Do you ridicule racing as a pointless, gas-guzzling sport? Here's proof that track time is not wasted time. Indeed, if you've been to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, you may have seen Audi's eerily quiet diesel machines in the ALMS series. That brings us to the Q7 TDI, where some of that technology meets the large SUV.
Appearance: From the front, the Q7's single-frame grille gives it a commanding and aggressive look. But its profile is elegant as the roof line sweeps back to the wraparound rear hatch. This rear design allows for a wider opening for easier cargo-area access. Otherwise, the lines are fairly simple with minimal creases and bulges.
Performance: It's hard to believe this is a diesel. Compared to the sounds of diesels past (nuts and bolts in a coffee can), the Q7's powerplant hums quietly. Lyra found it a bit louder than a regular engine; Peter couldn't hear a difference. It may be on the quiet side, but the 3-liter V-6 is a torque powerhouse, delivering 406 pound-feet. The torque of the 280-horsepower gas V-6 is 266 pound-feet, so the TDI (turbocharged, direct-injection) offers significant more ooomph. It even goes from 0 to 60 in about 8.5 seconds — not bad for a 225-horsepower vehicle that weighs a hefty 5,512 pounds. Lyra found that passing a car on the Howard Frankland was effortless. The Q7 also is quite nimble and has a tight turn radius. We both liked the handling and steering feel. The Q7 has Servotronic, which is a kind of uber power steering that senses the vehicle's speed and adjusts the steering sensitivity. Despite the Q7's height, we didn't feel any body lean, probably because of the all-wheel drive and electronic stability system. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The best thing? We didn't need to put in any diesel fuel during our week with the Q7.
Interior: The Q7 seats seven, although the third-row seat is a tight fit. The all-leather interior is extremely well-insulated and quiet. One nit: The controls — for the sound system and the AC — can be confusing. You'll need a few minutes to figure out simple tasks. The mulitmedia interface controls — at your fingertips but placed far from the navigation screen — were cumbersome to use. The Bluetooth phone connection is clear. There's a connector for your MP3 player, which is placed in a popup compartment under the armrest. The Q7 also comes with 14 cup holders, lots of storage room and multiple seating configurations. The rear hatch closes automatically, but reaching for the button could be a stretch for some.
Our 3 favorites
Blind-spot sensors: It's next to the mirror, not in it.
Sun visors: Two-piece system for windshield and side windows.
MPG: 17 and 25. Pretty good for such a large vehicle.
Torque: Passing on the highway is a breeze with 406 pound-feet.
Details: Audi paid attention with convenient features throughout. For example: removable cupholder liners and window shades
Climate control: Four climate zones with vents in the rear pillars.
The Bottom Line: Audi is proving that its clean diesel technology can be part of the fuel-saving puzzle. For a large SUV, it may be the perfect powerplant.