Audi Q7 TDI : Loving the long-distance thing

Published on February 22, 2012 in Test Drives by Gabriel Gélinas

After a long-term test drive of the Audi Q7 TDI and the more than 15,000 kilometres logged over summer, fall and winter, The Car Guide has concluded that this car is unquestionably reliable. During this trial period, the Q7 TDI distinguished itself brilliantly with remarkable features that make it the ideal vehicle for extended road trips.
Although it’s an enormous SUV, the Q7 has simple lines that seem to make it look smaller. We can thank Canadian Danny Garant, who works at the Audi’s design office in Ingolstadt, for its elegant shape. As always at Audi, quality of assembly is second to none. A close inspection of the body reveals that the modifications made to several of this vehicle’s components are truly impressive. For example, the space between the hood and the fenders has been reduced to the bare minimum, which helps the German manufacturer boast the most exacting assembly standards of any automaker.

Did somebody say fun?

The Q7’s size means that it’s roomier than both the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz ML, which are, incidentally, both available with a diesel engine. While the Q7 has three rows of seats, we only used the third row on rare occasions and only for short trips. The Q7 is at its best when jammed packed with bags and other cargo in a five-passenger configuration. Life inside the Q7 is serene and the soundproofing is so good that it’s almost impossible to hear the unique vocal signature of a diesel engine in normal driving conditions. Equipment like the satellite GPS, the 270-watt 14-speaker Bose audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, xenon headlights, four-zone heating and air conditioning, heated and ventilated front seats, rear back-up camera, and keyless entry and start all help make life on board the Q7 more pleasant – especially over long distances.

One of the few irritants of driving a diesel vehicle is that the smell can be rather strong. It may be wise to slip on a pair of gloves when you fill up. Speaking of which, note that you’ll fill up a lot less frequently with a Q7 TDI than with a similar-sized, gas-powered SUV.  Its 100-litre tank and fuel efficiency (we recorded an 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres on the highway) meant that we were often able to travel almost 1,000 kilometres before needing to fill up. But that’s for long getaways. There’s actually a huge difference between the Q7 TDI’s fuel consumption on the highway and in town, where its fuel consumption soared to 14 litres per 100 kilometres. That’s still slightly better than a gas-powered SUV, but nowhere near as spectacular as the fuel efficiency demonstrated on the highway.

2,500 kilos of happy

The Q7 TDI’s fuel efficiency doesn’t mean that its performances are lacking. On the contrary, although the 3.0-litre V6 develops only 225 horses at 3,750 rpm, it delivers an impressive amount of torque – 406 lbs.-ft. beginning at 1,750 rpm. That translates to linear, high-performance accelerations with a 0-100 km/hr time of 8.7 seconds, which is more than adequate for a 2,500-kg SUV. On back roads, we never felt that the Q7 TDI lacked power since passing manoeuvres were accomplished easily. Simply press the accelerator to order the turbochargers into action and let the torque do all the work. Brilliant !

The Q7 TDI’s performances and fuel consumption can be explained in part by the fact that its turbo diesel engine is the perfect choice for a large SUV (so much so that you’ll wonder why some buyers opt for the gas engine), and in part by the eight-speed automatic gearbox that helps the engine rev in low gear at cruising speed and downshift quickly when full power is required. This combination of an eight-speed gearbox and the turbo diesel engine turned out to be incredibly efficient.

As for handling, we noted that the steering lacks a little feedback – ditto for the brake pedal – and the accelerator lags a little before the turbochargers kick in. Those are the only things that put a damper on this SUV, which is otherwise remarkably dynamic for its size and weight. Much of its dynamism is owed to the adaptive pneumatic suspension that continually adjusts to the road conditions and even to your driving style. Using the MMI (Multi Media Interface), you can adjust the suspension to the tastes of the driver (or passengers) and when Dynamic mode is selected, handling is surprisingly good for an SUV weighing more than two and a half tonnes. While the Q7 TDI can’t take on turn after turn with the same balance as a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5, its balance is still very good and more than capable of decent performances in normal conditions.

Thus, thanks to its fuel efficiency on the highway, versatility, dynamism and the luxury that its passenger compartment and its top-notch materials and assembly give off, the Audi Q7 TDI gets straight A’s.

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