Reviews

2012 Audi Q7 Walk Around

The Audi Q7 looks like an Audi SUV, with lots of curved surfaces, distinctive lights and a big face. Stretching 200 inches long, the Q7 is bigger than it looks.

The Q7 grille is Audi's ubiquitous single-frame piece, bisected by a broad band for license plate mounting, and flanked by multiple horizontal layers of grilles and lights to soften the sheer bulk. High-line models are distinguished by LED daytime running lights and turn signals that stand out more, and the contrast-color lower panels of the base gas models give way to painted panels on the S Line gas and all TDI versions.

Crisp side-view styling with arched fenders and a roofline like a French curve visually reduce the size of the Q7. The substantial exterior mirrors and housings are among the largest on a vehicle in this class, handy for seeing out back, especially when towing, not so good for seeing around. Two stylish, full-length metal rails on the roof provide anchor points for accessory crossbars for securing cargo on the roof. Gas and diesel models use different wheel styles, and if we're cleaning we prefer the simpler spokes of the gas model.

The Q7's rear view is dominated by high-mounted horizontal taillights with LED illumination and fiber-optic/LED turn signals. The cut line for the tailgate sweeps outward around the taillights to become a styling element of its own. The large hatch is powered.

Cold weather features include pull-type door handles that are easy to use with gloves, heated windshield washer nozzles, available headlight washers, and wide-sweeping windshield wipers that, when not in use, rest on an area heated by the interior vents in order to prevent freezing.

Interior

The Audi Q7 cabin was designed for flexibility. The Q7 offers numerous passenger and cargo arrangements with separately folding sections in both second and third row seats. Styling and ambiance will be familiar to Audi owners, efficient without being staid and attractive, not flashy. Leather upholstery and wood trim are both standard, while aluminum inlays are available.

The Q7 seats seven with the standard third-row seat. (The five-passenger version was dropped when the smaller Q5 arrived.) All the rear seats fold flat to expand the cargo area, up to 72 cubic feet behind the driver.

The front bucket seats are superb with power adjustment in most directions. The driver's seat is comfortable and most drivers should find the driving position nearly perfect. Leather covers the tilt/telescoping steering wheel, which features redundant audio controls, and hard plastics are found only where appropriate for scuff resistance and easier cleaning. Getting in and out is easy thanks to large doors and a reasonably low floor.

The second-row 40/20/40 split rear bench seat allows cargo and passenger flexibility. This bench seat allows second-row passengers to slide rearward up to four inches for extra legroom or forward to keep an infant seat within easier reach, and the second-row seatbacks recline up to 10 degrees for more relaxed comfort.

Third-row seats are for kids or smaller adults, with head and legroom notable less than even the second row seats, a condition common in many seven-seat crossovers. For tall third-row passengers consider the Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, or any passenger midi-van.

Gauges are clear and bright with an information display between the speedometer and tachometer which cycles through several menus via buttons on the steering wheel. Redundant navigation messages are also communicated through this display, even when the dashboard screen displays something else, a useful feature. The stalk-mounted cruise controls and the switches for the wipers and lights have a supple, expensive feel.

Stereo choices for the Q7 include a 180-watt AM/FM/CD unit with eleven speakers, a 270-watt, seven-channel 14-speaker Bose upgrade and a 1001-watt Bang & Olufsen system with 14-channel amplification and speakers. SiriusXM satellite radio and iPod integration are standard. The Bose upgrade is a good one and does an admirable job filling the cabin, while the B&O system is as sonically stunning as the aluminum speaker grilles and stand-up tweeters. While most of the audio adjustment functions are incorporated into MMI (see below), the controls used most often, such as the volume and seek functions, are adjusted with clearly labeled buttons and knobs mounted sensibly and attractively on the center console, just in front of the armrest, and doubled on the steering wheel. The system also responds to voice commands.

