Opting for the passenger comfort, luggage space, ground clearance, and, in some cases, three rows of seating that an SUV delivers works against the driving dynamics that car nerds-such as ourselves-hold so dear. Audi's Q7, however, stands out among the crowd of decked-out family haulers as the one that best combines an ability to tackle practical jobs, be nerd-approved lively from behind the wheel, and boast luxury trimmings worthy of its price.
The Q7 starts at $49,950 with its new, base 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, as an opening price of less than $50K is a magic number for marketers of luxury vehicles. The optional 333-hp supercharged V-6 adds enough oomph to scoot the Q7 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, which is at the speedy end of the class. The $5800 engine upgrade also ups the towing capacity from 4400 pounds to 7700 pounds when combined with the $550 Towing package. (That's more tugging capability than a standard body-on-frame Chevrolet Tahoe.) For weatherproof hauling, fold both rows for a flat floor and 72 cubic feet of space.
Prices quickly escalate, though, and a fully loaded 3.0T Prestige model surpasses $70,000. But there is some palpable substance for that additional $20K outlay. While there are other upper-crust SUVs that compare on paper with the Q7-touting yards of leather upholstery, open-pore or layered wood trim, satisfying switchgear, all the available active safety gear and tech goodies you can think of-none of them offer Audi's Virtual Cockpit. This 12.3-inch instrument-binnacle-cum-infotainment-display is the kind of groundbreaking, configurable interface we've been waiting for since manufacturers started replacing analog gauges with TFT screens. Virtual Cockpit comes standard on Prestige models (a $9500 uptick exclusive to the 3.0T) and is optional on Premium Plus models as part of the Vision package ($2000), which also includes full LED headlights and a surround-view camera system.
Also exclusive to the Prestige is the $4000 Adaptive Chassis package that includes air springs. Oversize wheels may look great but often destroy a vehicle's ride quality. Audi's air-sprung Q7, however, seems tuned perfectly to the dampers and the 20-inch wheels. The Q7 soaks up bumps, cracks, and potholes like its 5000 pounds really are riding on a pillow of air. Plus, this package includes rear-wheel steering, which works at speeds below 37 mph to shrink the standard 40.7-foot turning circle to something more manageable. The Q7's rock-solid structure prevents even a whiff of cowl shake, and there's enough dynamic composure for genuine fun to be had hustling through corners, should you decide to venture off the interstate system.
In contrast to some of the competition, the Audi's interior and exterior styling seem less artistic than they do engineered, but this isn't exactly a drab vehicle, and the fit, finish, and materials are at the top of the class. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway, and if you're looking for a mid-size luxury SUV, the Q7 is as beautiful as they come.
2017 Audi Q7.
VEHICLE TYPE:front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door hatchbackBASE PRICE:$49,950-$65,250ENGINES:turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft; supercharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V-6, 333 hp, 325 lb-ftTRANSMISSION:8-speed automatic with manual shifting modeCURB WEIGHT (C/D EST):4800-4950 lbFUEL ECONOMY:EPA combined/city/highway driving: 21-22/19-20/25 mpg.
As this year marks the inaugural 10Best Trucks and SUVs competition, we couldn't follow our usual 10Best procedure of limiting the invitees to the previous year's winners plus vehicles that are new or significantly updated. Therefore, we also invited some competitors based on our previous experiences, including (but not limited to) comparison-test results. As with 10Best Cars, a competing vehicle must have a base price of less than $80,000 and be on sale by January 31, 2017. Unlike 10Best Cars, our Trucks and SUVs awards are given out by category. Next year, we will invite the returning winners, new and/or significantly updated models, and the models that were unavailable for evaluation this year.