more like a crossover in silhouette, with a soft roofline folding and flexing into a complex, sculptural body.
It is tough to get past that grille, though. It's a floor-to-ceiling affair that opens a gaping maw on the Q7's front end, and whether or not you consider it a new design hallmark, it's completely out of whack with the rest of the balanced body. At least since last year, it's framed by headlamps graced by Audi's more convincing design motif: LED "eyelashes" that call out the brand in a more significant, more high-tech way than the enormous grille ever could or will.
The Q7's richly appointed interior wears leather, suede, and wood in abundance. The overall shape is attractively styled and tightly integrated, mostly uncluttered except for some clusters of minor switches. Audi's gone to great length to match color and texture inside the Q7, which you'll notice when you touch the faux-suede headliner and drink in the sumptuous browns and tans in some of the more daring combinations.
2011 Audi Q7
Handling's a cut above the standard SUV; we'd opt for the diesel Q7, since the quicker supercharged V-6 gets a little grumbly and thirsty for its price.
Audi's threesome of powertrain choices gives the Q7 a wide appeal, particularly to green-minded shoppers.
All three versions are V-6s, but each is distinct for power output and for fuel. The two gas-powered V-6s share a 3.0-liter engine block and a supercharger, but outputs differ. On base Q7s, the engine spins out 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, good for a 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds and with the new eight-speed automatic, good for fuel economy of 16/22 mpg, Audi says. While this version effectively replaces Audi's old V-6, the more powerful version is the successor for the Q7's old V-8 engine option. The more precocious six turns in 333 hp--just as it does in the A6 and S4 sedans--and it drops 0-60 mph times to 6.9 seconds, while fuel economy checks in at the same levels as the low-power edition. We've been unable to score a test drive either of these models, but a scan of competitive reviews reveals the expected plaudits for straight-line performance--with some reminders that Audi's supercharged V-6 emits some grumbles that aren't entirely in keeping with the high-pricetag mission.
On a parallel track is Audi's 3.0-liter diesel V-6. It twists out 225 hp but a huge 406 pound-feet of torque, which helps keep acceleration within range of the gas versions. Audi says it's good for 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, while fuel economy gets a boost to 17/25 mpg. It doesn't have the quicker throttle response of the V-6s, but highway passing power is strong and there's very little noise to let on that it's a diesel. With its fuel economy, a driving range of 600 miles per tank of fuel is within easy reach.
When ride and handling are factored in, the Q7's more nimble feel and standard all-wheel drive pitch it even more into the crossover camp. Its power steering has ideal effort and weight--a highly unusual trait in an SUV--and it even has more feedback than you'll find in some passenger cars. The Q7 is fitted with an independent suspension, which teams up with adjustable air shocks for capable and comfortable handling. In Comfort, the Q7 glides over freeway bumps; in Dynamic mode, it's a surprisingly eager carver, though much stiffer in resisting bumps and grinds that might be better left on mute.
2011 Audi Q7
Comfort & Quality
Spacious first- and second-row seats are topped by the Audi Q7's great fit and finish.
The Audi Q7 is the next step up for those who can't get enough of the brand's A6 Wagon. The Q7's nearly a full-size SUV, which means seating for seven is possible, and it's a half-foot longer and nearly a foot taller than the A6 wagon.
It puts all that additional space to great use. Passengers in the front two rows will find finely shaped, supportive seats covered in handsomely toned leather that really hold up during long rides, and offer plenty of adjustability for all sizes of people. The second-row seat also has leg and head room for adults, but it's not quite large enough to seat three adults across for more than an hour or so. Knee and foot room are as copious as head room, and the second-row bench slides fore and aft for even more room. There's also an option to turn the second-row bench into a pair of bucket seats, making the five- or seven-seat Q7 also a six-seater.
There's an option for third-row seating; it's small, but it's large enough for children. When it's not in use, the seat can be folded to open up a relatively large cargo hold, which grows to a significant 88 cubic feet when the middle seats are folded down, too. Audi's taken great care to trim out the cargo area to a high cosmetic standard, but in terms of functionality, the power-folding third-row seat on the Lincoln MKT does an easier job of converting itself. The Q7 does get a power tailgate, and it's made from aluminum to save some weight.
2011 Audi Q7
The 2011 Audi Q7 doesn't carry over all its top safety scores--but that's largely due to test changeover, rather than to fundamental safety differences.
The Audi Q7 has been ranked among the safest SUVs on the road, but changes to the two most important crash-test ratings have clouded the picture somewhat.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2010 Q7 its highest ratings for front and side impact protection. It also awards the Q7 four stars for rollover resistance. While the rollover score remains the same, the NHTSA hasn't yet published a new rating for the 2011 Q7. We'll update this review when more information is available.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meanwhile, gave the 2010 Q7 a rating of "good" in front, side, and rear impact tests, and called it a Top Safety Pick. Since it's added a new roof-crush standard to its equation, the crash test ratings remain the same, but the Top Safety Pick award hasn't been renewed yet.
The Q7 still is rife with standard safety equipment. It has dual front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control.
Rear seat side airbags are a rare option for any American-market vehicle. Among the other safety options are a rearview camera, a lane-departure warning system, and a blind-spot warning system. Even though visibility is good from inside the Q7, the camera's recommended since the view out over the rear corners can be diminished by the thick roof pillars.
2011 Audi Q7
MMI may not be the easiest, or most effective feature, but the rest of the 2011 Audi Q7's infotainment pieces are top-notch.
The Audi Q7 is one of the largest, most capable vehicles in Audi's lineup, so it's not surprising it also carries a long list of standard features, with a few worthwhile options.
Every Q7 has automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, cruise control, and keyless entry. There's also a 12-way power driver seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Moving up to the S-line and TDI Prestige versions adds on a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, as well as a huge panoramic sunroof.
This year, Audi's six-disc changer has been omitted entirely from the features list, replaced by more interior storage--and an option for HD Radio.
Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) is also standard on all Q7 sport-utes. The latest version gets a new joystick-style controller, as well as a more intuitive operating logic, along with integrated real-time traffic and 3D mapping--all of which look snappy on a bigger, high-resolution LCD screen. It's easier to use the controller to steer climate, phone, GPS and audio controls than ever before--but the buttons and switches that MMI was supposed to replace have almost made their way entirely back into the cabin.
You can't avoid MMI, but Audi's upscale audio options are worth the cost. For cold climates, there's also a cold-weather package with heated front- and second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. Four-zone climate control is probably a bit over the top, if you're looking for the smallest corners to cut.
2011 Audi Q7
Given our choice, the diesel Q7 comes out on top every time, with performance near that of gas-engine versions, and far superior fuel economy.
Even with Audi's swap-outs of drivetrains in the 2011 Q7, there's less to report on the fuel-economy front.
No matter which way you slice their power output--whether it's 272 horsepower or 333 hp--the supercharged, gas-powered V-6 earns an EPA-rated 16/22 mpg. Audi's new eight-speed automatic gets the credit for improving gas mileage a great deal over its old six-speed, six-cylinder units, though the numbers still aren't absolutely great.
Much better ratings come with the turbodiesel Q7 TDI. The 3.0-liter V-6 with the slight diesel clatter gets an EPA rating of 17/25 mpg along with its monster torque rating of 406 pound-feet. And like most other VW/Audi diesels, the top highway figure's within easier reach than you'd get on the average gas-electric hybrid ute.
On that point, while both its companion SUVs, the Cayenne and Touareg, are now offered as hybrids, the Audi Q7 hybrid that had been planned for sale has been axed, while the company works on a new hybrid version of its smaller Q5 sport-ute.