By Al Haas
For The Inquirer
Posted on Sun, Nov. 1, 2009
That dramatic difference is why Audi chose a big beastly boy such as the Q7 to be its first diesel offering in the United States.
The seven-passenger Q7 is the German automaker's largest SUV. The turbo-diesel version (TDI) was introduced as a 2009 model and continues for 2010 essentially as a carryover. The fuel-economy advantage it enjoys over its gas-powered stablemates is considerable.
While its EPA mileage ratings of 17 city and 25 highway may not drive a Sierra Club member to the brink of cosmic jubilation, they are quite good for a large SUV equipped with all-wheel-drive - and a lot better than those of the gas-engine Q7s. (The Q7 with the 3.5-liter gas engine has EPAs of 14 and 19, while the 4.2-liter gasser logs a rather grim 13 and 18.)
In typical diesel fashion, the Q7 TDI Premium I drove had much less of a thirst on the highway. It got 26.4 m.p.g. on a trip down I-95.
The V-6 in the Q7 TDI is part of a new breed of diesel engines that has been made possible in this country by recent regulations mandating the use of "clean diesel." This new, low-sulfur fuel permits diesel engines that are cleaner, smoother, quieter, and more powerful.
What our belated embrace of this new fuel does, in effect, is allow automakers such as Audi to bring into this country the superior diesel engines they've been selling in Europe for years.
Presumably, there will be more of a market for diesels like the Q7 TDI when people realize how much better these engines are than their dirty, noisy, and smelly predecessors. The fact that diesel fuel prices have dropped down closer to gas should also help.
Like hybrids, a diesel-powered vehicle demands a premium - about $4,000 more in the case of the Q7 - but when you consider its fuel economy and greater resale value, it could still save you serious money.
The Q7 TDI I tested proved a nice driver. While this is a large, roomy crossover, it felt like a smaller vehicle. It handled with aplomb for a big fellow, and proved rather sprightly at traffic lights.
Looking at the size and horsepower rating of this 3-liter, 225-horse V-6, you may wonder where that reasonably brisk acceleration is coming from. But bear in mind that while they develop less horsepower than a comparable gas engine, diesels produce a huge wad of low-r.p.m. torque, which is the virtually instant pulling power you need in real-world driving situations such as merging on an expressway.
Besides its good performance and economy, the Q7 TDI Premium is a nice-riding, quiet guy that dresses up like the luxury vehicle it is.
The workmanship on this SUV borders on the exquisite. The paint work and body fits are right there, as is the interior assembly work. The materials used inside are handsome and of high quality. Indeed, folding down the two rows of rear seats to create a cavernous cargo area produced a carpeted floor so classy I almost felt guilty putting boxes on top of it.
As you might expect from a vehicle that opens at $50,900, the TDI Premium sports a wagon train of standard goodies. Heated leather seats? Of course. A power liftgate? You got it. Et cetera, et cetera.
As if the standard stuff weren't enough, the tester was loaded with more than $11,000 worth of options, ranging from a sunroof and navigation system to a set of 20-inch alloy wheels to replace those "teeny" 19-inchers.
2009 Audi Q7 TDI Premium
Base price: $5s0,900.
As tested: $62,375.
Standard equipment: 3-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission, full complement of luxury-car amenities.
Options: Include a sunroof, Bose sound system, parking sensors and rearview camera, navigation system, voice control system, window shades.
Fuel economy: 17 city and 25 highway.
Handling: Quite acceptable.
Engine performance: Surprisingly good.
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben Key: Four Bens, excellent; Three Bens, good; Two Bens, fair; One Ben, poor