What's New for 2011
The 2011 Audi Q7 gets extensive changes. The previous V6 and V8 engines have been replaced with supercharged 3.0-liter V6s known as the 3.0T and 3.0T S Line, respectively. An eight-speed automatic is now standard on all Q7s, including the diesel-powered TDI model. The option for second-row captain's chairs has been deleted, while the Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels receive additional feature content.
The 2011 Audi Q7 is in the unenviable position of being big on the outside but small on the inside. This full-size SUV weighs 5,500 pounds and measures 16.7 feet long, making it roughly the same size as a Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Despite this, the Q7 has a cramped third-row seat that struggles to accommodate full-size adults, and a maximum cargo capacity no greater than a humble Toyota RAV4's.
At least the 2011 Q7 is better than last year's model in terms of engine selection. Gone are the underwhelming 3.6-liter V6 and the thirsty 4.2-liter V8; in their place is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 tuned to two different outputs. The 3.0T Premium and Premium Plus make 272 horsepower, while the 3.0T S line Prestige offers 333 hp. The latter generates less horsepower than the old V8, but it matches that engine's 325 pound-feet of torque and betters its fuel economy by 3 mpg. Shoppers seeking optimum fuel efficiency will be glad to know that the Q7 is still available with a V6 turbodiesel.
The 2011 Audi Q7 continues to impress with a cabin that is beautifully appointed and built, and the Q7's electronics have been updated to the latest Audi spec. As mentioned before, however, the third-row seat is really only suitable for kids. That's expected in a smaller vehicle like an Acura MDX, but adults can comfortably fit in the rearmost quarters of Q7 rivals like the similarly sized and priced Land Rover LR4 and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. You also can't get a factory-installed DVD entertainment system in the Q7.
Considering these issues, the 2011 Audi Q7 would not be our first choice for a full-size luxury SUV. If you don't need seven-passenger capacity, consider even the Audi Q5 as well as either the BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. But if you're just looking for a luxurious, long-distance cruiser for a family of four (and maybe one more), the 2011 Audi Q7 could be worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Audi Q7 is a full-size seven-passenger SUV. It is available in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trims, with slight differences based on whether you opt for the TDI or 3.0T engines.
The Premium comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, roof rails, a power liftgate (includes programmable opening angle), automatic wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats (includes adjustable lumbar) and leather upholstery. Other standard features include a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a reclining 40/20/40-split second-row seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) and an 11-speaker audio system with console-mounted six-CD changer, in-dash single-CD player, satellite radio and an iPod interface. The TDI Premium gets 19-inch wheels and additional exterior chrome trim.
The Q7 Premium Plus gains xenon headlights, LED running lights, a panoramic sunroof (optional on Premium), a rearview camera, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, driver memory functions, a navigation system (optional on Premium) and a Bose surround-sound system with HD radio and DVD audio capability. The Warm Weather package adds a deep-tint panoramic sunroof, four-zone automatic climate control and manual sunshades for the rear doors and tailgate.
The TDI Prestige adds 20-inch wheels (optional on Premium Plus), adaptive headlights, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, ventilated front seats and the Warm Weather package. The 3.0T S line Prestige adds those extra items, plus a more powerful supercharged V6 than the other 3.0T trims, different 20-inch wheels, headlights washers and special S line exterior trim and styling flourishes. The S line items are available on the TDI Prestige in an option package. Other options for both Prestige trims include an adaptive air suspension, 21-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system and an S line package that adds special interior trim.
Optional on all trims are rear side airbags, a Towing package and a Cold Weather package, which adds heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel.
Powertrains and Performance
The Audi Q7 3.0T Premium and Premium Plus are powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that produces 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 3.0T S line gets a more powerful version of that engine, producing 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Both come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. EPA-estimated fuel economy for both versions of the 3.0T is 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
The 2011 Audi Q7 TDI is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel that produces 225 hp and a robust 405 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, this engine brought the Q7 from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. Fuel economy is estimated to be 17/25/20.
The Audi Q7 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and rear parking sensors. A rearview camera is standard on Premium Plus and Prestige trims, while a blind-spot warning system is standard on the Prestige. Second-row side airbags are optional on all trims.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Q7 TDI came to a stop from 60 mph in a longish 132 feet and a previous V8-powered model didn't fare much better. In government crash testing, the Q7 received a perfect five-star rating for front and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Q7 the highest rating of "Good" in both the frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like all Audis, the Q7 ranks high when it comes to its interior. The dash layout is driver-oriented, and Audi's MMI is relatively easy to use once you've had some practice.
It's a mixed bag as far as passenger space goes, though, with a relatively roomy second row but a cramped third row. The latter can only comfortably seat children or small adults, which is disappointing given the Q7's size and the fact that most of its competitors can accommodate average-sized adults. With the second and third rows folded flat, the Q7 has just 72.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is unimpressive compared to its competition.
With its sharp looks and full-time all-wheel drive, the 2011 Audi Q7 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. The Prestige trim's optional air suspension features adjustable settings that enable the driver to switch between a well-mannered cruiser and a more dynamic people mover ready to tackle curving roads. It you're going to the mountains to ski, the Q7 is the right choice.
We haven't had a chance to sample the Q7 with its new supercharged V6s, but we suspect the base V6 will be a bit quicker than the old, sluggish 3.6-liter V6 and the 3.0T S line to be about the same as the old V8. Either way, the TDI turbodiesel should continue to be the engine to get, as its ample torque and superior fuel economy are well-matched to a large SUV like the Q7.