I was incredulous. My eyes must have been deceiving me. The number at the top of the page surely did not belong with the number at the bottom of the page. I rubbed my eyes, took another swig of the awful office coffee, and looked again at the window sticker that arrived in my inbox.
The price was indeed right. Audi would be delivering a $58,725 Q7 to my door the next day.
However, the 2.0T nomenclature at the top of the page was a shock. A three-row luxury SUV from a premier German manufacturer with a four-cylinder engine under the hood? Inconceivable. Can the two-liter turbo really move this big SUV with Teutonic aplomb?
After all, this Q7 has a listed curb weight of 4,696 pounds. Once you add some critical options — such as, perhaps, a driver — this four-cylinder powered behemoth clocks the scales very close to two and a half tons. Choosing the four over the six is like ordering a 1965 Mustang with the 170 cubic inch straight-six: performance sucks and future generations will laugh at you uncontrollably.
The styling of the Q7 is certainly innocuous – heck, it’s quite anonymous. The chrome-rimmed corporate hexagonal grille is the only distinctive feature on the entire exterior. Everything else makes me consider what the first-generation Ford Taurus wagon would look like as a stretched SUV with better panel gaps. I do appreciate the relatively low beltline, as the Q7 has better outward visibility than I’d expect. But otherwise, it’s simply bland.
I’m sure some of that boils down to the wheels and the deep blue paint. The 19-inch wheels on my tester looked entirely too small for the big wheel wells, and the dark paint dulled the character lines that try to break up the Q7’s slabbed sides.
I’ll hand it to Audi: it has somehow made interiors an art form. Allowing for the fact that I don’t spend much time in bespoke luxury cars that cost more than my home, I’ve never seen a better-designed car interior than those found on recent Audi models — and the Q7 is no exception. The material quality is superb, the leather is supple, and the plastics all seem to be both soft and resistant to scratches.
I briefly considered risking my career to appropriate the driver’s seat to fashion a new desk chair for my office. The brown leather on this tester is stunning.
The 12.3-inch display in the driver’s instrument binnacle is brilliant. I love the option to overlay Google Maps satellite imagery on the navigation — both on the center screen and immediately in front of the driver, the person who needs it the most. I loved the option to keep the nav strictly in front of me. It silenced the youthful back-seat drivers who would typically try to correct me when I choose other routes than those provided by GPS.
I don’t love the pop-up navigation/media screen because I’d prefer a touchscreen over the console-mounted touchpad. I’ll concede this touchpad is among the best I’ve used, but I spend enough time driving a keyboard and mouse that I’d rather simply use my finger to directly tell the car what to do. Still, the screen does otherwise allow for a lower dashboard, helping make the interior feel larger. The nifty trick of the faux vents continuing across the passenger side of the dash is another attractive design choice.
Two notes from my frequent front-seat passenger: the polished rim around the interior rear-view mirror is reflective, causing glare to reach her eyes at times. I never noticed it, but I could envision a time when a too-reflective mirror is distracting to a driver.
Secondly, she disliked the tiny strip of LED lights across the dashboard. Again, I wasn’t distracted — heck, I barely noticed the light — but she’s afflicted with vertigo at times, and that faint light across her field of vision affected her perception of the horizon as we bounded over some rough railroad tracks, making her a bit nauseous. It’s not something that will concern many, but something to consider on a test drive.
The squat transmission lever is a little funky. Similar to the disgraced “Monostable” shifter found on FCA products, it’s not completely awful, but it’s not immediately intuitive to select park. For those times I needed additional acceleration – which is quite often in the four-cylinder Q7 – slapping the big E.T.-headed lever to the left to manually select gears feels very odd. Yes, I know there are steering-wheel-adjacent paddles, but sometimes I forget they’re there and muscle memory of a couple of decades of driving has trained me to extend my right hand for additional gears.
Audi quotes 252 horsepower and 272 lb-ft. of torque for this 2.0-liter turbo four. It also quotes 7.1 seconds to 60 mph. I didn’t break out the stopwatch, nor do I have access to a dyno, but I’m not convinced. Once the car is up to freeway speeds, acceleration is adequate for passing, but getting a couple of tons (especially when loaded with a family of Tonns) moving from a stop is another matter. A ratty Corolla beat me off the line when I was trying to sneak ahead where two lanes reduced to one.
For those who think the four-cylinder has to get better fuel economy than the big six, think again. The EPA rates the Q7 2.0T at 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. The 3.0 V6? 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined. I observed 19.8 mpg in mixed driving conditions — often with the pedal matted.
The Q7 does handle quite well. Other than a little cowl shake over those railroad tracks, it’s quiet and solid in most driving situations. The kids were comfortable with decent legroom in the second row. When my eight-year-old tried the third row, however, she complained loudly as she wasn’t able to move her legs at all.
The typical rattle of a direct-injected four-cylinder has no place in an otherwise-premium SUV, either. It’s not noticeable within the closed cabin, though a bit of a roar came through as I explored the top end of the tach. As I idled with a window down or stepped away with the engine running to shoot photographs, the diesel-like clatter was everpresent.
The Q7 2.0T is not a bad vehicle. Indeed, it’s well built, handles beautifully, and rides well. For those who buy an SUV for bragging rights at soccer practice, careful application of dental floss and adhesive remover can easily remove that 2.0T badge from the tailgate, saving you six thousand dollars over the V6-powered car. But considering where it’s price sits in the market, the four-cylinder is woefully underpowered. If I needed a three-row SUV, I’d strongly consider looking across the dealer lot at the VW side, where a roomier, loaded Atlas sits for ten grand less — powered by a V6.
[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn]