2008 Audi Q7 3.6 PremiumPosted on July 14th, 2008
Sport-utility vehicle with sports car performance
By Nina Russin
I’ve never met an Audi that I didn’t like to drive. The German automaker is known for infusing its luxury cars with formula racing technology. It only makes sense that Audi’s sport-utility vehicle, the Q7, would have the same performance bias as its grand touring cars.
Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6, or 4.2-liter V8, rated at 280 and 350 horsepower respectively. The Audi Q7 accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.1 seconds, when equipped with the V8 engine. The 3.6-liter V6 covers the distance in 8.2 seconds.
Standard quattro all-wheel drive gives the Q7 off-road capability. Normally, quattro maintains a rear bias, to prevent understeer when the driver corners. If one or more wheels begin to slip, quattro automatically transfers up to sixty-five percent of the power up front, or up to eighty-five percent to the rear.
The Q7 can ford water up to twenty-inches deep, and climb grades as steep as thirty-one degrees. I haven’t had the chance to drive the Q7 in these extreme conditions, but I have driven on the dirt road up Mount Palomar, outside San Diego. The car is as stable on loose rock and through deep ruts as it is on paved roads.
Ride and handling of a sport sedan
The test car is the 3.6 premium grade: the premium designation means that the car comes with three rows of seating, versus two on the base model. The S Line sport package upgrades standard, eighteen-inch wheels to twenty-one inch rims with summer performance tires. Though the large wheels and low-profile tires limit the Q7’s off-road capability, they create a larger more stable footprint for high-speed driving.
The 3.6-liter engine is a bored-out version of the block currently used in the TT and A3. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. The driver can shift, F1 style, using paddles on the back of the steering wheel, or with the floor-mounted shift lever.
The biggest challenge engineers face in designing sport-utility vehicles is inertia. Because of their weight, it’s difficult to make big trucks accelerate and stop as well as smaller cars. To accomplish this, the engine has a very wide torque band. It reaches peak torque at 2750 rpm: the upper end of highway cruising speeds.
Stopping power comes from four, very large rotors, with six pistons on the front discs and four in back.
An independent suspension with aluminum double wishbones gives the Q7 nimble handling. It can take decreasing radius turns at speed and remain perfectly flat: something that never fails to surprise other drivers in the vicinity.
Rack-and-pinion speed-sensitive steering provides more assist at low speeds, for maneuvering through crowded parking lots, or along twisting dirt roads. At highway speeds there is less assist, giving the car exceptional on-center feel.
Blind spot detection
Visibility is excellent all the way around the car, thanks to Audi’s optional side assist feature. The system uses radar detectors in the rear bumper to monitor vehicles moving into blind spots on either side. When the sensors detect a vehicle, they trigger yellow LED indicators in the side mirror housings.
Since the indicator lights are to the inside of the mirrors, they are only visible to the driver. If the driver signals to change lanes when the lights are on, they become brighter and start to flash.
Better visibility at night
The convenience option package includes bi-xenon front headlamps with adaptive lighting. When the driver corners, the lights use steering wheel input to sense the direction the vehicle is headed. A beam of light to the side of the car lights corners that would normally remain dark.
The adaptive lighting makes it much easier to see pedestrians and cyclists at intersections on poorly lit roads. As a runner and cyclist, I wish all new cars came with this technology.
The price of performance
As with all sport-utility vehicles, the Q7’s tall, two-box design gives it a relatively high coefficient of drag: .37 for the model tested. It’s also heavy: curb weight is 5126 pounds. Average fuel economy is 16 miles-per-gallon.
Because both the 3.6-liter V6 and 4.2-liter V8 are high-compression engines, they run best on premium fuel. With premium fuel in the Los Angeles area averaging $4.65 per gallon, a year’s worth of fuel costs $4,359 based on 15,000 miles of driving.
By including these figures, I’m not implying that the Audi Q7 is a bad car, or even a bad choice of car for buyers who need its versatility, and can afford to pay for it. But the price of operation is something all car buyers should consider carefully, no matter how big or small their budgets are.
Seating for seven
Inside, three rows of seating provide space for up to seven passengers. Head and legroom is extremely limited in the third row. There’s enough space for small children, but adults shouldn’t ride in back.
Seating in the first two rows provides plenty of room to stretch out. A convenience package adds two-position memory for the driver’s seat. Seats are easy to adjust, and all seats have adequate lower back support. Front seat heaters are standard.
All four doors have map pockets and bottle holders. There are also two large cupholders in the center console, and a 12-volt power point next to the shift lever.
Reading lamps illuminate the interior for the first two rows of passengers. Second-row passengers get a separate set of air vents and access to two, 12-volt power points, located in back of the center console.
The test car has the upgraded Bose surround sound system. Sirius satellite radio is now standard on all Q7 models. A display screen at the top of the center stack shows audio settings, and displays maps for the optional navigation system.
Audi’s multi media interface uses a mouse to integrate the car’s media controls. The mouse, located in the center console, is easy to use, and eliminates unnecessary clutter on the instrument panel.
Spacious cargo area
The second and third-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. There isn’t much cargo space behind the third-row seats when they’re in place. Standard roof rails allow owners to store extra luggage up top.
Seats are easy to fold flat, using levers to the sides of the seat cushions. The Q7 easily meets our bike-friendly standards. The liftgate wraps around the back of the car. When open, it creates a wide pathway to the cargo area.
There are four tie-down hooks on the cargo floor to help secure large items. A small cubby to the left of the liftgate holds smaller items in place. There is a 12-volt power point on the right side of the cargo area.
Base price on the test car is $48,350, not including a $775 delivery charge. The new Q7 is available for test drives at Audi dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A full-sized sport-utility vehicle with the ride and handling of a sport sedan, and off-road capability. The optional side assist technology is a great safety feature for commuters.
Dislikes: The Q7 runs best on premium fuel, and gets relatively poor gas mileage, making it an expensive car to drive.
Model: Q7 3.6 Premium
Base price: $48,350
As tested: $58,225
Horsepower: 280 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 266 lbs.-ft. @ 2750 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 14/20 mpg city/highway
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