Diesel Deliverance: 2011 Audi Q7
By Eric Peters
So, what’s the real-world mileage of Audi’s Q7 TDI diesel? I wish I could give you an exact number, but while I was trying to get the Q’s fussy trip computer to spit it out, I inadvertently cleared the memory.
But, I can tell you this: The Q7 was dropped off on a Thursday and by the following Tuesday I had driven “down the mountain” (and back), a round trip of more than 60 miles, three times — plus some local running around — and the fuel gauge was still showing just under three-quarters full. That is damn impressive. The Infiniti FX50 I had last week packed a 5 liter gas V-8. It was half empty three days after they dropped it off. Put another way, the muscular iInfiniti sucked its tank dry in 476 miles of highway driving. In the Q7, the TDI diesel burbling along oh-so-quietly — you’ve got 660 miles before it’s fill-up time again. Many people will be able to go two weeks or more before tanking up.
What It Is
The Q7 is a full-size (and high-end) luxury-sport crossover SUV with standard third-row seating and Quattro all-wheel-drive. It’s available with your choice of two gas V-6 engines (both supercharged) or a turbocharged, direct-injected diesel (TDI) V-6. Prices start at $46,250 for the standard model with 3.0 liter gas V-6; the higher-performance S-Line model starts at $59,450 and the higher-efficiency TDI diesel starts at $51,450. Competitors include the $60,950 (to start) Mercedes-Benz GL series, which is also available with a diesel engine.
What’s New for 2011
The formerly optional 4.2 liter, 350 hp gas V-8 has been dropped from the lineup. In its place is a more fuel-efficient (and almost as powerful) 333 hp supercharged 3 liter gas V-6. Base models get a toned-down version (272 hp) of the supercharged 3 liter V-6. The optional 3 liter TDI diesel — and both gas engines — now come standard with a new eight-speed automatic transmission that boosts economy and performance.
TDI diesel smooth as soft-serve gelato; as quiet as the gas burners; effortlessly powerful — and turns this massive (almost 5,600 lbs. empty) ship of the line into a more economical ride than its gas-powered equivalents. More powerful, better mileage — and much less expensive (by almost $10k!) than the Benz GL350 Bluetec diesel.
What’s Not So Good
Concrete-crushing curb weight reduces potentially much higher mileage potential of TDI engine. Fussy controls for media/info/entertainment systems. Not much cargo space; for-looks-only third row seating.
Under the Hood
The Q7’s two new gas V-6 engines both displace 3 liters, feature direct injection and supercharging. One makes 272 hp (vs. last year’s 280 hp 3.6 liter engine) the other 333 hp (vs. last year’s 350 hp V-8). Both get better gas mileage — 16 city, 22 highway — vs. last year’s 14 city, 19 highway V-6 and last year’s 13 city, 18 highway V-8. The highest mileage engine you can get in the Q7, though, is the TDI diesel. Its 25 MPG highway rating is almost decent — is decent — for a vehicle this big and this heavy.
All Q7s get a smart-shifting eight-speed automatic that features tighter gear spacing through the lower ranges for less RPM drop between shifts, plus a very deep overdrive top gear that allows 80 MPH cruising at just over 2,000 RPM. Max tow rating for the Q7 is 6,600 lbs. (The Benz wins on this score with a very stout 7,500 lb. max rating.)
On the Road
I give Audi a lot of credit for masking the incredible bulk of the Q7 everywhere except at the pump. The tested-out TDI version jumps forward if you gun it at low speeds and (thanks to incredibly low rolling resistance done Elvis-knows-how and that new eight-speed transmission) you can approach triple-digit speeds without using even 50 percent of the available RPM range. Keep it within legal speeds of 65-70 or so and the TDI is barely even running — around 1,800 RPM at those speeds, in top gear. The other thing that’s impressive is how well something this big, this heavy —and riding on super tall 20-21 inch wheels — can hustle through a corner if you want to do that.
My only beef with the Q was its not-easy-to-use control interfaces (MMI) for the audio, GPS and info systems. There are too many buttons, too many steps involved. For example, to adjust the fan or set the temperature you have to do two things instead of just one. Push to engage the function you want, then rotate a knob. For other functions there are menus to scroll and mice to manipulate.
On the upside, the Benz GL’s COMMAND system is every bit as aggravating. This business of making what ought to be routine functions excessively complex is becoming a signature feature of vehicles in the $50k and up range.
At the Curb
Behemoth is a dinosaur… a dinosaur is he! Yes, indeed — he is. And so is the Q7. A behemoth, that is. At 200.3 inches stem to stern, it is just two inches shy of the dimensions of the Cadillac Escalade — and it’s heavier (by more than 100 pounds) than the body-on-frame constructed, truck-based Caddy. But, the Audi’s wagon-like shape helps mask the poundage and the overall size of the package… at least, until you have to parallel park it or squeeze it into the garage. Detail touches on the outside include LED (12 of them on each corner) parking/turn signals flanking a huge maw of a grille with oversized Audi signet rings in shiny chrome to let ‘em know what you’re driving. The interior is beautifully finished and while so is the Benz GL’s cabin, the Audi has a livelier — more sporting — look to it. My TDI tester was finished in mocha leather accented with pewter/aluminum trim.
The Bottom Line
Even though it’s a few pounds heavy, it’s still a better deal (and a better performer) than the Benz GL350… so long as you don’t need to carry seven people.
Eric Peters is the author of “Automotive Atrocities” and “Road Hogs” (spring 2011) and a former editorial writer/columnist for The Washington Times, a contributor to Cars.Com, The CarConnection.com and AOL Autos, among others.
2011 Audi Q7 TDI specifications:
Base price: $6,250; $51,450 (TDI)
Engine: 3.0 liter TDI (turbocharged, direct-injection) diesel V-6; 225 hp and 406 lbs-ft. of torque
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Length: 200.3 inches
Width: 78.1 inches
Wheelbase: 118.2 inches
Curb weight: 5,567 lbs. (coupe)
Luggage capacity: 72.5 cubic feet (seats folded)
EPA fuel economy: 17 city/25 highway
Where assembled: Ingolstadt, Austria/lBratislava, Slovak Republic