Manufacturers, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2007 Audi Q7 4.2 – Road Test

The Q7 is Audi’s first-ever SUV (they don’t count the All-Road as one) and they’ve done a superb job on their first attempt. The Audi version of the VW Touareg stands out in a crowd thanks to is bold-as-brass schnoz and huge 20” tires. Having a very capable stable-mate at their disposal, Audi tarted it up and then went over the top to create the Q7 – a truly top-of-the-line SUV worthy of its price-tag and prestige marque.

First Impressions
Walking up to the Q7, the sheer size is quite striking. This is a big SUV and the 20” rims only help to emphasize the mass of metal. Opening the door and climbing in, there’s a big step up thanks to those large wheels and a ground clearance of 7.9”. The leather seats look very flat and uninviting, but are indeed quite the opposite once you’ve plunked yourself behind the wheel. The front seats have power 8-way adjustments plus 4-way power lumbar support offering an abundance of comfort options, with two memory settings so that once you’ve found the perfect position you don’t have to worry about someone messing with your sweet-spot. The steering is electric tilt and telescoping, but I felt that it was a little too close. Moving the seat away didn’t improve the situation because I then had to reach for the pedals. If there were adjustable pedals, I didn’t find the button to operate them, but there could have been one among the million or so buttons that are spread around the interior like stars on a clear night! Some manufactures skimp on buttons, but not Audi!

The Q7 gauges and driver controls are very familiar if you’ve driven any VW’s or Audi’s of late – clean simple dials and information screens, that stand in stark contrast to the rest of the vehicle.  The gauges are black with chrome rings around the outside of the tear-drop shaped dials – a classy touch.  Within the information cluster there’s a small information screen that relays the navigation directions so the driver doesn’t have to look at the larger 7” screen conveniently placed nearer the centre of the dashboard. This is almost identical to other Audi’s with SatNav and I think it’s a terrific idea – one that other manufactures should consider. While all of the usual dials and gauges are included in the information centre, strangely absent is information with respect to mpg used or fuel consumption averages. There is however, a comprehensive display of the time, calendar, outside temperature, miles til empty, and so forth.

Interior finishes throughout the cabin are constructed of high-quality plastic and are aesthetically pleasing. Looking around the interior I was perplexed by the array of buttons and switches. I was afraid to touch something that wasn’t marked for fear I’d regret it. My wife got to drive the Q7 to its destination, so she had plenty of comments to make by the time I climbed into the cockpit. I like taking her to pick up new cars because she gets to figure out the controls while I just bark orders (heat, defroster etc.) and drive. Initial beefs were: the audio system is operated via the command dial and various buttons surrounding it.

After that, my next beef is with the bum-warmers – you can’t just turn them on. No, you have to use the command dial and menu system to tell the Q7 how warm you’d like your buns. There are 10 heat settings; with setting number 6 being plenty hot! To switch them off you have to go back into the menu, turn the dial back to zero and hit enter…. all while barreling down the highway at 100 yards per second!

Many of today’s vehicles have the audio and climate controls located high in the center stack, but Audi chose to put the MMI/SatNav screen there – along with the glove box opener (huh?). We couldn’t figure out how to open the glove box for 3 days. And since the owner’s manual was IN the glove box… anyway, I started pushing buttons to see what they did – wouldn’t you know it – the one beside the navigation screen was the power button for the glove box (you have to manually close it though). Below the screen is the CD changer and six buttons (no numbers or indication of what they are). Below that, are the climate control buttons and dials that look nice and simple – that is, until you actually have to use them to adjust the temperature, etc. There are 10 fan speeds, but you have to go into several menus to adjust up or down – each time.

The console between the driver and front passenger is wide and sits quite high – clearly dividing the driver from the front passenger. Between the shifter and the arm rest is the MMI or “multimedia user interface” that comes standard in the Q7. According to Audi: “the infotainment platform is notable for its ease of operation, ergonomic positioning, and consistent inherent operating logic.” In reality….it’s confusing and rather inconvenient. As I mentioned earlier, this is where you get to control the audio system, climate control and bum warmers as well as the navigation system if it’s installed. Some things are easy to operate, while others are very difficult. Most adults can’t program the clock on their VCR, why does Audi think they’ll take the time to learn how to use this at speeds in excess of 30 mph? At least you can’t drive into a transport truck if you screw up the clock on the VCR!!

The armrest/storage compartment looks very large and accommodating until you actually open it to discover – it isn’t. There’s a rear-hinged door that opens to reveal a compartment big enough for sunglasses and a cell phone. Below that is a removable fuzzy-covered shelf that reveals a square compartment that will fit about 6 CD cases laying flat. Next to the storage compartment is a single cup holder and to the rear of that is another covered – cup holder (huh?). The glove box is only big enough for the owner’s manual (it has a cooler-feature in case the manual over-heats – I think it’s supposed to be for drinks, but there’s no room for even one can of Coke).

