A turbodiesel, or TDI, version of Audi's full-size Q7 sport utility hit showrooms about a year ago, but for 2010 gets a minor facelift along with its traditionally fueled siblings.
Designers carved a new single frame grill, sculpted hatchback and LED-eyeliner taillamps.
Underpinnings, however, remain the same. And that includes the 3.0 TDI clean diesel model introduced in 2009 providing an option for buyers who wince at average ratings of 15 and 16 miles per gallon on the 3.6-liter V-6 and 4.2-liter V-8 models.
The TDI runs on a 3.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at 225 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. The EPA rates fuel economy at 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway, or 20 in combined testing.
Although the price of diesel has been running nearly 20 cents a gallon more than regular unleaded, Audi recommends premium fuel for the other Q7 models. So that four-to-five gallon edge translates to easy savings.
And as one of the new wave of so-called "clean diesel" engines, the TDI is quiet, odor-free and accelerates on par or better than its traditional-fuel siblings.
While the big rig doesn't come cheap, starting at $51,725, including delivery charge, it does qualify for a tax credit up to $1,300. That narrows the gap with the 3.6-liter model, which starts at $47,725 and puts the TDI more than 11 grand under the 4.2.
All Q7s get a six-speed automatic transmission, which includes a self-shifting Tiptronic mode. The standard Quattro all-wheel drive system works full time splitting power with a 42:58 front-rear ratio under normal conditions and shifting that distribution as needed. The Q7 isn't a hard-core four-wheeler with low no gearing available, but it does have an off-road mode and hill-descent feature.
Driving can be spirited - fun even -- but the Q7 diesel isn't the fastest kid on the block, nor is it the sportiest to drive, the BMW X5 still holds that crown among the handful of luxury diesel rigs.
Towing capacity tops out at 6,600 pounds.
Inside the Q is roomy, but it's not the largest among full-size SUVs. Audi also offers a smaller Q5 and is working on an even smaller Q3.
As the name implies, the Q7 has room for seven people. Those in rows one and two will have no complaints about space and comfort, but the back row is best left to the young and agile. As with most seven-seaters, cargo room is limited with all three rows in use, but the back two rows easily fold flat to add space.
The Q7 excels with interior style and workmanship, although some controls are too complex and awkwardly located to use while driving. 2010 models benefit from a few interior tweaks including ambient lighting, an improved computer interface and added chrome accents.
On the safety front, the Audi scored perfect fives in crash testing and comes with antilock brakes, stability control, tire-pressure monitor, side airbags and curtains.
It also includes and decent list of standards: dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leather, rear parking sensors, audio system with three months of satellite radio, CD changers and iPod interface, and power tailgate.
Options run from a panoramic sunroof to side airbags for rear seats and navigation, but oddly overlook a DVD entertainment system to keep the kids in back occupied.
The diesel's better fuel economy makes it an attractive option to its Q7 siblings, but if you can live with a midsize rig, SUVs such as Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota Venza offer another way to stretch fuel dollars.
Audi Q7 TDI
Full-size turbocharged sport utility
Cathy Luebke is Web editor at the Phoenix Business Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at PhxBizCathy.