When it comes to style, the 2012 Audi Q7 (Base MSRP: $46,250 to $59,950) has it in spades, according to reviewers. It also delivers a commendable ride and good high-speed handling, making it a nice highway companion. Among large luxury SUVs, it's one of the few models that isn't based on a truck platform, and it costs less than the competition. Still, it has drawbacks in the large luxury SUV segment. The best competitors, such as the 2011 Infiniti QX56 (Base MSRP: $59,200 to $62,300), can tow more, store significantly more cargo, have more passenger space and have more power. So while the Audi Q7 shines in many respects, there are better large (and even midsize) luxury SUVs.
The Q7 separates itself from other jumbo-luxe SUVs with its variety of available powertrains relative to the competition. The base engine is a 3-liter V6 that makes 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Motor Trend calls this engine "just powerful enough". A more powerful version of the same engine is an option, and puts out 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, and the same Motor Trend reviewer says that this engine option "will keep the absolutely corrupted satisfied" with its smooth power delivery. There is no V8 engine option available like many competitors have, but a 3-liter V6 turbodiesel is available, and it produces 225 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. Edmunds.com calls the diesel "the engine to get, as its ample toque and superior fuel economy are well-matched to a large SUV like the Q7." An eight-speed transmission is standard with all available engines.
The Environmental Protection Agency gives the base 3-liter V6 a 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway/18 mpg combined fuel-economy rating, and the more powerful supercharged 333-horsepower version is equally efficient. The V6 turbodiesel is the stingiest on fuel, producing an estimated 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined. Some reviewers expected the diesel option to offer even greater fuel-economy benefits versus the gasoline options, and they blame the portly weight of the Q7 for the smaller-than-expected differential. All configurations come with Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system, and maximum towing capacity is a modest 6,600 pounds across the board. If heavy towing is critical, other large luxury SUVs are far better suited to the task, with higher maximum capacities.
Handling is secure and relatively agile, but some other luxury SUVs have a more compliant and plush ride quality. ConsumerGuide.com notes that the 21-inch wheels in the S-line package "don't absorb bumps well, making the ride borderline harsh," though the dynamics are generally appealing. Models equipped with smaller wheels and the optional air suspension have more supple rides. This setup delivers a "creamy ride with minimal brake dive and body roll."
The Q7 offers a smaller interior than most large luxury SUVs, but reviewers say interior quality is one of the Audi's best features. The front seats are particularly comfortable, though the third-row seats are more cramped than the larger competition. Simply put, the interior is "very handsome, high-quality, and well-lit" and is "trimmed with a tasteful combination of leather, soft plastics, and chrome" according to reviews from The Boston Globe and the Detroit Free Press. Maximum cargo capacity inside is just 72.5 cubic feet, the least among large luxury SUVs. The best-reviewed Infiniti QX56 offers 95.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity, and the well-liked 2012 Cadillac Escalade (Base MSRP: $63,170 to $82,495) has 108.9 cubic feet of storage.
The lengthy standard equipment list includes all-wheel drive, dark-brown walnut trim, leather seating, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth, among other features. Optional equipment highlights include a Bose surround-sound system, an even higher-end Bang & Olufsen audio system, voice control for the infotainment features, self-leveling air suspension and four-zone climate control. Audi's optional MMI Navigation interface is one of the best in the business, say testers, offering a good interface, high-quality 3D graphics and a 40 GB hard drive for music storage.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't fully tested the 2012 Audi Q7, but it does provide a rollover-resistance rating; the Q7 gets 4 stars out of a possible 5 here. Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length curtain airbags for all rows of seats. A rear-view backup camera is optional, as is a blind-spot warning system.
The Audi Q7 comes with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.
Few luxury SUVs are as stylish as the 2012 Audi Q7, and it's cheaper than much of the competition. That said, it lacks the heavy-duty skills that some of the best large SUVs offer, and it is "very big and very heavy, yet not as spacious as you'd hope," according to Edmunds.com. The diesel-engine option delivers better fuel economy than you typically see with large SUVs in general. Experts prefer the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class ((Base MSRP: $61,570 to $85,300)) and the 2012 Infiniti QX56 as better options though.
