You'll Like The 2011 Audi Q7 If...
If you enjoy the Q7's clean exterior, well-executed (like all Audis available in the U.S.) interior, three-row capability and standard all-wheel drive, you'll enjoy the Q7. And your decision to commit to the Q7's 5,200 pound curb weight is made more palatable by the new V6 and improvements in both city and highway EPA ratings.
You May Not Like The 2011 Audi Q7 If...
Typically, those interested in a European "feel" also reflect a European sensibility. And that sensibility will more typically steer them to the station wagon (and Audi builds some sterling examples). Audi's mid-size Q5 has proven extremely popular, and we suspect its positive reception has cost the Q7 some customers.
Having received a mild exterior freshening in 2010, this year's changes are highlighted by two versions of the 3.0-liter V6 engine (272 horsepower in Premium and Premium Plus, 333 horsepower in S Line Prestige) and the addition of an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic. This, along with a few equipment and cosmetic tweaks, sums up the changes to an aging platform.
You simply can't fault Audi on its design execution inside. And here - in 2011 - we see significant enhancements. Every Q7 features hand-picked wood inlays, along with heated 12-way power front seats. Since its introduction the Q7's trump card has been its three-row packaging. And while that third row is marginal for even small adults, the Q's additional interior length provides a bonanza for those that are activity-oriented. With the second and third rows folded flat - which don't require removal of the headrests - you'll enjoy a full 72 cubic feet of cargo area. And if equipped with Audi's accessory bike rack, two bikes can be transported inside the car standing upright, an option that provides those bikes with better security - and doesn't impact your miles-per-gallon (often the case with roof-mounted transport). And did we mention the 28(!) possible seating combinations?
You can't deny the Q7's visual force, from its signature Singleframe grille to its tapered hatch at the rear. The windshield is aggressively raked, while the greenhouse - which won't be confused with the parent company's Microbus - is sufficiently generous to provide adequate visibility. Relatively short overhangs front and rear communicate both the Q7's rear-wheel drive bias and some semblance of off-road credibility. Also of note: The availability this year of 21-inches of alloy wheel; just the thing for getting in touch with your inner Dub. While judgments on exterior design are almost always subjective, the Q7 - in the absence of a significant design update - is looking dated when compared to its Cayenne and Touareg siblings, which look and feel more athletic.
Despite standard all-wheel drive, with a performance-oriented 40:60 front to rear bias, the Audi Q7 will never be confused with one of Audi's sedan-based station wagons. A high center of gravity and the aforementioned two-and-a-half-ton curb weight prove vexing, even with all-independent suspension, communicative steering and an appropriately rigid body structure. With all that, the ability to carry both you and an extended family will typically necessitate some compromise, and while not as nimble as an Audi sedan the Q7 offers so much more in tactile feedback than comparably priced American SUVs, and certainly more refinement than the off-the-rack minivan. As noted earlier, the adaptive air suspension is most definitely a win, both on-road and off.
As is increasingly common with luxury vehicles emanating from Germany, the option sheet can radically skew the Q7's value orientation. The base MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) is just over $47,000; that investment provides you a comfortably equipped Q7 with all of the amenities necessary for safe, secure transport. Bump up to the Premium Plus trim and your investment is now north of $53,000. Go full boat (or "boot") and opt for a TDI Prestige with S Line interior upgrades, Bang & Olufsen audio and adaptive air suspension, and the MSRP is now elevated to over $75,000! Be sure to check kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price for an indicator of what consumers are paying in your area. The Q7's projected resale values are indicative of Audi's growing acceptance in both the new and pre-owned markets. They are on par with BMW's X5, significantly higher than the Lexus GX 460 and only slightly lower than Acura's MDX.
To the Audi team's credit, there is no such thing as a poorly equipped Q7. Even in base Premium trim, the Q features standard quattro all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloy wheels, power and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Audi music interface (intelligent integration of iPod and iPhone), leather seating surfaces, Bluetooth prep, power tailgate and HomeLink. Standard safety features balance the active (your ability to avoid an accident) with passive (the ability to survive an accident). Active elements include all-wheel drive, ABS and electronic brake force distribution, while passive safety is reinforced with a host of airbags, including Sideguard side-curtain airbags protecting all three rows of seating. Of note: Standard equipment levels on the TDI are slightly higher than those of the base 3.0 TFSI V6.
If an SUV is intended to convey an adventurous spirit, the adventure will be enhanced with the Prestige S Line trim. Motivation is improved by the V6's 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, all the better to propel the Audi's 5,400 pound curb weight (with options). The S Line also includes a Warm Weather Package featuring four-zone climate control and rear side window and cargo shades. For your ultimate adventure, equip your Q7 with adaptive air suspension. Electronically controlled, it continuously adapts the suspension to its on-or-off-road environment, while its adjustability will secure over nine inches of ground clearance. Finally, Audi's MMI Navigation plus offers a 7-inch screen, color driver information system, real-time traffic, navigation and telephone functions.
quattro All-Wheel Drive
At this point in Audi's recent history, quattro all-wheel drive is fully integrated into the carmaker's DNA. And when you combine quattro's performance dynamic with all-season attributes, you're hard pressed to conjure a better asset to an upright, over-spec'd SUV.
3.0-liter TDI Diesel
With all of the negative ink generated by the general media in the U.S., Audi and Volkswagen continue to make a compelling argument for the modern diesel powertrain. With 3.0 liters Audi's clean diesel generates 225 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, while delivering you to sixty miles per hour from a standing stop in just over eight seconds.
Under the Hood
For the 2011 model year, three is the magic number: Three powertrain choices, each displacing 3.0 liters. The base 3.0-liter supercharged V6 develops adequate horsepower and torque while providing a highway mpg figure of 22. Opt for the S Line Prestige trim level and that same displacement nets 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, while achieving 0-60 in under eight seconds. Finally, the 3.0 TDI, while delivering less hp, generates 406 pound-feet of torque - and 25 miles per gallon on the highway. Efficiency, of course, is helped in no small party by the newly available 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Now, if they can only remove approximately 500 pounds of vehicle weight.
3.0-liter V6 Supercharged
272 horsepower @ 4750 rpm
295 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22
3.0-liter V6 Supercharged
333 horsepower @ 5500 rpm
325 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22
3.0-liter Turbodiesel V6
225 horsepower @ 3750 rpm
406 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
Audi's Q7, now in its fifth year of production, is one third of Volkswagen's trinity of uber-capable SUVs, sharing its basic architecture with Volkswagen's Touareg and Porsche's Cayenne. But that was then, this is now. Both VW and Porsche have aggressively freshened their offerings for 2011, while Audi retains the same basic platform (with three rows of seating) as it had at launch. And that platform was regarded as overweight and inefficient then; the Q7's disconnect with the competitive environment today is made even more striking. It does, however, benefit from new powertrains. The 3.6-liter V6 and 4.2-liter V8 available in 2010 are jettisoned, and replaced by two variants of one 3.0-liter supercharged V6. Those powertrains, in combination with Audi's 3.0-liter TDI diesel, provide the Q7 with a relevance it didn't possess with an overworked V6 or thirsty V8.