Audi Q7: The Posh Diesel

By The Car Family

If you need a large SUV that carries seven passengers your best bet is going to be one with a diesel engine. There are three reasons for this. First, it gets much better fuel mileage. Secondly, it can tow more. And finally, the resale is higher.

That being said, the Audi Q7 TDI is one of your few choices in this regard. Indeed it is a study in abundance. Everything you look from the huge snowplow bow to the numerous controls for the radio, heating, air conditioning, even the fan speed selection are in excess. It appears that Audi wanted this flagship to carry everything possible into the battles for sales. What they created was an extremely luxurious SUV that weighs nearly three tons and yet sips diesel fuel and provides potent acceleration thanks to a V6 diesel that creates 225 horsepower and an enormous 406 pound-feet of torque. When the turbocharged engine comes online, around 2000 rpm, the big Audi is breathtakingly fast for what it is, especially considering its bulk. You are also going to find yourself going well over the speed limit during highway merging and passing. This Audi hauls. Period, and it gets over 22 mpg to boot. It does need low sulfur fuel but we didn’t have any trouble finding it. Add to this the Audi’s 26 gallon fuel tank and you have an easy 500 mile plus cruising range.


We have tested both the gas version and the diesel option and there simply is no question that the extra dollars for the latter is superior is every way. It is quiet, swift, and starts automatically. Audi labels its diesel the cleanest SUV in the world and it is more efficient than the other German competition from Mercedes and Volkswagen as the Q7 has a ULEV-II or ultra-low emission rating.

Driving the large Audi is a pleasant experience, but there is no question this is a very heavy vehicle. Despite this parking was very easy. When making a U turn you are never going to need to worry about having to stop and put this vehicle in reverse. It is a pleasure to park even in tight mall spots and the rearview camera, a must for such a high vehicle with restricted rearward vision, is second only to Nissan’s in clarity. Exceptional.

The exterior look is massive and intimating. The rear lift over is extremely high making loading heavy objects a chore. The rear hatch has an available motorized open and closing motor and you need to have this if you are of average height or shorter. It is quite difficult to close otherwise.

The interior is very posh in keeping with its plus $50,000 price tag, but the government offers a tax incentive to diesel buyers of $1150. Check for the latest data on this. The seats have leather surfaces and the dash and headliner are rich looking and feeling as it should be for such an expensive vehicle. The rear seats folds reasonably flat once the second seat headrests have been removed. The front seats are heated with 12-way adjustments, however, they are quite high and the roofline is low so be prepared to duck down if you don’t adjust the seats to a lower position.

Mom’s view: I found the step up difficult when wearing a dress as it is very high. I also found the big Audi felt nearly cumbersome at low speeds. It never feels nimble except, ironically, when parking it. The pure size of it commands a certain amount of respect, especially in white. Driving around town the diesel feels a little choppy, but on the highway it is pure elegance. Once those 5000 pound plus get motivated the V6 delivers enough torque to keep you smiling. Very potent. The main competition is the Mercedes R Bluetec and Volkswagen Touareg 2. Interestingly, the Mercedes interior is austere and stiff, but is roomier more and easier to use. If you live where you need the extra ground clearance go for the Audi. The bottom line for me is that the Q7 never won me over despite its many attributes. I found the fuel mileage exemplary and admired the beautiful interior, but it was too over the top for my daily commute and too difficult to feel comfortable in for long hauls.

Dad’s view: Great engine, no doubt, but the transmission needs to be kept in sports mode to get the most out of the Audi. The steering is excellent, almost too direct at times, and the handling unexpectedly obedient. The brakes are adequate, but this rig is really one for the highway. I didn’t care for the 20-inch wheels as they were noisy and not all that off-road oriented.

The interior has a great many quirks that can be easily overcome, but why weren’t they thought through better. The cruise control is difficult to find and complicated and the console mounted controls require you to take your eyes off of the road to operate. Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) isn’t as difficult as the Mercedes and BMW units, but it still takes time to master its logic.


Because of the small window area of the Q7 those sitting in the backseat feel don’t have the feeling of spaciousness that you get in the competition. The rear seat is very small, and when you use it you must find a place to put the cargo cover. Again, not major problems, but a concern anyway.

Audi has years of experience in racing diesel engines and its shows. It the 3.0 liter engine is eager to please. Interestingly, I believe this is the same engine as in the Volkswagen Touareg 2, which costs thousands less, but isn’t nearly as luxurious. The Q7 also does not offer the convenience of the more station wagon like Mercedes R in terms of loading and unloading.

Young working male’s view: This Audi diesel does not smoke, is almost perfectly quiet, and runs clean enough to qualify as a environmentally friendly people mover. Mercedes uses a the water-based urea injection to remove clean air damaging elements. Audi has decided to make the “burn” more efficient and thus better fuel injectors were designed. The Audi’s computers also monitor the quality of the diesel fuel being burned. We have owned a diesel for 30 years and know important this is having fueled up with bad diesel numerous times. Those who live in the colder climates should note that the glowplugs that light off the Audi fire almost instantly even in cold weather. For me the result was a very user friendly diesel engine that provides that famous diesel torque and fuel mileage as well as unexpected frisky acceleration.

Our test car had the optional panoramic sunroof, but it has an opaque covering that lets in some heat. On the other hand, without it the interior would be rather dark. We didn’t get a chance to test Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel-drive system, but there is no doubt that it should handle anything people spending $50,000 or more would take their vehicle. The test vehicle had the 3.0 TDI and it felt very potent at all speeds, but especially in the mid-range. The night lighting is fantastic. When you hit the remote key fob you get puddle lights, a great interior light, and even red flowing dash lights. As I work for making open software servers and computers I can expertly say that the Multi Media Interface took even my some time to master.

When on the highway you get excellent visibility to the front, but the high rear tailgate and large C pillars create some blindspots. The Audi does offer a system that flashes a orange light it you signal for a turn and there is a vehicle in that position. I loved that option. For me the Audi was too much vehicle for my needs. However, it has a great feel and the interior is first class.

Young working woman’s view: The Audi is impressive and comes with a pleasant cabin, albeit very uncomfortable controls even with the auxiliary steering wheel mounted ones available. The exterior is a love it or hate it visual, but no one is going to argue that it does make its presence known. The Audi was too large for me to feel comfortable in daily driving. I much prefer the Audi A5 anyway, and with the possibility of a smaller Audi SUV having the diesel engine option I think waiting would be my choice. But I dearly love that diesel.

Family conference: An expensive luxury SUV with an abundance of features, the decision to buy the Q7 comes down to wanting to enjoy the numerous benefits of its diesel powerplant. You get a lot for the money, but it costs a lot of money and so we would look for three things before deciding. First, do you travel or tow enough to make the diesel viable? Secondly, do you need the all wheel drive system? Finally, do you like its bold look? If you answer yes to these there is really one the Audi. Add to this the excellent crash scores and you have a proper SUV. Make sure you order the Side Assist which indicates when a vehicle is in your blind spot, and also the rearview camera. Big car, big personality.

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Diesel comparison

Audi R Class Mercedes Volkswagen Touareg 2

Price $50,900 $49,150 $42,800

Horsepower 225 hp 210 hp 225 hp

Torque 406 ft-lbs. 398 ft-lbs. 407 ft-lbs.

Cargo 73 cu. ft. 85 cu. ft. 71 cu. ft.

Towing 6600 lbs. 3500 lbs. 7716 lbs.

Mileage 17/25mpg. 18/24 mpg. 17/25 mpg.