The Q7's 3.0-liter TDI diesel V-6 is a winner. It's so quiet, so smooth, and so powerful. Well, so torquey, I guess I should say, since it has 406 lb-ft, compared with 266 lb-ft for the 3.6-liter gasoline V-6 offered in the base Q7. Cruising at 80 mph on the freeway is effortless, and if you gun it to 90 mph or higher while you're passing, it's as if the engine is not even exerting itself. The powertrain is also very smooth and refined at slower, around-town speeds. It's a very tractable engine, well-mated to its six-speed automatic. Audi estimates a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.5 seconds (not bad for a 5512-pound, 16.7-foot-long crossover) and a range of up to 600 miles in freeway driving, based on the highway EPA rating of 25 mpg and the 26.4-gallon fuel tank.
As for the Q7 itself, well, it looks great inside and out, but it does have some compromises, most having to do with its size. Although it's more than 16 feet long, its tapering roofline impedes on room for both passengers and cargo. The third-row seat is very cramped and suitable only for children, what with its 29.2 inches of legroom and 35.6 inches of headroom. The Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec, by comparison, offers 34.2 inches of third-row legroom and 38.2 inches of headroom.
The Benz weighs about a hundred pounds more than the Audi, but in this behemoth class, we'd call that a draw. Other dimensional comparisons between the GL and the Q7 continue in the Mercedes-Benz's favor: Whereas the Audi provides only 10.9 cubic feet of cargo space when the third-row seats are in use, the GL350 carves out 14.3 cubic feet. Cargo space when the third-row seats are folded---a common scenario for most owners, we'd guess---also slightly favors the Benz, at 43.8 cubic feet, over the Audi, at 42.0 cubic feet. With both the second- and third-row seats folded, the Mercedes measures 83.3 cubic feet and the Audi is 72.5.
Despite its mass, the Q7 feels pretty spritely on the road; I've found this to be true even in the gasoline V-6 model as well as the one powered by Audi's 4.2-liter V-8. On the downside, the ride is a bit harsh over rough pavement; Mercedes has the edge here, as well.
All these quibbles aside, I really like the Q7 in all its iterations, and to have this much performance, utility, style, and prestige in a package that delivers 25 mpg on the freeway while hauling up to seven people is notable.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor