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Friday, April 26, 2013

Audi Q7

Audi's Q7 large luxury crossover seats up to seven passengers. Launched to the market for the 2007 model year, the Q7 remains largely unchanged since.

With the Q7, Audi gained a bigger companion to its Avant wagon models, one with more all-weather capability. The Q7 shares those traits with the vehicles that share its platform--the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg--even though those vehicles come only in five-passenger configurations.

Competition for the Q7 includes those SUVs as well as the Mercedes-Benz ML Class and GL Class, and the BMW X5--Infiniti's seven-passenger QX60 (née JX), Acura's MDX, and Lincoln's MKT might even be considered alternatives.

The Q7 may share some of its running gear with other Audis, but its high ground clearance and quattro all-wheel drive pairs it most closely with the Audi Allroad, a new model for 2013. It's essentially unchanged this year, with a choice of supercharged gasoline-powered or turbocharged diesel V-6 engines, either teamed with an automatic transmission.Shown first as a concept vehicle, the Q7 was Audi's first SUV when it joined the U.S. lineup in the 2007 model year--although Audi had offered a higher-riding "allroad" version of the A6 Avant wagon in prior years. The Q7 was designed to appeal to sport-ute shoppers expressly.

Initially, the Q7 came with only a single powertrain: a 4.2-liter V-8 with 350 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. Still, it proved a major upgrade over the usual SUV handling--and most of all, the usual SUV styling, with its sleek side view. In the 2008 model year, Audi addresses the fuel-economy shortcomings of the V-8 somewhat with a new 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 option--and then again in 2009 when it introduced a turbodiesel V-6 version of the Q7 capable of 17/25 mpg. A 333-hp version of the gas-powered V-6 has since been added, while the V-8 has been deleted. All three V-6 versions continue for the current model year, with the sweet-shifting automatic transmission delivering power to all four wheels and with an adjustable air suspension tuning the ride quality to near-ideal, in most models. Audi says the Q7 can also tow up to 6,600 pounds in the most rugged diesel versions. For 2013, the Q7 carries forward its 2012 model-year specifications.

The Audi Q7 has been among the safest SUVs on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Q7 its highest ratings for front and side impact protection, and has also awarded the Q7 four stars for rollover resistance, but it changed its criteria in 2011 and has not re-rated the SUV since. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the Q7 as "good" in front, side and rear impacts, but no longer calls it a "Top Safety Pick"--due to the addition of roof-crush standards to its Top designation. (The Q7, like many vehicles in the 2013 model year, simply hasn't had its roof-crush durability tested.)

Though the 2013 Audi Q7 remains unchanged from the previous model year, enhancements to the V-6 TDI diesel engine have improved fuel mileage by 10 percent.

Audi has tested the waters with more powertrains for the Q7, but to date none of the experimental versions--a planned Q7 Hybrid displayed at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, and bigger V-8 and V-12 diesel versions--have been confirmed for sale in the U.S.

The Q7 is due to be replaced soon, perhaps as soon as the 2014 model year, as its siblings, the Touareg and Cayenne, were new in the 2011 model year.

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