The Audi Q7 is the brand's first true SUV, and Johan de Nysschen, Audi of America's chief executive, says it heralds a greater U.S. focus for Audi's future product development. The Q7 is based on a lengthened and highly modified VW Touareg/Porsche Cayenne chassis, although Audi engineers are quick to point out that the rear suspension is completely redesigned to accommodate a third-row seat, and the drivetrain is comprised of Audi-specific components. In fact, the Q7 shares only 15% of its parts with the Touareg, according to Audi.
Audi's 4.2-liter V-8 gets FSI direct injection, and in this application makes 350 hp and 325 lb-ft (a higher-revving version in the Audi RS4 makes 420 hp). Top speed will be limited to 130 mph in the U.S. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual override handles shifting. Later, a 3.6-liter V-8 producing 280 hp will arrive in a base Q7. Air suspension is optional, along with nineteen- and twenty-inch wheels and tires: eighteens are standard.
Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi's head of vehicle dynamics, tells us that the Q7 has been engineered for the street. The air suspension--from the Audi A8--delivers a lower ride height and a more refined ride than the Touareg. The all-wheel-drive system, with its 40 percent front/60 percent rear torque split, comes from the RS6. "The Q7 will do donuts, I promise you," Hackenberg says. Even though the Q7 is longer than the Touareg and the Cayenne, it weights fractionally less, thanks to aluminum upper suspension components and the lack of heavy mechanical locking differentials.
Inside, the Q7 has the leather-and-tech look of the A6, and it's beautifully crafted, with lots of bright metal accents and high-quality leather. The third-row seat, which is optional on the V-6 but standard on the V-8, folds flat into the floor. An Alcantara headliner, a panorama roof (which may not wear the strange "Open Sky" name), radar cruise control, a rear backup camera, rear-seat entertainment, xenon lights, blind spot vehicle detection, and satellite navigation will be optional. The V-8 will have a base price of around $50,000, but with all the goodies, expect to pay around $70,000. The V-6 will start at just over $40,000. The V-8 Q7 will reach U.S. streets in June 2006, and the V-6 will follow in the fall.