We just got Audi's first SUV into our garage, and here are my first impressions of this beast. On first approaching it, I commented to a colleague that it looks like an A3 on steroids. And I mean the latest Balco Labs steroids, not the cheap stuff that grows extra body hair and causes fits of aggression. The profile is similar to the A3's, except the Q7 is a whole lot bigger. A massive fascia covers the front, with strange lights and vents below the headlights that survived the move from concept to production. The rear hatch is big enough that Audi installed a power lift on it.
The powered rear gate is also one of the touches of luxury that abound in this car. After setting my own rear down in the front seat, the refined interior design of the cabin gave me some hint of what I was in for. Audi uses soft leather on the seats, fore and aft, and also contours them nicely. Grainy blond wood accents sit well with the green interior plastics, which have a feeling of quality all their own.
But let's jump into the electronics. The Q7 is loaded out with navigation, Bluetooth, a premium Bose sound system, voice command, and some interesting extras including Side Assist, a technology that watches for cars in the blind spots and alerts the driver. The electronics are accessed through Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI), which we've always found very usable. It also has adequate redundant controls for things such as stereo volume and temperature. The voice prompts for route guidance are delivered in a forceful tone, making me respond vocally with epithets and purposefully getting off-course to try to piss off the navigation system. It responded gracefully by quietly recalculating the route, making me feel like a heel.
The voice commands, which didn't understand my epithets, did work well enough, although the commands don't go particularly deep. It allowed me to voice-dial a phone number, which was cool, but it was very limited on navigation destination-input options. The points of interest in the navigation system also didn't offer retail stores, although it did have restaurants, gas stations, and wine shops, among others. I assumed the last was in tune with the refined Audi buyer who might need to stop off at the nearest winery on the way to a dinner party.
The stereo system has a six-disc changer, which unfortunately won't read MP3 or WMA discs. Neither is there an auxiliary input for an MP3 player. It does use Bose's CenterPoint technology, which let me direct a surround-sound experience to either the front or the rear seats, but not to the whole car. The sound quality is very clear and crisp, although it doesn't have a lot of bass depth. This car is more appropriate for symphony-goers than techno-beat enthusiasts.
The 4.2-liter V-8 puts out enough power to move this heavy Audi well, and the six-speed automatic transmission works seamlessly. As with other Audis we've had, we noticed a little hesitation after stomping the throttle, possibly due to the electronic throttle programming or the traction control preventing a tire chirp. It is a large and heavy car, though, something its exterior styling mostly hides.
I will publish a full review of our 2007 Audi Q7 next week, but so far, so good. This is a car that I'm looking forward to driving.