What's New for 2009
For 2009, Audi debuts the diesel-powered Q7 TDI, which will be available later in the year. Other Q7 models are unchanged, save for some feature and trim level updates: The base 3.6 gets a standard premium sound system, a trip computer, telescoping sun visors and satellite radio. Also, Audi's MMI control interface is now optional on that model. Standard front parking sensors are dropped from the midlevel Premium trim. Q7s with the 4.2-liter V8 engine receive a cleaner ULEV tailpipe emission rating and see a slight improvement in fuel economy. The Prestige trim on the 4.2 model gets voice recognition and a blind-spot warning system.
Now in its third year, the Audi Q7 offers everything you'd expect from a German-engineered large crossover SUV: high-end accoutrements, sporty handling and the ability to transport kids and cargo with relative ease. This distant relative of the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne is more than a foot longer than the others, and as such, offers more space to accommodate cargo and a third row of seats. With this added size, the Audi is even heavier than its brethren, and this has taken its toll on both acceleration and fuel consumption in the past.
Audi has come up with a partial answer to these dilemmas for 2009 with a new TDI model, which is scheduled to arrive in dealerships shortly after its gasoline-powered counterparts. The 3.0-liter clean-burning diesel engine is 50-state legal. It's rated at a modest 225 horsepower, but as is typical of diesel power plants, makes an enormous amount of torque -- 406 pound-feet. The advantages of the TDI Q7 include not only improved overall fuel economy, but also increased range, which in turn reduces the number of trips to the pump.
Still, the 2009 Audi Q7 has faults. In addition to mediocre acceleration and fuel economy in models with gasoline engines, the Q7 suffers from a rather cramped third-row seat. Saving graces include a well-crafted interior, agile handling and a collection of luxury features that make the Q7 ideal for daily family use and long-distance drives. But we also suggest taking a look at the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which offers more room and more than ample performance. Also, the Cadillac Escalade, while not a unibody crossover, provides class-leading passenger and cargo space. A new hybrid version of that SUV, which boasts 20-mpg-combined fuel economy, is a good competitor to the Q7 TDI.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Audi Q7 is a large luxury crossover SUV that seats five or seven passengers, depending on the trim level. The base 3.6 model seats five and comes standard with 18-inch wheels, power front seats, leather upholstery, a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control and a premium audio system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio.
The seven-passenger 3.6 models come in three additional variants: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. The 3.6 Premium level adds rear parking sensors, a power liftgate, Bluetooth, the Multi Media Interface (MMI) with a display monitor, heated front seats, and Audi's music interface with an iPod connector and an auxiliary jack. The midlevel Premium Plus trim adds front parking sensors, a navigation system with a rearview camera, driver seat memory settings and a Bose surround-sound audio system. The range-topping Prestige trim adds xenon headlights, a blind-spot warning system and voice recognition for the audio and navigation systems.
The same three trim levels are available on 3.0 TDI versions, but all trims with the diesel engine get an S line exterior package that includes distinctive front and rear bumpers, a modified front grille and headlight washers. Models equipped with the 4.2-liter V8 engine come standard with 20-inch wheels and are available only in the Prestige trim.
Stand-alone options include fancier 20- or 21-inch wheels, a towing package, a cold weather package (which includes a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats), a panoramic sunroof, extra interior leather coverage and four-zone climate control. The 4.2 can also be had with second-row captain's chairs, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system, an adaptive air suspension and adaptive cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
Beneath the Q7's hood lies a choice of three engines: a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 280 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, a 4.2-liter V8 that's good for 350 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, or a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 good for 225 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. All models come with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive, and all engines are matched with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. Although the power plants are capable, the Q7's beefy weight of 5,000-plus pounds blunts their performance. Expect a 0-60 time of 8.3 seconds for the V8, an almost equally quick 8.4 seconds for the diesel V6, and about 10 seconds for the V6. Properly equipped, the Q7 can tow 6,600 pounds.
Fuel economy for the 2009 Audi Q7 V6 is rated at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. The V8 has 13/18/15 ratings, and the TDI comes in at an impressive 17/25/20.
The 2009 Audi Q7's standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, a stability control system with hill-descent control and rollover detection, traction control, active front headrests, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat side airbags. Seat-mounted side airbags for the second row are optional. In addition, Audi's blind-spot warning system alerts the driver when another vehicle is along the Q7's side. Optional lane assist alerts the driver if the car drifts out of its lane.
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Q7 performed very well, scoring five out of five stars in front- and side-impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like all Audis, the Q7 ranks high in interior materials and build quality. The dash layout is driver-oriented, and Audi's MMI (on trims so equipped) is relatively easy to use once you've had some practice. The amount of interior space depends on seating configuration; while the second row is relatively roomy, the optional third row is cramped and can only comfortably seat children or small adults -- which is a little disappointing, considering the Q7's size. With the second and third rows folded flat, the 2009 Audi Q7 has just 72.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is unimpressive compared with other crossovers in its class.
The 2009 Audi Q7, with its sharp looks and Quattro AWD system, is better suited for navigating slippery pavement in inclement weather than for tackling a muddy trail. The Q7's size and weight can make it feel a bit unwieldy around town, but the available back-up camera makes parking easier.
In terms of performance, acceleration with the 3.6-liter V6 is noticeably lacking and even the 350-hp V8 struggles to get things moving, but the turbodiesel's ample low-end torque moves the Q7 off the line smartly. Handling is good, especially with the adaptive air suspension on the Q7's 4.2 model. The air suspension's adjustable settings enable the driver to switch between a well-mannered cruiser and a more dynamic people mover that's ready to tackle curving mountain roads.