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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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2007 Audi Q7

 

I recently attended the National Press Launch of Audi's brand new, 2007 Q7. It is their first SUV. With it, Audi has significantly raised the standard against which other SUVs will be judged.

  

Like at other major press introductions for new vehicles, Audi wined and dined us and put us up in luxurious overnight accommodations – no doubt in an attempt to put us in the right mood to say good things about their new Q7. Our experience began at the beautiful Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad, California. If you want a relaxing, luxurious getaway, this is a great place to stay.

While I truly appreciated Audi’s very generous hospitality, they really did not have to go all out. After spending several hours in the Q7 on a variety of roads from paved to barely passable, I can confidently report to you that I would have strongly recommended it anyway. It is that good.

At a time when there are so many SUVs out there competing with each other for your money, this Audi really stands out as being something very special. It excels in all areas, with a combination of capacity for up to seven passengers, comfort, attractive styling, high performance and safety. Of particular note, the Q7 is especially quick and nimble – almost sports sedan-like, and its safety features include one in particular that is both unique and highly desirable. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment. Please read on.

 

We began our introduction to the Q7 with a formal presentation in the hotel before dinner. A Q7 was on display for us to look at, inspect and photograph. Audi, with a stellar track record in motorsports, also brought along one of their racecars. These serve as positive proof of their commitment to excellence in the development of cutting edge technologies and high performance, and as inspiration for the development of the Q7 and all Audis.

In keeping with the importance of this particular vehicle introduction, key members of Audi of America spoke to us and were available to answer our questions. Among those present and representing Audi of America were Johan de Nysschen – Executive Vice President, Wolfgang Hoffmann – Director of Product Management, Stephen Burkov – Director of Marketing and Jennifer Cortez – Director of Communications. Representing Audi AG was the Chief Engineer of the Q7 -- Franciscus (Frank) van Meel.

Audi is on a roll. Johan reported to us that despite stiff competition in the marketplace and financially challenging exchange rates, 2005 was the second highest sales year in the history of Audi. At a time when other automobile manufacturers found it necessary to cut into their bottom lines by offering consumers large incentives in order to sell their vehicles, the financial performance of Audi’s business significantly improved. Sales growth has been continuing this year as well. Audi’s long term future looks bright. They are counting on the Q7 to help them continue this trend.

The Q7 is a technologically advanced vehicle. It combines everything one would expect in a modern SUV with some very welcome special features you might not even think of.

In this category is one safety feature (my word, not Audi’s, due to the ever-present threat of litigation) that particularly intrigued me. In my opinion it is right up there with airbags. That especially important safety feature is something which helps driver’s deal with their blind spots.

My current car has a huge blind spot on the passenger side. Consequently, I fear accidentally sideswiping someone whenever I change lanes. Despite carefully checking my mirrors and shoulder checking, I have learned the hard way that it is far too easy for a vehicle to be beside me without me being able to see it.

Audi has named their new blind spot technology “Audi side assist.” It is a major breakthrough, and its availability on the Q7 represents a production first of this for any major automobile manufacturer. Utilizing “intelligent radar technology” and when the vehicle is in motion above a certain minimum speed, the Audi Q7 quietly but effectively lets its driver know if there are vehicles in their blind spots by subtly displaying yellow warning LEDs in a little window in the housing of the exterior side view mirrors. If the driver switches on their turn signal while a vehicle is in a blind spot, the light goes from steady to brightly flashing, warning the driver of the potential danger. It is like having a vigilant co-pilot watching out for this very real driving hazard. I wish it was available on my car, and I would gladly pay a premium for it. Hopefully the pioneering Audi Q7 will be the first of many vehicles to offer an effective solution for dealing with blind spots.

In addition to a full complement of airbags, another safety technology available on the Q7 with the “Technology Package” includes a very convenient rear-view camera with “Rear Parktronic®.” A large video screen displays a rearwards view whenever you select reverse gear. Graphically displayed multiple zones behind the vehicle and limiting lines on the sides indicate the precise position and width of the vehicle. Using that aid I was able to back up the Q7 literally to the just beyond the very tip of a vehicle that was parked behind me – all while managing to pull up right alongside the curb without hitting it. Being able to do that so easily is a wonderful aid to safe, stress-free parking.

Design-wise, Audi pointed out the wraparound tailgate of the Q7, which enabled them to incorporate the design of a beautiful wraparound taillight. At the other end of the vehicle is the bold, distinctive new Audi grille.

Our hands-on, behind-the-wheel time with the Q7 began the next morning, when we were given keys along with directions that would take us onto highways and into the countryside to get a taste for both the on-road and off-road capabilities of the Q7.


350 hp V8 FSI engine

My first driving impression was how powerful the Q7 is, thanks to its 350 hp V8 FSI engine which produces 325 lbs. ft. of torque at only 3500 rpm. However, this SUV is more than just a straight line performer.

It also handles very well. There is not nearly enough room here to fully explore this subject so I won’t even try. Instead I’ll just tell you some of the many highlights, which you can explore further at your dealer. They include Audi’s legendary “Quattro” permanent four-wheel drive, a double wishbone suspension with aluminum components, optional adaptive air suspension with adjustable ride height and dynamic roll stabilization, speed-dependent steering and “Electronic Stabilization Program” with off-road mode.

 

If you think you might someday venture into water with a Q7, you’ll be pleased to learn that its fording depth is more than 20 inches, and that the maximum possible climbing capacity is 31 degrees. Furthermore, depending upon how you have it equipped, towing capacity is rated up to 6,600 lbs.

The versatile Q7 will be available in five, six and seven-seat configurations, and with up to 28 different loading configurations. Pricing for the V8-equipped Q7 will start at $49,900. A V6 model will follow later this year.

Audi’s Q7 is a great SUV. I strongly recommend it. It should be in dealer showrooms by mid-year (probably in June). About the only desirable feature that it will be missing is one of Audi’s wonderful Audi diesel engines. However, I suspect that once the U.S. switches over to low sulfur content fuel – which is due to occur later this year, you’ll see a number of manufacturers’ vehicles with fuel efficient, high torque, clean diesel engines as soon as possible thereafter – perhaps by the 2008 model year. If you’d like a diesel, tell Audi. I am sure that they will take our requests seriously.

 
Audi Q7 at Amy Strong Castle

In case you were wondering if anyone noticed this distinctly different new Audi on our preview drive, I asked myself the same question while I was driving. I was pleasantly surprised to get an answer to that question just before we turned the keys back in. While returning back to the hotel in Carlsbad someone started following us in Encinitas. They continued all the way back to Carlsbad. When we finally stopped, the woman driving the vehicle behind us did so too and walked over to talk to us. She told us that she gone so far out of her way purely on the hope that she could find out about the Q7. We were happy to comply.

By the way, another Audi to watch for this year – especially if you are a high performance vehicle enthusiast as I am, is the awesome RS 4, which will finally be coming to America. I sincerely hope that they invite me to a Press Preview for that vehicle. If they do, I’ll cover it for you with words and photos in AutoMatters.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net. Drive safely and do join me again next time.

Copyright © 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #190 AutoMatters

 

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