I've had a hard time coming to terms with this. It's not that the Q7 isn't laden with typical Audi quality-solid, comfortable, extremely well built-but the world didn't need another big vehicle. And the Q7 is bigger than you may think: nearly two-and-three-quarter tons for the V8 model and more than 16-and-a-half feet long. That's about 500 pounds heavier and a full 12 inches longer than a Porsche Cayenne S.
The vehicle's size, or rather its weight, is not insignificant. The 4.2-liter FSI power unit, producing 325 lb-ft of torque-not a small number-does a decent job of motivating the Audi but there's a lot of car to motivate. I found the Sport transmission setting is especially effective during freeway merges where 70-mph traffic is tighter than a NASCAR bunch. Once moving, the Q7 builds speed adequately, but if there's one application where a torque-tastic diesel engine was needed, this is it.
Gripes aside, I understand why Audi built it. I'm guessing it was a good thing for the company coffers, because I see them all over Southern California. As a highway cruiser, the Q7 is a really beautiful ride, particularly for passengers in the second row, where one can listen to an MP3 player or enjoy a DVD on a personal LCD screen. The third row is not quite as comfy and most readily accommodates dogs, extremely short people (kids), or adults with no legs. Fold those seats down and the rear cargo area becomes quite hospitable for large payloads. Fold down the second-row seats as well and it becomes downright cavernous, allowing for large pieces of furniture, or maybe six months' worth of groceries.
In spite of its massive dimensions, the Q7 is also quite a capable off-roader. While barreling over a three-foot berm at 40 mph (to obtain the air editor Bidrawn needed for the extremely necessary jump shot), the vehicle remains quite composed. It felt like I had just rolled over a speed bump. Even the nose-heavy landing was rather cloud-like, a tribute to the air suspension's inherent muscularity. Our hi-jinks ended up shredding the silly felt-infused plastic undercladding in front, highlighting it as an area that needs to be addressed. Anything billed as an off-road vehicle really needs a much beefier front skidplate, or at least the option of purchasing one, just in case the buyer actually does want to do some serious off-roading. Land Rovers and Benzes have them, this Audi should too.