Hauling Family in the Family-Hauling Audi Q7

Big crossover, big impression.

The job of reviewing cars requires one to be nitpicky, but I don't consider myself hard to impress. I like stripped-out, thunderclap-loud Nürburgring-stormers as much as the next pedal pusher, but if a vehicle performs its mission well, I'm in. In fact, spot me during my commute in Los Angeles, and you'll likely see just as big a smile on my face behind the wheel of a well-executed crossover as when I'm driving anything far more exotic.

This appreciation for more mundane vehicles has garnered its fair share of ire from other automotive journalists, who would seemingly rather I brave every traffic jam with a six-speed shifter in my right hand. Never mind that my personal car fleet hasn't included an automatic transmission for more than a decade, and that my immediate family currently owns three manual-transmission cars—I appreciate the row-your-own mentality, just maybe not when I'm inching toward a destination.

As easy as I may be to please, my mother isn't. A longtime Lexus RX customer, she has decried the ride quality, seat comfort, wind noise, and warning sounds of nearly everything I've shuttled my family around in. She doesn't particularly dislike any of the vehicles; it's simply easy for her to find a dealbreaker.

So imagine my surprise when the Audi Q7 elicited nothing but praise from everyone—including mom. The Audi itself didn't surprise me, considering the Q7 remains one of the most refined, well-appointed luxury three-rows available, and I was thus looking forward to a week of shuttling myself, my father, my mother, and my 93-year-old grandmother. The particular Q7 that arrived was a 2018 model—yes, just recently—but the only updates for 2019 are limited to package reorganization, new wheels, and an updated display, so my experience readily transfers to what's on dealer lots.

Indeed, I still think the smart money gravitates toward Audi. Having four rings on the grille is now as prestigious as having BMW's roundel or Mercedes' tri-pointed star, but an Audi is less ostentatious. Indeed, outside of the excellent S and RS products, the workaday Audi lineup straddles the line between stately and demure. Our test Q7 was especially stealth with the optional "Titanium Black Optic Package," which adds special wheels and darkens the exterior around the grille, windows, rocker panels, and exhaust tips.

Although the Q7 is due for a mid-cycle refresh later this year for 2020, this generation remains a clean and well-executed design inside and out. The interior is especially impressive, but that's hardly news given Ingolstadt's track record for impeccable cockpit designs. It's incredibly difficult to create a modern interior that won't age like Limburger left out in the sun, but modern Audis have the best chance at such staying power.

It's a monument to modernist design. Lexus and Infiniti diehards accustomed to sheets of glossy brown burl wood and leather-wrapped everything might even interpret the dark, aluminum-lined cabin as a bit antiseptic, although every Q7 comes equipped with a choice of either Gray Oak or Terra Brown Walnut wood trim. This example arrived fully loaded with both the Prestige and Luxury packages, adding an assortment of luxe goodies like soft-close doors, heated/ventilated front seats, an Alcantara headliner, and Bose audio—more than enough to keep my passengers coddled.

For the moment, the Q7 is Audi's largest SUV, and four adults had space to spare in the seven-seater.

Even when loaded with their luggage and the other detritus of daily life, the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 felt plenty gutsy. Its 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque scoot an empty Q7 to 60 mph in a very respectable 5.7 seconds, and it feels incredibly smooth and plenty premium enough to fit the badge up front. The eight-speed automatic transmission is just as refined, never hunting for gears even when navigating tight and undulating coastal roads in search of beautiful scenery.

My family—as do most folks—values smooth, inoffensive driving, so I didn't get the chance to blast up a mountain road, but the coastal stretch allowed me to see how far I could stretch the Q7's legs and dip into its dynamic envelope before inducing crew-wide motion sickness. Suffice to say, with the test vehicle's Adaptive Chassis Package—four-wheel-steering and an adaptive air suspension—I was able to hustle the Q7 plenty while it kept body motions (and therefore any complaints) well in check. The Adaptive Chassis gear is always very much appreciated on the side streets of greater Los Angeles, as it not only can handle a curve but also mitigates the deficiencies in our road infrastructure.

Back out on the open roads of Palos Verdes, the Q7 felt more like a theoretical high-riding A8 Allroad than a squishy crossover, displaying more poise and quicker steering than would be expected of a non-sporting family hauler. It handles well enough to nearly invent its own sub-niche between pure luxury SUVs and mid-level sporting SUVs like the X5 xDrive M50i.

Happy driver, happy family. Maybe the forthcoming updated Q7 will be available in time for their next visit. I'm sure we'll all look forward to it.

2018 Audi Q7 Specifications

ON SALE Now
BASE PRICE $57,375/$81,200 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 3.0L supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6; 329 hp @ 5,300 rpm, 325 lb-ft @ 2,900 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT  4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 19/25 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 191.4 x 73.7 x 56.5 in
WHEELBASE 117.9 in
WEIGHT 4,927 lb
0-60 MPH 5.7 seconds (mfr)
TOP SPEED 130 mph (mfr)
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