DETROIT – I used to think that Audi made a mistake when it launched the Audi Q7, its long awaited sport-utility vehicle. The German luxury brand had launched the V8 powered version first, rather than the V6 model.
My reasoning was that the Q7 was an all new nameplate and it would be easier to get American consumers to embrace the cheaper six cylinder that than the V8. But recent events didn't make any difference.
The weak dollar has made just about every vehicle manufactured in Europe more expensive. The 2008 Audi Q7 3.6 Premium has a base price of $48,350. But add on options and a $775 freight charge and the tab amounts to almost $60,000, or, $58,125 to be exact.
Heck, the V8 powered Q7 starts at $59,375.
Anyway, it's not like you're spending the bucks on a piece of junk. The Audi Q7 3.6 was equipped with a 3.6 liter V6 that made 280 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability.
Although most of the torque kicked in at a 2,750 rpm the Q7 weighed a hefty 5,000 lbs. Translation: it was not a speed demon. Audi says the Q7 3.6 can get from a standstill to 60 mph in a rather sluggish 8.2 seconds. However, we found its midrange acceleration, 40 mph to 70 mph, just fine.
We never experienced any sweaty plans getting on the Lodge Freeway here, changing lanes or passing. The Q7 handled well, braking was good and cornering wasn't bad. However, we never pushed the Big SUV all that hard. High centers of gravity tend to dampen my aggressive driving.
My test vehicle was equipped with a third row of seats which made it a seven passenger vehicle. The second row of the Audi's SUV was spacious, there was plenty of headroom and the seats themselves were sturdy.
It was the same with the third row. I was rather surprised at just how well Audi made those seats. However, the Q7's sloping roof line cut of head room in the third row. Although hip and leg room were plentiful, I found head room in the third row cramped. Only children or shorter adults could get back there and not be impeded from sitting up straight.
I had the Q7 with 20-inch wheels rimmed with Dunlop summer performance tires. The deep tread created some road noise but it was bearable. Audi has a fairly easy to operate control system and it fit pretty well in the Q7.
The audio system thumped. It had a satellite radio and there was an out of the way place for my IPod in the glove box. Audi had a MP3 system that was fully integrated. In other words, my iPod became part of the audio system and the vehicle's electric system recharged it while it was playing.
There was also a glass panorama roof that ran the length of the vehicle. A DVD-based navigation system and adaptive Xenon headlamps were also part of the options. The test vehicle was a Lava Grey with Espresso Brown leather. It was really sumptuous.
The EPA rating was 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the hwy. Audi said the range for most drivers was 11 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the hwy. It estimated annual gasoline cost at $2,812 but that was based on $3 per gallon. Regular gasoline cost a lot more than that – more than four bucks a gallon in some areas.
Even the Audi Q7's Five Star all round crash rating may not be enough to spur a stampede to the showrooms. Still, the Audi Q7 3.6 Premium is a first rate sport utility