First Drive: 2011 Audi Q7 TDI

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.

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I still pine for the Q7 with the V-10 TDI... THAT was an SUV for all seasons! Too bad Audi thought it was too over-the-top. I thought it was just right, especially for open American roads.

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