Car-gazers say the darndest things. With a new car, an owner might expect the usual questions about engine, power and price; when they come, you calmly set your jaw and rattle off the stats. Once in a while, though, you come across a comment so out there that it could only come from fad, from that angle of mystique or trend you're simply clueless about.
When I first had ec's Audi Q7 for an entire weekend, I was literally rushed by a woman as I pulled into a parking space. I prepared for the practical questions, about gas mileage and legroom, but instead heard: "Oooooooooh. That's the car Brad and Angelina drive" with such longing that it made me uncomfortable. Of course, comments came from the other side as well. There's no mystery how most people regard SUVs nowadays. But that's the thing about the Q7, it combines practicality and mystique in such a way that this big thing comes out looking as graceful as it drives.
It's popular to hate SUVs. That is, until you need to borrow one. Then it's time to make pretty eyes at your friend with the huge carbon shoe size. So that's why I (being short on friends with bennies) took the Q7 straight to Home Depot to buy that giant piece of plywood I've been needing. I was afraid I had been too ambitious, once I was pushing a three by eight feet board toward the stylish ride, but I figured I'd give it the old college try. I'd brought some blankets and bags, and wrapped them around every supple leather-wrapped seatrest, and each DVD screen on the back of the front seats.
With the rear, middle and even front passenger seat down, the board slipped in. I skipped around the car, hit the automatic button on the underside of the huge rear door and was in the driver's seat before it had closed itself. With that, I adjusted the suspension from sport to comfort, turned on the 14-speaker Bose system and took my Quattro-cuteness down the road. Go ahead and hate me.
We knew the car was a gladiator, since the other editors had already tested its athletic abilities off the pavement. And it has proved its endurance under the strain of family hauling. I wanted to see how it held its posture running in more elite circles. I changed to a dress and heels, picked up some friends, and headed up the 405 to Santa Monica. The 4.2-liter FSI V8 has plenty of giddy-up to move with comfort and ease. Almost too comfortably, since it wasn't uncommon to look down at the speedo and gasp: "No way am I going that fast." The brakes are plenty strong enough to slow things down, though, and (as I discovered in one of those delightful sudden traffic stops) bring the vehicle to a standstill in no time at all. The brake feel, however, tests your confidence a bit. Although the car will stop, you almost have to have faith that it will.
Around the Promenade shopping districts and claustrophobic parking garages, the Q7 maneuvers with an impressive turning radius for such a big whip. Finally, when we reached our hipster artists' loft destination for an evening theater production, I was able to parallel park with the kind of quietude that only comes with a great backup camera. The Q7 treats you well. Now for a hybrid, so I don't have to feel guilty about such pleasure.
At A Glance
+ A car for (almost) every occasion
- Every day's a bad fuel day when you hit the cash pedal
Mileage: 21,827 Average mpg: 15.5