One outsized Audi
At 5,000 pounds, Audi's first-ever SUV is surprisingly nimble.
By Alex Taylor III, FSB contributor

(FSB Magazine) -- Suddenly, big SUVs with three rows of seats are appearing from manufacturers who never offered them before. We're used to road hogs such as the Chevy Suburban and Lincoln Navigator, but they've been joined in the supersized category by the Jeep Commander and Mercedes GL.

Are families getting bigger? Are business owners carpooling with their staffs to save on gas?

Under the hood
$49,900 (Base Price), 4.2-liter V-8, Permanent all-wheel drive, Speed-sensitive steering

Now Audi weighs in with its seven-seater, the Q7 - its first-ever SUV in this long-established segment. (The V-8 version is already in dealerships, and the V-6 shows up this fall.)

The Q7 is 13 inches longer than the Volkswagen Touareg - on which it is based - and weighs 2 tons, almost 900 pounds heavier than an Audi A8L. It signals its size with a massive open-mouth grille that stretches from the hood to below the front bumper and wouldn't look out of place on a Peterbilt truck.

Climb aboard the Q7 and you quickly understand why Audi ( is considered the premier fabricator of automotive interiors. The instrument panel manages to be informative, useful, and friendly, and doesn't require a master's degree in ergonomics. The driver controls are logically arrayed and give the sense that you - and not the car - are in charge.

For such a big vehicle, the Q7 feels light on its feet, and the 4.2-liter V-8 provides plenty of oomph, accelerating the beast to 60 miles an hour in seven seconds. Fuel consumption is reasonable; I averaged 19.6 miles a gallon on the highway. (The city rating is 14 mpg.)

All that German engineering comes at a price. The Q7 is assembled at a VW/Audi/Porsche plant in Slovakia, but those Slovaks have to eat too. The base sticker price is $49,900, but extras such as the panorama sunroof that provides each row of seats with its own see-through ceiling ($1,850) and the 20-inch cast-alloy wheels ($1,600) push the damage up to $63,770. (The V-6 will be about $10,000 less.) If that seems like too much money for too much car, you can wait for the five-seat Q5, due to arrive here in early 2008.

Other automakers may have beaten Audi to the supersized-SUV party, but this late arrival makes a grand entrance.


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