The Q7 is exactly what one expects from a big Audi SUV: excellent road manners and drivability, a well-executed interior, and the room and utility of a truck.
This is a big vehicle, but the 3.0-liter pulls it along effortlessly, and the eight-speed automatic is silky smooth and helps return decent highway mileage. Quattro all-wheel drive and winter rubber shrugged off the snowstorm and messy conditions I encountered with ease.
Inside the Q7 was typical Audi, with the familiar gauge layout and console-mounted master controls combining for the best user experience possible given the abundant technology employed. One quibble: considering the massive size of the console, only one accessible cupholder is provided, and the power outlets seem oddly prominent and space-inefficient.
– Matt Tierney, Art Director
The Audi Q7 S Line is a seriously good-looking vehicle. Before I even drove this Q7, it made me turn my head when I passed by it in the parking structure. The sleek lines, the attractive LED headlights, and the unique wheels make this vehicle stand out more than your average SUV. And inside, it has the typical exquisite interior that we’ve come to expect from Audi.
Horsepower and torque from the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 are more than adequate to move this 5400-pound (!) vehicle around, but I agree with Joe that it feels very substantial (and not necessarily in a good way) when you drive it. Still, its looks alone are almost enough to sell me on it.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The engine downsizing continues at Audi. The Q7 is no longer available with a 3.6-liter narrow-angle V-6 or a 4.2-liter V-8. Instead, the lineup consists of three 3.0-liter V-6s — two gasoline variants and a diesel. As part of this adjustment, the S-line has evolved from a glorified appearance package to a full trim level that includes the more potent 333-hp supercharged V-6. Full throttle acceleration is fantastic — sufficient to hustle this big, bruiser to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, according to Audi. In some real-world situations, though, the Q7 actually feels considerably slower due to the efficiency-first programming evident in both the eight-speed transmission and in the throttle mapping. I compensated for that by leaving the shifter in S (Sport) and by being very generous with my right foot. Not surprisingly, this hurt my fuel economy. At one point I saw an indicated 11 mpg around town — nowhere near the 16-mpg EPA estimate. That number improved considerably on the highway, where the Q7 is most comfortable, anyway. Like most Audis, the Q7 handles and steers well for its segment, although there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a big and tall vehicle weighing more than 5400 pounds.
With the interior, one gets the sense that having already achieved perfection, Audi designers are now tinkering mostly for their own entertainment. Take for instance, the button to open the glovebox, which resides to the right of the navigation screen. Does it work here? Sure. Does the glovebox door look better without a little latch in the corner? Possibly. Will it make a certifiable difference in anyone’s ownership experience with the vehicle? Almost certainly not. Having said that, I’ll admit to warming up to a few of Audi’s other ergonomic innovations — the MMI controller now feels as natural as a tuning knob on an old radio and the cleaned up HVAC controls similarly become second nature.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The Q7 is one fine big SUV. I’ve liked Audi’s supercharged 3.0-liter since I first tried it in the S4 a couple years ago, and even though the Q7 is no sport sedan, this engine still works very well here. Granted, this top-spec S-line edition carries a 61-hp advantage (and a $13,000 premium) over the basic Q7 3.0T. In addition to the amped-up powertrain, the S-line also gets fancy features like swiveling headlights, ventilated seats, and twenty-inch wheels. The turbo-diesel Q7 remains my preference, however, given its 2-mpg (EPA combined) fuel-economy advantage and, more important, how well its torquey personality meshes with the big Audi’s massive curb weight; in Prestige trim like our S-line test car, the TDI costs only an extra $4000, which is a small percentage of a $60,000 price tag.
The Q7 drives very well for a vehicle its size, yet it still made me long for our departed Four Seasons Audi Q5, which offered decent utility, too, but was significantly smaller, lighter, and more nimble. For families who appreciate (and can afford) the finer things — and need a third row and want to tow — the Q7 is a nice ride. It’s also attractive looking and somewhat rare, handily outsold as it is by competitors such as the Cadillac Escalade, the Acura MDX, the BMW X5, and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I’m always struck by the steering in the Audi Q7, which manages to be both precise and light, helping to make this big vehicle feel more tossable than it might otherwise feel. I also like the beautifully designed and finished interior.
I don’t like the sense of mass in the Q7, especially the huge front end. It seems big for big’s sake.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I find it disingenuous for Audi to sell the same engine in the same vehicle with a 61-hp difference, especially when this 5400-pound Q7 needs every one of those 333 horses. The more powerful Q7’s sub 7-second sprint to 60 mph is certainly quick, and for all practical purposes the slower Q7 is still a very drivable, pleasant vehicle. But fuel economy is unchanged and the difference between engines here is merely lines of software. Why should the buyers of a $47,000 luxury SUV settle for the dumb software?
Product packaging complaints aside, the Q7 is a great SUV. There are times when this vehicle feels slower than Audi claims, but abandoning the old V-8 for the responsive, supercharged V-6 and excellent eight-speed automatic still reads as a smart move. Only at the top end of the tach and highway speeds do you really wish for more thrust from a full-throttle acceleration. Inside, it’s typical Audi goodness. The only concern I have is how long this Q7 will remain fresh in the market. While the Q7’s Porsche and Volkswagen siblings received significant redesigns last year, the Q7’s new engine and subtle changes amount to only a modest refresh. It looks and drives great now, but the original 2005 design has to survive into 2013 before it receives a thorough redo.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2011 Audi Q7 3.0T S Line
Base price (with destination): $59,775
Price as tested: $60,275
3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine
8-speed automatic transmission
Quattro all-wheel drive
Electronic stabilization program
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
20-inch alloy wheels
Tire pressure monitoring system
Trailer hitch pre-wiring
Four-zone climate control
Audi MMI navigation system
Heated front seats
Adaptive Xenon HID headlamps with LED daytime runnings lights
Leather seating surfaces
Tilt/telescoping steering column
3rd row seating
Audi parking system with rearview camera
14-speaker Bose surround sound system
Sirius satellite radio
Options on this vehicle:
Cold weather package — $500
Heated rear seats
Heated steering wheel
Key options not on vehicle:
Bang & Olufsen sound system — $6300
3.0-liter TDI engine — $4000
Audi air suspension — $2600
Adaptive cruise control — $2100
Towing package — $550
Fuel economy: 16 / 22 / 18 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 3.0L supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 333 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheels/tires: 20-inch aluminum wheels; 275/45R20 Dunlop SP WinterSport 3D winter tires