2010 Audi Q7 TDI
Base price: $50,900 – $60,900
MPG: 17 city/25 highway
- The best of diesel-powered SUVs
- Terrific safety features
- Classy Audi styling inside and out
- Tech-heavy, annoyingly complicated controls
- Better SUV choices for less money
- Not as spacious as expected
By Jim Prueter
Audi adds diesel power to luxury SUV
Audi has added a diesel-engine option to its large top-of-the-line flagship seven-passenger crossover SUV. Called TDI, which stands for turbocharging and direct injection, it affords quick acceleration and up to 40 percent better mileage than the gasoline-powered Q7.
The Q7 TDI has a 3.0-liter 225-horsepower engine with 406 pound-feet of torque, teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive that Audi dubs Quattro. Fuel economy is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg highway with a combined 20 mpg overall. We averaged 20.7 mpg in a fairly equal combination of city/highway driving during our weeklong testing of the Q7, and 33 mpg on a 150-mile trip of all highway driving.
The Q7 is built on the same basic platform as the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, both siblings from the Audi’s parent companies, and all are built in the same Bratislava, Slovakia factory.
Audi stretched the platform some six inches to fit in a third-row of seats not available in either the Touareg or Cayenne. Both exterior and interior are identical to the gasoline-powered Q7, other than a large “TDI” appliqué on each of the front door panels.
Up front, the full-size Q7 SUV repeats Audi’s signature trapezoid grille, flanked by sliver-shaped angular headlamps set almost even with the top edge of the grille. Fog lights are set into the lower front fascia.
Viewed from the side, wheel openings are round and blistered, the roofline wedge-shaped with two full-length rails for securing cargo up top.
The rear view is less attractive, with high-mounted LED taillamps and smaller, thin lamps with back-up lights fitted in the bumper. The one-piece tailgate has an available power open-close option.
Overall we liked the look of the Q7, but not everyone was moved by the style.
Inside, the Q7 has standard seating for five and up to seven when equipped with a third row. The second row can be had with a split 40/20/40 design or bucket seats with a center console. Both configurations feature adjustable seats that allow the seat to slide forward and back four inches and recline 10 degrees.
The third row seats only two and Audi recommends that they are 5 feet 4 inches tall or shorter.
Front seats in our test vehicle were comfortable, but the wide center stack minimized legroom. Dual eight-way power front seats have four-way power lumbar adjustments. Both front and second-row seats are heated with a record six-level adjustment, but we thought only the bottom seat cushions were heated and couldn’t feel anything on our back.
Missing was a heated steering wheel, adjustable pedals and a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel common on most luxury SUVs.
If you’re considering buying a Q7 we recommend skipping the optional panorama sunroof ($1850). At over 5.5 feet long, it’s the largest we’ve seen and uses a mesh screen that doesn’t provide enough protection from the sun and will allow too much heat to pass through during hot summer months.
We also didn’t like what Audi calls the Multi-Media Interface (MMI), a system similar to the maddening iDrive we dislike so much on the BMW 5, 6 and 7 Series vehicles.
Consisting of a joystick-knob (mouse) and buttons on the center console, MMI controls almost all vehicle functions and displays them on a dashboard screen. It requires a lot of fiddling around to get what you’re after and requires taking your eyes off the road for too long a period of time. Routine tasks are frustratingly complex. Thankfully, the climate control and audio system can be adjusted independent of the joystick. Why not a touch-screen interface?
Arguably, Audi builds the best-looking dash panel in the business, including real wood inlays for the center console and doors, nickel-finish metal trim and soft touch materials everywhere.
Prices start at $50,900 for the TDI Premium edition with heated leather seats, three-row seating and 19-inch wheels. The TDI Premium Plus edition adds another $6000 to the price and includes 12-way power seat adjustment, rearview camera, front and rear acoustic warning sensors, BoseÒ surround sound, navigation system and other niceties. Finally, the TDI Prestige with a starting price of $60,900 adds 20-inch bi-color double-spoke wheels with all-season tires.
The least expensive gasoline-powered Q7 has a starting price of $46,900, so you’ll pay a $4000 premium for the TDI.
Most will like the way the Q7 drives and handles. Shorter drivers won’t like the visibility; even I had a problem with rearward visibility with both rear rows of seats in the upright position and headrests in place. The back-up camera was well appreciated.
The Q7 drives more like an Audi sedan, with predictable handling and a firm but not rough or harsh ride. Handling is fairly nimble with no tippy feel on curves and corners, but isn’t up to competition when pushed to limits. The large BremboÒ brakes are excellent, but we noticed plenty of tire and road noise in the cabin at highway speeds.
Rear seats fold flat to increase cargo space. This isn’t an overly spacious hauler, but does have 88 cubic feet with all seats folded.
Standard safety gear includes front, side and side-curtain airbags, stability control with hill-descent control and rollover detection. Seat-mounted side airbags for the second row are optional. Also optional is Audi’s Side Assist, a feature that alerts the driver when other motorists have entered the vehicle’s blind spots by flashing an amber light on the outside rearview mirrors.
The Q7 earned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s highest possible 5 stars for both front and side crash protection. It received a rollover rating of 4 stars.
Overall the Q7 looks great, drives easily and keeps Audi loyalists from switching brands when considering an SUV. The tech-heavy MMI operation zaps a lot of fun from the driving experience. If you’re not completely taken with the Audi brand, there are plenty of SUV choices that offer more room for both people and cargo and deliver better fuel economy for the money.