2011 Audi Q7 TDI Quattro

2011 Audi Q7 TDI Quattro 2011 Audi Q7 TDI Quattro
Long-Term Road Test Wrap-Up

Departure Date: September 2011
Months in Fleet: 13 months
Final Mileage: 41,055 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 21 mpg
Average Range: 554 miles
Service: $1626
Normal Wear: $1850
Repair: $0
Unscheduled Urea-Solution Additions: $26
Damage and Destruction: $526

Vanity, as it concerned our long-term Audi Q7, had a very specific price: $70,025. Less than three-quarters of that sum would have bought the basic vehicle itself. The rest, well, the rest is because we had to look good. Damn good, as it turned out.

Included in the final tally was $12,000 for the top-spec Prestige trim, a requirement to order our ultimate aspiration: the $2000 S-line package. That pack brought aggressive fender arches, a gaping front fascia, and the ability to order 21-inch wheels as gorgeous as they were ridiculously huge. (The wheels cost another $800, and they mandated hyper-aggressive-for-an-SUV, soft-compound Dunlop SP Maxx rubber. We put 19,488 miles on the tires before they predictably wore out: $1850 for four, please.) We also ordered the $2600 air suspension, $300 all-weather floor mats and cargo liner, and the $550 towing package.

For all the add-ons, however, it was a standard feature—the big beast’s powertrain—that led the list of what we liked best. With 225 hp and a brawny 406 lb-ft of torque on tap, the turbo-diesel V-6 was as tractable as it was efficient. Some drivers commented that passing on two-lanes was “downright fun,” owing to the mammoth torque rush and the accompanying growl. The eight-speed auto was always in the right gear thanks to all that torque, and its shifts were consistently smooth and unobtrusive. While most long-termers generally get quicker to 60 mph as their engines break in, the Q7 actually lost pace in that metric: It turned in an 8.9-second time at the 40K mark, more than half a second behind its initial test figure. The Q7 got marginally quicker once rolling, as evidenced by its 50-to-70-mph passing time, which improved from 6.6 to 6.4 seconds. The slower off-the-line time proved an impediment to better quarter-mile figures, though, as it dropped from 16.4 seconds at 83 mph to 16.7 at 82.

The Q7 TDI is fitted with an AdBlue-swilling exhaust-treatment system. Refilling the fluid was a painless process; while it was largely handled during scheduled services, the few gallons we replenished ourselves came with little sacrifice of time or money. (You can read more about the process in our first update.)

Big—But Still Wieldy

Our Q7 was a heavy, 5687-pound piece, but the harmonious relationship between its steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedal—which had enough precision and weight to facilitate fine inputs—made the bulk nearly invisible in daily driving. That sense of command held true when pulling trailers, too; several staffers used the Q7 to lug large loads to places as far-flung as California, and all registered high praise for the Audi’s towing manners.

We also were impressed with our observed fuel economy: 21 mpg over more than 41,000 miles. That’s smack in the middle of the EPA’s estimates for the Q7 TDI, and 5 mpg better than we achieved in a test of the V-8–powered gas Q7. Take the efficiency and combine it with a huge, 26.4-gallon fuel tank, and you get an average (and bladder-’sploding) range of more than 550 miles; a few of us even recorded 600-plus-mile stints between fill-ups.

Most of us deemed the ride on the big, 21-inch wheels firm but not overly harsh, although some staffers felt the air suspension’s most-aggressive setting, Sport, went too far. Fitting the winter tires and their taller sidewalls (Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3Ds wrapped around 20-inch rims) softened things up a bit. Doing so also greatly reduced tire noise; the humming and thrumming from the summer rubber was a frequently noted annoyance.

Annoying also describes the several minor electrical problems that cropped up. The MMI infotainment setup, which otherwise was intuitive and easy to use, got brain freeze a couple of times and had to be rebooted. The stereo refused to make noise for a few hours right after the Q7 arrived, which also was around the time the driver’s-seat ventilation went on the fritz due to a pinched wire. Near the end of the Audi’s stay, the ambient door lights decided to dim and brighten on their own and the auto up/down function for the driver’s window went AWOL. Excepting the ventilated seat, every one of the above issues mysteriously corrected itself as quickly as it appeared.

It’s rare that we call out panel fits that are too tight, but the fuel door’s leading edge rubbed some of the paint off the rear quarter panel; it’s a good thing we didn’t have to open the flap more often. The only other wear issues were those we noted in our last update—slightly wrinkled front-seat leather and a worn engine-start button—plus a hitch cover panel that loosened in its mounts as time passed. We never lost the cover, but we can imagine an inattentive owner doing so; it would cost $110 to replace. Finally, the powered hatch stopped latching closed at 38K; our dealer ordered a new latch, which was covered under warranty. The litany of minor issues was frustrating, but the fact that none resulted in meaningful downtime tempered most of our anger.

Intangibles vs. Logic

We could never quite get past how expensive services were, though, as it cost more than $1600 to complete four scheduled stops. In addition to $26 for the self-poured exhaust-treatment fluid and nearly two grand for the replacement Dunlops, we also spent $67 to replace wiper blades lost in a car wash and another $458 (!) to replace a flat tire. All told—excluding the damage and destruction—we spent about ten grand to keep the Audi on the road, including diesel fuel. Not cheap by any measure, but also not news: Expensive vehicles often are expensive to run. We’ve spent similar figures in the recent past on a diesel Mercedes GL and an all-wheel-drive BMW 750Li.

Our Audi was handsome, practical, efficient, and luxurious, as well as pricey and occasionally irritating. Should you be shopping in this segment, whether you end up in a Q7 TDI—most especially one similarly equipped to ours—will depend on which of those adjectives matter most to you.