The Multi-Media Interface (MMI) that handles many functions is on its third generation. It delivers an impactful 3-D navigation map display, thanks to a powerful NVIDIA automotive graphics-processing chip. The system also delivers real-time SiriusXM traffic reporting. It's only as accurate as the satellite feed, however, because we found ourselves sitting still on an Interstate highlighted in light-traffic green. The system includes voice-activated destination-input control. Voice inputs such as, “I'm hungry, I need gas and I need coffee,” will automatically direct the driver to the nearest location where the driver's needs can be satisfied. Designed to reduce the amount of buttons on the dashboard while adding even more features, the downside of this MMI is that it adds layers of complexity, requiring time and practice, and patience, to operate smoothly. The system features a central control dial and some 15 buttons to control the climate, audio, phone, and navigation systems, as well as relevant vehicle system information. The controls are situated on the horizontal surface behind the shift knob. In addition to the added complexity, using the MMI often requires a longer look away from the road. Similar systems on Chrysler and GM vehicles are easier to use, while similar systems on BMWs are not.

For 2012, MMI navigation includes Audi Connect, enabling Google Earth and Google Voice Local Search as well providing as a rolling Wi-Fi Hotspot for up to eight passenger devices. According to Audi, the integration of Google Earth into the navigation system improves visual orientation with a camera-zoom feature that allows closer views of surroundings or destinations. Added to the high-resolution of Google Earth imagery is an overlay of street mapping data provided through Audi MMI Navigation. Google Voice Local Search is said to make voice commands more intuitive. Destination searches can now be accomplished by voice command, by using the Audi MMI touchpad interface, or by using the system dial. Real-time weather, current fuel prices, and streaming news feeds are included, the latter visible only when the car is stopped. The integrated Wi-Fi capability permits passengers to connect to work or other networks, very handy for downloading email or accessing the Internet.

The Rearview Camera and Parking System incorporates a camera in the liftgate to provide a view behind the vehicle when backing up. The image is clearly projected on the screen, with parking guide lines showing the path the vehicle would take given the steering wheel angle at the time. As the wheel turns, the guide lines change accordingly. We found this to be an extremely useful feature. It's especially valuable when backing up to a trailer, allowing the driver to position the receiver ball directly below the trailer hitch. It's also a great safety feature, whether backing out of the driveway or out of a space in a crowded shopping center parking lot, because it can help the driver spot people or objects difficult to see otherwise. It makes parallel parking easier and more efficient, helping the driver to back within an inch of the vehicle behind.

Dual-zone automatic climate controls are nothing new for this segment, but Audi made an effort to provide ventilation while reducing draftiness when the vehicle is being heated or cooled rapidly. Hence, the Q7 has an abundance of generously sized vents, including a diffused air vent at the base of the windshield in the front, as well as vents in both the door pillar and the rear of the center console for second-row occupants. Four-zone climate control is optional, featuring two zones in front and two zones for the second-row passengers, included with the warm weather package.

Cubby storage space is barely adequate. The glove box is tiny, but features a handy air duct that draws in air from the climate control system to help prevent melting lip balm on hot days. Additional storage is found under the armrest and in pockets in the doors. The Q7 is available with up to six 12-volt power points, including one in the tailgate, as well as 10 cup holders, including molded bottle holders in each door.

Cargo space is on par with other luxury SUVs with three rows of seats. There isn't much space behind the third row, so hauling anything but groceries will likely require that at least one half of the 50/50 split third-row seat be folded away. But, thanks to the sliding second-row seats and flat-folding seat stowing, the Q7 makes the most of its 72.5 cubic feet of available space. Those in need of more cargo space must consider midi-vans or packing lighter.

Loading cargo into the Q7 is facilitated by a wraparound tailgate that reveals a very wide opening. Particularly clever is the load assist feature of the optional air suspension that lowers the rear of the vehicle approximately three inches at the touch of a button in the cargo area, handy when loading dogs, groceries or heavy cargo. Numerous tie-down hooks and floor tracks are designed to fit accessory cargo securing devices available at Audi dealerships.

Open Sky is a full-length, three-panel panoramic glass moonroof that brightens the interior significantly. About 5.5 feet in length, the system consists of three tinted glass panels spanning all seating areas. The front section slides back over the fixed second section for full exposure for front seat occupants; another glass panel over the third-row seat and cargo area tilts up for added ventilation. A power retractable sunshade helps keep heat down on hot days.

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