Acceleration onto the freeway was uneventful, something I didn’t expect considering there’s 350 hp available – all that power is probably negated with the sheer weight of the Q7 at almost 5,400 lbs. Once up to freeway speed, wind and road noise were as you’d expect in a vehicle of this caliber – non-existent. Driving the Q7 was a very pleasant experience until the temperature quickly dropped, 2 days after we got it. The temperature dropped to around 10 degrees (-10 Celsius) and the Panorama Sunroof started making a horrible grinding/squeak whenever we got our speed up above 30 mph. Since there is no traditional sunroof cover – only a sunscreen – there’s no way to block out the sound, other than cranking up the tunes. Additionally, the heater in the Q7 took more than ½ hour to get anywhere near warm enough to actually be of any use! Most of the time, we arrived at our destination while our toes were still frozen. Thankfully the bum warmers worked well, but they took their sweet time warming up too. I find this very odd considering the Audi is a German vehicle and it gets cold in Germany – much colder than minus 10!

The Q7 uses a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Hill Decent Assist and it is perfectly matched to the vehicle. Although it offers the option of choosing your own gears, I never had the urge to use the Tiptronic. Whether going up or down hills, the transmission was always in the perfect gear and with the benefits of the Hill Decent Assist (it automatically keeps the speed constant when driving slowly on steep downhill stretches) – it just excelled. The first time I noticed it was when going down a steep hill – I didn’t have to touch the brakes even once! The Q7 had the gearing and the speed EXACTLY as I would have if I’d been using a manual transmission – but I didn’t have to do anything but steer. Climbing the steep hills in our area was just as amazing – there was no lag from the engine and no adjusting with the gas pedal – just a smooth constant climb up the hill.

The Q7 is definitely built as a SPORT Utility Vehicle, with the “sport” attributes coming through loud and clear when the air suspension is in the Dynamic mode. The system offers three modes: dynamic, automatic and comfort, and although we tried the comfort mode we left it in dynamic mode while we had it because we prefer a sportier feel. According to Audi: “The system control unit varies the spring and damping characteristics according to the mode selected and vehicle speed. In parallel with this, the trim is lowered by up to 1.4 inches (dynamic mode at high speeds), optimizing drag and lateral dynamics at the same time.” Whether it works or not, I can’t say for sure because there wasn’t anything noticeable to report on. One feature that worked perfectly was the unique rear lowering of the suspension for loading/unloading, which is operated by a button just inside the rear hatch that you press to lower the rear end, it lowers quickly and silently.

The rear doors open reasonably wide, making getting in and out a breeze – as long as the second-row seat is all the way back. If it has been moved forward to increase legroom in the third row, ingress and egress is a little more difficult. Once seated in the second row, there is ample space. The foot, leg, knee, hip and headroom are certainly abundant, with the rear seat being quite comfortable. The third-row seats are similar to the Volvo XC90 set up, in that the seatbacks fold and split 40/20/40 – however the seat cushions split 60/40. Likewise, they are adjustable fore and aft – up to 3.9”, but again the 60/40 split doesn’t make much sense – the Volvo handles this maneuver better. By allowing the seat to slide forward and back, it allows more cargo room in the rear, or more legroom for the third-row passengers. I moved the seat as far forward as I could and still had plenty of leg and knee room.

Regardless of whether the second-row seat is all the way forward or back, it’s just about impossible for anyone with legs to occupy the third row. Accessing the third row is very awkward – first of all, because of the high ground clearance, there is a sort of “step” beside the second-row seats – to aid passengers climbing in, but having to swing past the second-row seat (either getting in or out), requires you to be a bit of a contortionist. The second-row seat-back folds forward very easily, but it doesn’t move out of the way – so you have to clamber over the seatback to get into the third row! I would NOT recommend the third-row option in the Q7 unless it’s for a couple of dogs. Even small children will have a very difficult time sitting there – the foot space is OK, but there’s no room for the legs that are attached to them. Headroom is quite good though – if you’re short. As I’ve mentioned in previous Road Tests– get a minivan if you need seating for more than five.

The seats in the second and third-row can be folded flat, providing a maximum of 71.9 cu/ft of cargo space. I measured 82” x 46” x 39” with all the seats folded for maximum cargo capacity. With the second-row seats up, the storage capacity shrinks to a very respectable 27.4 cu/ft. (46” x 46” x 29”), but with the third-row seats up – that drops to 11.7 cu/ft. (15” x 46” x 25”). The very large and wide-opening tailgate can be operated electrically (I never did find the open button, but the close button is clearly marked and works well). The various seating combinations offer up to 28 different loading configurations if you’re so inclined. Folding the seats is as simple as it gets – grab the lever and pull the seat forward – that’s it. If the headrests are being used, they tumble out of the way automatically as you pull the seat forward, so there’s no fumbling with them – an excellent feature!

