It would be understandable if the 2014 Audi Q7 felt a little miffed. After all, its former platform mates, the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, have been thoroughly reworked for their second generations, whereas the Audi's essentials date back to the George W. Bush era.
But Audi got a lot right about the Q7 in the first place, and thoughtful updates through the years have maintained this luxurious 3-row crossover's competitiveness.
Notably, Audi's stellar supercharged 3.0-liter V6 keeps the Q7 youthful under the hood, providing smooth acceleration and fuel economy that, while not exactly stellar, at least beat what the old V8 could manage. There's also the capable TDI turbodiesel V6, overhauled last year with improved mileage and 15 additional horsepower.
As ever, the Q7's sleek yet sensible cabin with standard 3-row seating makes it a desirable solution for soccer moms and dads, especially with the available dual-screen rear entertainment system. Throw in the Audi connect infotainment suite and you have a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot with Google integration.
As good as the Q7 is, there's no ignoring that its underpinnings are now a generation behind. Whereas the Cayenne and Touareg have lost hundreds of pounds with their redesigns, improving both fuel economy and performance, the lightest Q7 still weighs almost 5,300 pounds.
But if you're looking for a premium 3-row crossover, Audi's workhorse continues to be a compelling option. The Q7 may not be pleased that its siblings are getting all the attention, but we think it still has good years left.
What's New for 2014?
Every Q7 gets adaptive xenon headlights and LED running lights, while keyless entry/ignition is newly standard on Premium Plus.
What We Like
Standard 3-row seating; satisfying 3.0T V6 offered in two strengths; capable and efficient turbodiesel V6; lovely interior
What We Don't
Mediocre fuel economy with 3.0T; surprisingly small third row and cargo bay; aging and needlessly heavy underpinnings
All Q7 models roll with quattro all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 3.0T starts with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 280 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.0T Prestige gets an amped-up version of the same engine with 333 hp and 325 lb-ft. The TDI offers a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 rated at 240 hp and 406 lb-ft. Towing capacity is 6,600 pounds, a healthy figure that's a testament to the Q7's robust architecture.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the 3.0T slurps up fuel at a rate of 16 miles per gallon city/22 mpg hwy, but the TDI is much better, returning an exceptional 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
Audi Q7 is offered in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Note that the supercharged 3.0T engine comes in two states of tune. The milder one is featured in the Premium and Premium Plus, while the spicier tune comes standard with the Prestige. The turbodiesel V6 -- TDI -- is available in all three trim levels, with only minor variations from the 3.0T formula.
The 3.0T Premium ($48,595) and TDI Premium ($53,795) come standard with three rows of seating, 18-inch alloy wheels (19s for the TDI), fog lights, adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights and taillights, a power lift gate, leather upholstery, power front seats with adjustable lumbar, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Multi-Media Interface (MMI) system, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity and an 11-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input, dual SD-card slots and satellite radio.
The 3.0T Premium Plus ($54,595) and TDI Premium Plus ($59,795) add a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, a rearview camera, auto-dimming mirrors, driver memory functions, Audi connect telematics with mobile Wi-Fi, a 14-speaker Bose audio system and an enhanced version of MMI with a navigation system.
The 3.0T Prestige ($61,795) and TDI Prestige ($65,795) tack on 20-in wheels, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, quad-zone automatic climate control, cooled front seats and a blind spot warning system. The 3.0T Prestige also includes the S line sport appearance package; a similar package is optional on the TDI Prestige.
Many of the higher trims' features are available on lower trims as options. The Prestige is eligible for exclusive upgrades, including an adaptive air suspension and a 14-speaker, 1,001-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system. Notable options across the lineup include heated rear seats, a trailer-hitch package, rear side airbags and a dual-screen rear-entertainment system.
The 2014 Audi Q7 features standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional.
The government has not crash-tested the Q7, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Q7 its highest rating of Good in every tested category.
Behind the Wheel
The Q7's cabin is clearly older than Audi's latest interiors -- look at a picture of the A7 hatchback's dashboard to see what we mean. Nonetheless, it's a very nice place to spend time. We especially like the driving position, as its cockpit-like confines belie the Q7's imposing dimensions, making it feel more like an oversized luxury sedan than a heavy SUV.
The gauges are classic Audi: two no-nonsense circles for the tachometer and speedometer, with numerals rendered in Audi's distinctive font. As in most Audis, however, the ergonomics are hit-or-miss, and that includes frequently used features such as the fan-speed knob. On the bright side, Audi has made numerous user-friendly improvements to MMI in recent years, to the point that it's now one of our favorite infotainment systems. The Q7 isn't a technological tour-de-force like Audi's newer models, but it still has plenty of gadgets to keep you occupied.
The Q7's second-row seat has plenty of legroom, but the bottom cushions are a bit low. We prefer the higher rear bench in the Touareg. Of course, the Q7's trump card is the standard 2-person third row, which neither the Touareg nor the Cayenne offers. Given the Q7's considerable footprint, the third row is surprisingly cramped, but it'll work for kids.
Cargo space is also strangely modest in the Q7, measuring 10.9 cu ft behind the third row, 42 cu ft behind the second row and 72.5 cu ft with both the second and third rows folded down.
Under the hood, we've never felt the need for more gusto from the base 3.0T engine. It gets the massive Q7 up to speed without drama, and it's very smooth. Still, who wouldn't want a little more power if they could get it? So Audi obliges with the 333-hp 3.0T Prestige, which uses the same engine to better effect. You'll notice more urgency at full throttle with the Prestige, but the difference isn't enormous. As for the TDI V6, it's been around for a while now, but the recent introduction of the 8-speed automatic has really woken it up, not to mention the addition of 15 hp last year. We also like that you can hardly tell it's a diesel in normal operation. That's how quiet it is.
On the road, watch out. The Q7's sedanlike cockpit can fool you into thinking this monumentally heavy SUV is a sporty thing. That illusion should fall by the wayside the first time you attempt to take a corner with any enthusiasm. Still, the Q7 drives with that typical Germanic sense of solidity and precision, making you feel like a better driver than you really are. We find the ride to be pleasantly hushed but decidedly firm over bumps unless the optional (and pricey) air suspension is specified.
Other Cars to Consider
Volkswagen Touareg -- Do you really need the Q7's back seat? If not, we suggest a test-drive in the cheaper Touareg, one of the most engaging crossovers around.
The TDI's combination of sedanlike fuel economy and dump-truck torque makes it our no-brainer choice. It's a lot of crossover for your money.