Among large SUVs, Edmunds.com says that the 2012 Audi Q7 has a relatively small cargo capacity and third-row passenger space. That's a sacrifice made for the sake of the sleek exterior design though, and the high-speed stability is top-notch.
Review: 2012 Audi Q7 SUV, Editors of Edmunds.com, Oct. 20, 2011
ConsumerReports.org is one of the best, most credible sources for automotive reviews and analysis, and it has road tested the Audi Q7. Editors provide useful survey-based information on reliability and owner satisfaction. Viewing content on the site requires a paid subscription.
Review: Audi Q7, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
ConsumerGuide.com editors review the 2012 Audi Q7 in their traditional short form that explores 11 different categories of performance. They give the Q7 their second-highest commendation of Recommended, saying the SUV coddles its passengers (in the first two rows at least) and offers exclusive luxury and style that are important in its segment.
Review: 2012 Audi Q7: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Not Dated
Among large luxury SUVs, the Audi Q7 is one of the best performers when it comes to estimated fuel economy, especially when optioned with the 3-liter diesel engine. The diesel engine gets 20 mpg combined and the regular gasoline engine gets 18 mpg combined.
Review: 2012 Sport Utility Vehicles, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy
5. Car and Driver
This comparison test from Car and Driver includes the Audi Q7, though the competition is more midsize luxury SUVs than large luxury SUVs. Regardless, the Audi Q7 takes first place among a competitive lot, mostly due to the new supercharged six-cylinder engine and a new eight-speed automatic transmission. It's also the most fun to drive.
Review: Acura MDX vs. Audi Q7 3.0T, BMW X5 xDrive35i, Land Rover LR4 HSE, Lexus GX460, Tony Swan, Jan. 2011
6. The Boston Globe
The reviewer tests the diesel 2011 Audi Q7 TDI. He is impressed by the high-quality interior that Audi is known for but finds it hard to rationalize getting the diesel engine over the normal gasoline engine. The problem is that the fuel-efficiency benefit isn't that remarkable, mostly because of the car's excessive weight.
Review: 2011 Audi Q7 TDI: Seven-Seat Overachiever, Clifford Atiyeh, Jan. 12, 2011
7. Motor Trend
Reviewer Edward Loh spends a good portion of his review talking about the new engine for the Audi Q7, the supercharged V6, and offers a useful explanation of the technology and benefits over the previous engines. He does express some skepticism over the touted fuel-economy estimates and whether they would really be achieved under real-world conditions.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Audi Q7 3.0T, Edward Loh, May 21, 2010
8. Automobile Magazine
This Automobile Magazine reviewer samples the 2011 Audi Q7, which is virtually identical to the 2012 model. The short review goes over the updates that took place in 2011 and finds that the good driving dynamics and interior appointments are thankfully left intact.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Audi Q7, Phil Floraday, June 2, 2010
Like other reviews of the 2011 model, this one focuses on the new but smaller engine options and the new eight-speed transmission. The cohesion of the new engine and transmission "shine through," and reviewer Damon Lavrinc finds that even the base six-cylinder with less power is more than adequate for regular duty.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Audi Q7 Downsizes With an Upside, Damon Lavrinc, May 27, 2010
10. Car and Driver
This is another first-drive type of review, though it doesn't offer much in the way of describing the driving experience. The reviewer does discuss the new engine options and drivetrain and compares them to the previously available options.
Review: 2011 Audi Q7 3.0T Supercharged, Aaron Robinson, May 2010
11. Detroit Free Press
Reviewer Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press offers an insightful review of the 2011 Audi Q7 TDI, the diesel-engine model. He makes a few interesting points, like that the new eight-speed transmission strangely doesn't improve efficiency with the diesel engine over the previous transmission, and he astutely observes that the Q7 is one of the oldest designs in Audi's lineup. He finds it too heavy and too soft-riding to be truly competitive in the current market.
Review: Audi Q7 Needs Less Weight, Better Handling, Mark Phelan, June 16, 2011