Because the rear valance is so large, be prepared to spend a lot of time going to the dry cleaners during the winter months. The cargo floor level is quite high – almost at hip level. Fortunately if you order a Q7 with the air suspension, you get a button in the cargo compartment that allows you to lower the load height to a more manageable level. It doesn’t however eliminate the road grime that accumulates at the rear of the vehicle that will inevitably find its way onto coats and trousers.

Because it was winter when we tested the Q7, we didn’t have an opportunity to take advantage of the excellent open sky system (which is also available on other Audi vehicles). A quick test of the sound levels while open however, indicated that it was every bit as good as the A3 that was tested earlier this year, offering the huge benefits of a sunroof as well as the fresh air option when open. Sound levels were very good when fully open and traveling at 60+ mph. The large panorama glass sunroof extends in three segments, reaching virtually from the front roof edge to the third-row seat. The front section when opened rises and slides over the rear section, while the rear portion is designed as a tilting roof. The test vehicle had the optional rear sunshades that are power operated (the second-row occupants can operate the rear sunroof manually or electronically). Also included was the four-zone climate control that gives the rear passengers full control for maximum heating and cooling comfort, including seat warmers – all without the dreaded MMI system!

The Q7 comes with a premium 14-speaker Bose sound system that includes an AM/FM satellite ready radio with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer. The sound quality is terrific as you’d expect from both Audi and Bose – probably one of the best audio system I’ve experienced in any vehicle to date. Unfortunately, to change the radio stations you have to use the command dial/MMI system and risk driving into a ditch.

The test vehicle came with the Adaptive Air Suspension $2,600 ($3,200 Cdn); Towing Package $550 ($750 Cdn) that increases towing capacity to 6,600 lbs; Panorama Sunroof $1,850 ($2,300 Cdn); 4-Zone Climate Control $950 ($1,200 Cdn); 20” Alloy Wheels $1,600 ($1,700 Cdn), MMI Navigation System $1,800 ($2,200 Cdn) and the Technology Package $2,400 ($3,250 Cdn) that includes an advanced parking system – including rear view camera, Audi Side Assist and Advanced Key. It doesn’t take much to add $14,600 to the base $49,900 ($68,900 Cdn) price.

For more information visit: www.AudiUSA.com or www.AudiCanada.ca

Warranty
Bumper to bumper for 4 years/50,000 miles [80,000 kms], plus scheduled maintenance for 12 months/5,000 miles. Roadside assistance is 4-years/unlimited miles/kms. The Q7 is pre-wired for towing and has a maximum towing capacity of up to 5,000 lbs. from the factory and 7,700 lbs. with the optional towing package.

The Conclusion
If I had the money to blow on a vehicle in this price-range, how could you not want the Q7? It’s a fantastic machine that’s fun to drive – if you can overlook its idiosyncrasies. The audio/heating controls aren’t an issue if you have a personal assistant or kids – they could just make the adjustments for you. Living in a cold climate is definitely an issue if your trips are shorter than ½ an hour. Skip the seven-passenger option and stick with the four or five-passenger model. One last thing of note is the rear of the Q7 – it attracted a lot of mud and slush during its stay, and whenever I leaned in to retrieve anything from the cargo area my jacket/coat was covered in mud. The large rear bumper area is something you have to watch out for if you’re wearing nice clothes in the winter.

Pricing for the 2007 Audi Q7 4.2:
As tested: $65,240 ($83,500 Cdn)
Base price for the 4.2-litre Q7: $49,900 ($68,900 Cdn)

Fuel Consumption:  [Premium Fuel – 91 Octane]
The 4.2 litre V-8 is listed at 14 mpg City [17.2 L/100 km] and 19 mpg Highway [11.5 L/100 km] and 16.3 mpg [14.4 L/100 km] Combined. I averaged 13.6 mpg [17.3 L/100km] in mostly highway driving

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+ PLUSES:
Superb Audi quality
Incredible engine/transmission/suspension combination
Extremely comfortable seats

– MINUSES:
Glug Glug Glug – Tanks Empty!!
Navigation and Rear View Camera/Advanced Key are optional – at this price?
MMI is more complicated than it needs to be

Would I Spend My Money On It?
YES, if I owned an oil refinery and lived in Arizona

Back Seat Driver Test: 9 out of 10
It’s fairly easy to get in and out as long as the rear seat is pushed all the way back. Once inside it’s very comfortable with almost limousine-like leg and foot room in the second row.

Immediate Competition:
BMW X5, Chrysler Aspen, Infiniti FX45, Lexus GX 470, Range Rover Sport, Volvo XC90 V-8

By The Numbers…
Powertrain:       4.2-litre, V-8 engine; 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic; Quattro AWD
Horsepower:      350 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque:              325 @ 3,500 rpm
0 – 60 mph:        7.4 seconds

Interior
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (Climate Control/Moonroof/SatNav, etc)

Ergonomics
9 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

Exterior
10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

Performance
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
6 – Bang for the $$
6 – Fuel Economy

139 Total / 150


Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

Also published on: PaddockTalk

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