Three 3-liter V-6s
For 2011, the Q7 engine lineup consists of three V-6s. All are 3.0 liters. Two are supercharged gasoline engines; the third is the turbodiesel. Of the two supercharged gasoline engines, the hotter one is the 333-hp unit from the S4; the base engine is a detuned version that makes 272 hp. The 3.0-liter TDI sits in between them, and takes the role of the fuel miser.
Beating the EPA
Whereas both of the gasoline V-6 engines are EPA rated at 16/22 mpg (city/highway), the Q7 TDI earns 17/25 mpg EPA ratings. Not much of a bump, you may be thinking. But the thing is, I was able to easily exceed those figures during my time with the car. I just crested 30 mpg on my two highway runs, and usually averaged 20 or 21 mpg in town. That’s an excellent performance for a big boy like the Q7, which weighs in at a portly 5567 pounds.
The TDI’s output is a modest 225 hp but a stout 406 pound-feet of torque. In most driving, the diesel seems sprightly. There is zero diesel clatter, and only a faint turbo whistle. Light throttle applications provide pleasantly energetic response, with boost coming on after half-a-beat, obviating the need to really leg the pedal. If you do floor it, though, you’ll find that the Q7 TDI is not nearly as quick as the BMW X5 diesel, nor is it as fast as either of its own gasoline-powered siblings.
My Q7 was equipped with the standard 19-inch wheels (20- and 21-inch wheels are optional) and it had a decent ride without too much harshness. The chassis is firm and the steering assist is quite natural, unlike some Audis. Those who aren’t happy with the standard ride/handling setup can opt for the adaptive air suspension.
Room for two more?
The Q7 is bigger than its Porsche Cayenne/Volkswagen Touareg platform-mates, which allowed engineers to package a third-row of seats. But access is not easy, and you can forget about putting adults back there; even your kids will outgrow it after middle school. Also, there’s not much luggage space when the third-row seats are in use. Consider the Q7 really a 5-seater, with two extra places to use in a pinch. The good news is that the second row is quite comfortable, even the middle position, although headroom is at a premium. The optional oversize sunroof covers all three rows, and is one of the biggest we’ve encountered.
The Q7 — with any engine — offers a choice of three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. My test example was equipped with the Premium Plus package, which includes navigation, the panorama sunroof, and a few other items. Leather is standard. The interior, though, doesn’t quite live up to Audi’s vaunted reputation. Everything seems well put-together, but the design is fairly bland and the details unspectacular. There is no wow factor. The familiar Multi-Media Interface, part of the optional navigation system, is fairly easy to use but not as good as the best systems. Know that the MMI in the Q7 is not Audi’s latest-and-greatest version, the one with the touchpad number and letter entry that you find in the A8 and the A7.
In the shadow of its sibling
Although it’s larger and more expensive, the Q7 seems to exist in the shadow of its smaller sibling. One might expect the more popularly priced Q5 to sell more, but the central issue is that the Q7 doesn’t really offer much to tempt buyers away from the Q5. The third-row seat is its only real draw, but unlike those in some competitors, that back bench is strictly for kids. The extra utility, therefore, is marginal, and the extra luxury isn’t really there either. Of the three Q7 engine offerings, the TDI’s exceptional real-world fuel economy makes it the easy choice over either of the slightly quicker gasoline engines. It also helps make a case for the Q7 over the Q5. Little wonder, then, that it’s the most popular version of the Q7. Now, a Q5 TDI — that might really grab the limelight.
2011 Audi Q7 TDI
Base price: $51,775
Price as tested: $58,275
3.0-liter TDI V-6
8-speed automatic transmission
Four-wheel disc brakes
Dual-zone automatic climate control
19-inch alloy wheels
Power mirrors, windows, door locks
Tilt and telescoping steering column
Leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel
Rear audible park assist
Sirius satellite radio
Heated front seats
Trailer hitch pre-wiring
Options on this vehicle:
Premium Plus package
– Audi MMI navigation plus
– xenon headlamps w/LED daytime running lights and turn signals
– auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors
– Bose surround sound and HD radio
– park assist w/rearview camera
– memory function for driver
– panorama sunroof
Cold weather package
– heated rear seats
– heated steering wheel
Options not on this vehicle:
S line package
Bang & Olufsen sound system
Audi adaptive air suspension
Adaptive cruise control
17/25/20 mpg (city/highway/combined)
3.0L V-6 turbodiesel
Horsepower: 225 hp @ 3750 rpm
Torque: 406 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
8.5 x 19 in. wheels
265/50R19 Continental 4×4 Contact tires
8-speed automatic transmission replaces 6-speed