2009 Audi Q7 TDI Premium quattro TiptronicPosted on November 2nd, 2009
Full-sized SUV with a green footprint
By Nina Russin
Which technology is greener: gasoline-electric hybrids or clean diesel? Engineers on both sides of the fence can make good arguments in their favor. Hybrids yield exceptional fuel economy in stop-and-go traffic, whereas the fuel economy gains for diesel cars are smaller, but more consistent across-the-board.
Over the long term, owners of hybrids must address the issue of battery life and disposal: a problem that doesn’t exist for diesel. On the other hand, gasoline is still more readily available than diesel in the US, and in many cases, costs less.
Traditionally, American drivers have shunned diesel technology, primarily because of bad experiences with vehicles built several decades back. I can’t emphasize enough how different the current generation of diesel cars are from their predecessors. A relatively recent technology known as common-rail diesel uses on-board computer controls and very high fuel-line pressures to give the new cars power and performance comparable to gasoline cars.
The new clean diesel cars have excellent throttle response, and vastly reduced diesel tick. Audi has reduced particulates out the exhaust by 98 percent, compared to cars built in the late 1980s. Torque is up 70 percent. In short, the cars are environmentally friendly, fun to drive, and remarkably fuel-efficient.
Q7 TDI has a 600 mile range between fill-ups
Recently, I had the chance to test the Q7: Audi’s seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle. The Q7 comes with three available engines: gasoline powered V6 and V8 blocks, and a turbo-diesel V6. While the turbo-diesel accelerates from zero-to-sixty slightly slower than the gasoline V6, its fuel economy is four-miles-per-gallon better. The Q7 TDI can travel over 600 miles on a single tank of gas.
While diesel engines lack the horsepower of their gasoline counterparts, they develop peak torque at much lower speeds, making them ideal for towing applications. The Q7 TDI accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 8.5 seconds (.3 seconds slower than the gas engine). Its 6600-ound towing capacity is almost twice our ALV minimum standard.
Base price on the test car is $50,900. A premium package ($3250) adds navigation with a rearview camera and rear park assist, an audio upgrade, and power folding side mirrors. An optional panoramic sunroof ($1850) adds glass panels over all three rows of seating. Sunshades allow ambient light in while protecting occupants from direct sunlight.
The S line package ($1150) upgrades the standard 19-inch wheels to 20-inch rims with all-season tires, and adds a sport steering wheel with formula-style shift paddles. The towing prep package is $550.
Test drive in Phoenix
I drove the Q7 for a week around the Phoenix metro area. The first thing I noticed, merging onto the freeway, was the car’s smooth delivery of power. The diesel engine’s low-end-torque enables the six-speed automatic transmission to move through gears with almost no shift shock.
With the third-row seats folded flat, visibility is good all the way around the car. The back seats obstruct the driver’s rear view when in place: a problem common to many three-row SUVs. Over-the-shoulder visibility is good, thanks to the car’s narrow B pillars. A standard tilt steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view.
Steering feedback is exceptional for such a large, heavy car. I simulated an emergency lane change, and was impressed on how quickly the chassis trued up. Turning radius is just short of 40 feet: what one would expect from a car with a 118-inch wheelbase.
Ground clearance is 8.1 inches, giving the Q7 the ability to negotiate unimproved dirt roads. Drivers looking for a car with extreme off-road capability should probably steer away from the Q7, due to its large wheels and low-profile tires.
The fully-independent suspension provides a firm but comfortable ride. I was able to take a decreasing radius cloverleaf entrance ramp at speed with complete control.
Large ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels stop the car quickly, and in linear fashion. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the best traction, to enhance wet weather performance. Four-channel antilock brakes prevent the wheels from locking up on rain or snow-covered roads.
My test drive covered about 140 miles, including surface streets and highways. My average fuel economy was slightly better than the EPA’s 20 mpg estimate.
The Q7 interior has all of the accouterments buyers expect from a luxury sport-utility vehicle, including two-position driver’s seat memory, a Bose surround-sound audio system with satellite radio, an abundance of 12-volt-power points, cup and bottle holders, and a user-friendly navigation system. Overhead lamps over all three rows light up the interior at night.
The test car’s black leather upholstery is attractive, though not especially practical in the hot southwestern climate. Engineers did a good job with the climate control system. Second-row passengers have dual fan adjustments. Vents in the B and C pillars as well as behind the center console circulate air throughout the cabin.
Audi’s multi-media interface uses a mouse device on the center console to control the climate, audio and navigation systems. It’s intuitive to operate for anyone familiar with computer controls, and eliminates a slew of unnecessary buttons. Redundant audio, cruise controls and Bluetooth interface on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
An information screen allows the driver to turn on a speed warning, change trip meter settings, program ambient lighting, exterior lights and seat adjustments.
Second row seats move forward and aft to add extra legroom for taller passengers. A tall floor tunnel and the center console make it difficult for an adult to sit in the center position. An armrest folds out of the center seatback, providing cupholders for the second-row passengers.
The third row is best suited for children, with limited leg and headroom.
A power liftgate makes it easy to load up the cargo area. Both second and third-row seats are easy to fold flat: the Q7 can hold a couple of road bikes inside with the second-row seats folded flat. A storage area under the cargo floor holds smaller items. Standard roof rails make it easy to cross bars and a roof rack.
The test car comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system. Audi’s standard warranty includes complimentary first scheduled maintenance and four years of roadside assistance.
The Audi Q7 TDI is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A full-sized fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicle with excellent on-road performance.
Dislike: Poor rear visibility with the third-row seats in place.
Model: Q7 TDI Premium quattro Tiptronic
Base price: $50,900
As tested: $59,725
Horsepower: 225 Hp @ 3750 rpm
Torque: 406 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.5 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $825 delivery charge.
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