LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The big curve on the big hill of Cantrell Road -- four lanes of blacktop snaking down a granite-crusted cliff to the Arkansas River in Little Rock -- challenges every vehicle that descends this tricky trace. To navigate the route successfully at speed with tires rooted to the pavement without slipping out of the traffic lane requires a performance-geared vehicle equipped with a responsive suspension system.
Our recent precisely controlled and non-skid trip down the big Cantrell Hill occurred in the German-built Audi 2017 Q7 3.0T. This car is a new second-generation treatment for Audi's large-scale crossover utility vehicle crafted with a unibody structure like a car, a muscular supercharged engine stuffed below the streamlined prow and a wagonload of high-tech electronic vehicle controls and safety equipment aboard.
The 2017 Q7 3.0T is a handsome rendition in 5-door wagon format featuring a sensuously styled exterior package and a voluminous leather-lined and amenity-laced cabin containing three tiers of seats for seven passengers with the two rear rows folding flat into the floor to expand the rear cargo capacity.
Stretching excessively long, the restyled Q7 for 2017 appears taut and athletic in sculptural shape, yet also sleek in a fluidity of lines which culminate in an arching canopy over the cabin with aluminum roof rails and low-slung side windows plus side pillars muted to create the impression of a sleek coupe.
Still, you can't miss the bold design of that prow with a single-frame grille sandwiched between keen-edged and narrow lamp clusters featuring xenon headlights, and signature white-light LED tube rings in arrow design for the daytime running lights.
The rear view of each 2017 Q7 vehicle features LED taillights and twin trapezoidal tailpipes integrated into the lower bumper.
Although the 2.0 version of Q7 is substantial in size -- a wheelbase of 117.9 inches and an overall length of 199.6 inches -- it has a lighter-weight body structure and a lowered center of mass than the original Q7 of 2007.
Power for the 2017 Q7 3.0T stems from Audi's dual-cam aluminum V6 displacing 3.0 liters and rigged with a supercharger and dual intercoolers plus FSI (straight fuel injection) technology. Output climbs to 333 hp at 5500-6500 rpm with torque of 325 lb-ft at 2900-5300 rpm.
Q7's transmission is a fuel-saving 8-speed automatic outfitted with Tiptronic manual shift mode. The EPA-estimated fuel economy figures for this powertrain tally to 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Also aboard is Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system that's always engaged for traction at every wheel. Using a self-locking center differential with rear-biased torque split, the Quattro device automatically shifts the majority of all engine torque to whichever wheels, front or rear, attain the best bite of traction.
Brakes, with a big disc at every wheel, rely on electronic and computerized links to tame the 255/55R19 all-season tires. Anti-lock brake (ABS) controls are standard, along with electronic brake distribution (EBD), plus Audi's electronic stabilization program (ESP) that checks lateral slippage and skidding.
Driver-assist technologies standard to the Q7 3.0T includes a full stop-and-go adaptive cruise control system, Audi pre-sense city (pedestrian and vehicle collision warning and braking initiation). Hang on; there is more; keyless engine start/stop, parking system plus with rearview camera, and Audi drive select with six modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Allroad, Offroad, Individual).
And Audi offers a host of infotainment and technology equipment optionally, such as the Audi Virtual Cockpit (12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster with two modes), MMI navigation plus with voice control system. MMI all-in-touch with handwriting-recognition technology), and a Bose 3D Sound System with 19 speakers and 558 watts.
Q7's passenger compartment is a luxurious space with a pair of buckets in front and a second row with a bench for three (divided 35/30/35 seatback with fore/aft position and seatback angle adjustments) or individual buckets, and the third-row bench split 50/50.
There's a new 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel in place, a wing-design wrap-around dashboard with panoramic air vent strip and standard 3-zone climate controls, a high-mount retractable center MMI display and a panoramic sunroof with tilting/sliding features and power sunshade, plus a standard power tailgate.
The MSRP for Audi's 2017 Q7 3.0T begins at $54,800.