Audi bills its Q7 as “The SUV from the creator of Quattro,” referring to their patented (and legendary) all-wheel-drive system. The more we thought about this slogan, the more it makes sense. This car is less about being an SUV than it is about being an Audi. And that will be its main selling point.
Let’s backtrack a little. When the Q7 was dropped off at the Roadfly office in Northern Virginia, we were a bit discouraged after our initial once-over. We found an SUV that was comparatively Spartan, with no navigation system, no sunroof, and few power options (OK on the rear seats, less OK on the liftgate).
Well, after a little head-scratching and some seat time, we figured it out. This is an Audi first, and an SUV second. And from that standpoint, it explains why Audi would have sent us what amounted to a Q7 starter kit.
Our Q7’s bulbous hood housed a newcomer, the entry-level 3.6-liter V6 that bowed some months into the car’s production run. While the Q7’s weight – nearly 5,000 pounds for our V6 model – restricts the car from putting up stunning numbers, it is very engaging. The Volkswagen-Audi Group makes some of the sweetest-sounding six-cylinder powerplants on the market, and the Q7’s unit – producing 280 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 266 pound-feet at 2750 rpm – is no exception. It revs quickly and strongly, with that elusive responsiveness that makes you keep your foot in it just that much longer. As the tachometer sweeps past 3000 rpm, the engine emits a hair-raising howl, accompanied by a thrilling mechanical induction whistle. It’s addicting, and thoroughly German.
There’s also a manual-shift function for the Q7’s six-speed automatic, and while it offers less manual control than VW/Audi’s groundbreaking DSG transmission, it should be enough to satisfy the majority of Q7 buyers.
The Q7 steers like a German car, which is to say more heavily and deliberately than Japanese competitors. You will need to involve yourself a bit more with the Q7 than with something like a Mazda CX-9, but let’s be clear that that’s not a knock on the Audi; just par for the course when comparing German and Japanese offerings.
Roadfly Videos are also available on YouTube: 2007 Audi Q7
The difference between West and East is apparent in the Q7’s cabin as well. The carpeting deserves its own article on its own; our video editor remarked, “it feels like heavy-duty house carpeting.” We think that says it all. The controls and switches for every conceivable function operate with that uniquely German clickety-clack, and the interior design is vintage Audi. Driving it at night is a visual delight, with Audi’s trademark deep amber backlighting, as well as LEDs to illuminate the front and middle rows’ footwells.
Our test car had the comfort package, which included sumptuous leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, privacy glass, and aluminum trim inside. At two grand, don’t skimp on this package. We also got a third row of seats ($690), which is swallowed up capably by the 200-inch-long Q7. You might have to get a tad creative with moving the first two rows around to distribute legroom equally, but opting for the third row is a no-brainer. It requires some grunt to pull them out of the Q7’s floor, but overall it got good marks for ease of use.
Our Q7 wasn’t perfect – the front-row center armrest is dedicated to a large cup holder ensemble, which makes it more of a cup holder and less of an armrest. Given that the driver and passenger already have one massive cup holder each in the door panel, we think a solid armrest with some storage would be more useful.
Also, the interface takes a little getting used to. Our test car didn’t have navigation, but it did have a large display screen for all major vehicle functions. It’s controlled by a universal wheel, a la BMW’s iDrive, as well as some clickable function keys. The climate control is a little hard to figure out – it works well, but we had a hell of a time figuring out how to turn it off.
These were the only gripes we had with the Q7, and they are admittedly minor. The car has an even greater number of minor magic touches, such as the child locks that can be individually controlled from the driver’s armrest, just like a window-lock feature. Or the button-operated glovebox, or the windshield wipers that pop into “service position” with a touch of the menu wheel. The little niggles are just par for the course when buying a German vehicle.
On that note, so is the price tag. Our Q7 3.6 started at $39,900. A short list of options – the comfort package ($2,000), 18-inch wheels ($875), Sirius Satellite Radio ($750), third-row seating ($690) and the six-disc changer ($350) pushed the as-tested MSRP to $45,340 including a $775 destination charge. Ordinarily, we try to think of ways that a value-conscious buyer might save a few bucks. But now we’re going to do the exact opposite, since this is not a car for a value-conscious buyer. Not that the Q7 is a bad value, but it is a premium SUV and as such commands certain premiums. One of said premiums is a buyer who is willing to spend the extra dough to give the Q7 enough luxury to complement its considerable on- and off-road prowess. So, if you’re going to buy a Q7, be prepared to spend, just like you would on any of its competitors (BMW X5, Volkswagen Touareg, Mercedes-Benz ML). Another five grand will get you the V8 model, and a fully loaded Q7 can top out at around $70,000. So spend freely. You’ll get your money’s worth, and then some.