2011 Audi Q7 TDI review: Rudolph Diesel wants you

2011 Audi Q7 TDI

2011 Audi Q7 TDI

The 2011 Audi Q7 quattro has two new engines this year. This review isn’t about either of them. This is a review of the2011 Audi Q7 TDI. That’s the Q7 equipped with the 3.0-liter turbodiesel that we liked so much in the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, and with the same eight-speed transmission.  But it’s not one of the two all-new supercharged V-6 engines.

The new engines are intriguing, however. Both are 3.0-liter engines. The more powerful of the two produces 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque and replaces last year’s 4.2-liter V-8 that was rated at 325 horsepower. Not only does blown six make more power than the naturally-aspirated eight, Audi notes that it’s some 16 percent more fuel efficient. It can launch the Q7, all 5,600 pounds of it, to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

2011 Audi Q7 TDI interior

The 2011 Audi Q7 TDI lives up to Audi’s reputation for luxury interiors. (click to enlarge)

The base engine for the 2011 Audi Q7 is another version of the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, this one rated at 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 29 lb-ft over last year’s entry level powerplant but more importantly, it’s rated at an additional two miles per gallon city and three miles per gallon highway. It’s a comparatively big increase, considering it brings the Q7 up to 16/22 mpg city/highway. Do the math for where it was.

The 2011 Audi Q7 we are reviewing is the Q7 TDI. The 3.0 TDI is the same turbodiesel V-6 as used in the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, rated at 225 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, and like the Touareg has the same eight-speed automatic transmission. And like the Touareg, has standard all-wheel drive, although for the Q7 it Audi’s proprietary quattro system.

The Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg are not, however, badge-engineered corporate kin. They are built on basically the same platform and they are built in the same plant in Bratislava, Slovakia,and they did start out fairly close together, but now share only 10 to 15 percent of their parts. The Audi is longer, with five more inches between the front and rear axles, and seats up to seven. The Touareg has only two rows of seats.

2011 Audi Q7 TDI instrument panel

The 2011 Audi Q7 TDI instrument panel has an unusual gauge display. (click to enlarge)

The suspension is different as well, the Volkswagen having double wishbone at the rear while the Audi has a multi-link arrangement. We’re not going to take sides on which is better–let the engineers duke it out–but Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 aren’t just duplicates with a different grille.

Speaking of which, how ’bout that grille. How does one say “imposing” in German? Because when designers got their marching orders, that word must have been in there somewhere. Although the Audi A8 probably wins in a percentage-of-the-front-end grille contest, the grille on the Q7 is a sousaphone in a world of trumpets. Then add slots  on the lower fascia beneath the “xenon plus” headlights with their semicircles of LEDs (part of the Premium Plus trim level that’s part of the Prestige package on our test Q7). The Audi Q7 has presence.

2011 Audi Q7 TDI navigation system display

The 2011 Audi Q7 TDI navigation system is easy to set and to see. (click to enlarge)

The interior is all Audi. And that’s good, coming from a marque that sets the standard for interior design and quality. The instrument panel is unusual, with pears-laid-on-their-sides -shaped rings– –around the major gauges with an LCD message center in between.  The LCD touchscreen is on the same level as the speedo and tach and has crisp clear markings.

Want proof the Audi Q7 is wide? Look at the center console. There’s room on either side of the already wide shift lever mount for control buttons, and between them is Audi’s MMI controller. Beginning with BMW’s notorious first efforts with iDrive, all-in-one controllers have often been too complex in their attempts at simplicity. Either Audi is getting better or we’re getting smarter…and we know where we’d put our money and it ain’t on our heads.

2011 Audi Q7 TDI cargo area

The 2011 Audi Q7 TDI cargo area can be expanded with a completely flat floor. (click to enlarge)

The navigation system is particularly easy to use and has a lot of data packed on to the map display without being cluttered. It’s picky perhaps, but we appreciate having the estimated time of arrival rather than drive time remaining.

The Audi Q7 has three rows of seating with seven seatbelts, but the front seats are definitely first cabin. The second row seats are comfortable but a bit short on leg room, as measured by sitting a 5′ 10″ auto writer behind himself. The distance between the seats is made worse the lack of toe room under the front seats.

The third row is definitely one for the kiddies. Getting a standard size adult into the third row is difficult, and folding the middle row seatback to its nominal position is cruel if not unusual punishment to any adult in the third row.

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