Take a few minutes, get comfortable and do this: describe a chair. Be specific. Include everything-the materials, ergonomics, fasteners, textures, etc. Be as detailed as possible. Go ahead. I'll wait.
If you did the exercise correctly, what you most likely described is yourself. You have anthropomorphically transposed your psyche into an object. Let that sink in for a while.
There is a great psychological significance in this exercise, stuff that doesn't particularly pertain to cars (and if you've just described a chair of nails or broken glass, seek help). The point is, we've taken an everyday object and projected ourselves onto it. Ideally, we've made that face as noble as possible.
Now try to do the same thing with a car-a new car.
This is more difficult, as vehicles tend to be indelibly etched into memory. Pieces of 911 RS mingle with Ferrari GTOs, VW Microbuses, Jeep Wranglers, Lamborghini Miuras... stuff like that.
Clear your head-describe a car.
Here's a list I came up with. The numbering relates to how the concepts were realized.
1. Muscular2. Powerful3. Agile/fun to drive4. Technically advanced5. Comfortable, with high-grade materials (synthetic and natural)6. Spouse- and kid-friendly (able to be/have fun)7. Utility8. Sense of immense safety9. Sexy (could be paired with muscular)10. Understated
I have attempted to describe as noble a car I can, a vehicle infused with my standards of excellence and befitting lifestyle. Reviewing my list it dawned on me: I've described the Audi Q7.
First, it's muscular. Look at the broad shoulders and the prominent wheel arches. Head on, the Q7 is positively menacing. The sizeable grille and intakes look like they came straight out of a Speed Racer episode, the one where Speed battles The Monster Car (if you remember this episode, you rule).
The Q7 is powerful. Its 4.2-liter V8 is a refined juggernaut of an engine, capable of pulling the rather hefty Audi by its bootstraps. The Q7 leaves the line with quiet authority and doesn't stop for a long time. Things this big shouldn't be so fast, but this is the way my car should be.
Agile? You bet. Despite less-than-compact dimensions, the Q7 is capable of both canyon forays and off-road excursions. Equipped with Audi's optional air suspension, the driver can choose from an extreme lift to a slammed stance coupled with the appropriate chassis management software. Simply switching the center-mounted MMI control from Comfort to Dynamic changes the Q7's demeanor dramatically. Throw Audi's vaunted Quattro all-wheel drive into the equation and you have a car that is well-nigh unstoppable.
Technically advanced? Well, it's an Audi-the two concepts are joined at the hip. The Q7's keyless ignition, rear-view camera, voice recognition and navigation systems are executed so well, life without them seems positively barbaric. And then there's the FSI direct injection engine and the six-speed Tiptronic transmission, possibly the best real automatic this driver has experienced (DSG does not count).
Another new technology contained within the Q7 is the ability to 'see' objects in front, behind, and to its sides and warn, or in some cases jolt, the driver into action. By utilizing 'intelligent radar' the Q7 is always aware of its surroundings, even if the driver is not. The Q7's adaptive cruise control basically drives the car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, providing a comfortable distance and even braking to a full stop if need be. The system will also work at high speeds (up to 120 mph), both accelerating and decelerating as necessary. It's as close to science fiction as it comes. To be honest, it's almost scary how smart the Q7 really is. A leap of faith is required to utilize such technology. So far, it hasn't been wrong.
In terms of wife and kids, well, the Q7 has become something of a hang-out point in our driveway. The older ones fight over Sirius satellite radio presets and program their friends' houses into the navigation computer, while the little guys watch DVDs on their own personal monitors and headsets. The wife flat-out loves the Q7 for its stoic road manners and adaptable seat configuration, allowing her to shuttle children or make expensive trips to Costco. The Q7 is equipped with multiple sideguard head airbags for all three seat rows, along with energy-absorbing panels and ultra-high-strength steel crossmembers, which lets me rest easily, knowing everyone within is secure. As an Italian colleague explained: "The Germans build very safe and solid tanks."
In regard to sexiness quotient, the Q7 is somewhat mysterious. Devoid of the minivan stigma or single-guy syndrome, the Q7 could fill a number of roles, from executive limo (I've seen Q7 limos in Ingolstadt) to tornado chaser. I always feel cool exiting the Q7, much cooler than I actually am.
If you can't tell, I'm smitten. Audi has managed to breach the gulf between sports car and family truckster with remarkable grace. While there are a number of cars that claim to be multi-purpose, none do so with the style and grace of the Q7.
We will be living with this vehicle for the next 12 months. So far, only this author has held the keys and I'm in no great hurry to part with them. There's too much of me in it.
2007 Audi Q7 4.2
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
Peak Power: 350 hp @ 6800 rpm
Peak Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.1 sec.
Top speed: 130 mph (limited)
Fuel Economy: 14 city/19 hwyv*Base Price: $49,000
*Price as equipped: $63,770
*Options: Adaptive Air Suspension: $2,600; Technology Package: $2,400;Panorama Sunroof: $1,850: Audi Navigation: $1,800; 20-inch alloy wheels, all-season tires: $1,600; 4-Zone Climate Control: $950;Cold Weather Package: $550; Towing Package: $550; Sirius Satellite Radio:$550