Audi Q7 gets new look, diesel version for 2010

2009 Audi Q7

Audi Q7

2009 Audi Q7

Audi Q7

2009 Audi Q7

Prices for the redesigned 2010 Audi Q7 sport utility vehicle begin at $46,900 (plus $825 freight) for the base 3.6-liter V-6 model and run as high as $61,000 for the 4.2-liter V-8, the luxury brand of the German automaker Volkswagen said this week.

But the biggest news is the introduction of a diesel version of the midsize Q7, the TDI model, which begins at $50,900. It arrived last spring as a 2009 model, but its price does not change for 2010.

The Q7's base price represents an increase of $3,400 from the $43,500 of the 2009 V-6 model, while the V-8's price was raised $1,780.

All Q7 models come with Audi's Quattro full-time all-wheel-drive system, and all are equipped with the Tiptronic six-speed automatic transmission, which has a manual-shift feature for sportier driving.

The TDI model uses the same 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine that Volkswagen also has introduced for 2010 in the Touareg SUV, which is built on the same architecture as the Q7. The Touareg is shorter and can accommodate only five passengers, however, while the Q7 is offered with a third row of seating and can handle up to seven people.

The diesel engine is rated at 225 horsepower and 406 foot-pounds of torque, and has EPA mileage estimates of 17 mpg city/25 highway, compared with 14/20 for the V-6 gasoline model and 13/18 for the V-8.

With its 26.4-gallon tank, the Q7 TDI can go more than 600 miles between refueling, Audi says. This is a new “clean diesel” engine that meets U.S. Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle smog standards and eliminates the telltale black tailpipe smoke of earlier diesel engines.

Audi says the Q7 TDI “qualifies for a $1,150 Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit from the Internal Revenue Service for a limited time due to the fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions of its clean diesel technology.”

The torque of the TDI engine gives it great pickup, allowing for easy freeway on-ramp merges and for towing trailers weighing up to 6,600 pounds.

Unlike the Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne SUV, which also is built on the same architecture, the all-wheel-drive system of the Q7 does not offer low-range gearing for serious off-road driving.

That's a shame because the Cayenne and Touareg are two of the most capable off-road vehicles on the market. I've taken the Touareg on trails in the Moab, Utah, area where the only other vehicles able to negotiate them were modified Jeep Wranglers.

But the fact is that most people who buy premium SUVs have no intention of ever taking them off-road.

Audi says the 2010 Q7 has “markedly updated exterior and interior features,” although the vehicle still looks pretty much the same as last year's model.

Among changes are “the most innovative execution to date of the Audi signature LED lighting,” the company said, which includes standard LED taillights and optional LED turn signals and daytime running lights.

Other new exterior features include new wheel choices, front and rear bumpers, headlights and taillights, grille, mirror housings and lower body panels. The new grille is has a gloss-black finish with vertical chrome strips.

Audi says that equipment packages for the 3.6 and TDI models “begin at the Premium level,” while the 4.2 model has “Prestige level packaging” (and more standard amenities).

Inside, there are new optional ventilated front seats, a new decorative inlay on the passenger side of the dashboard, more ambient lighting on the doors, a new multimedia interface, additional chrome accents and a few other tweaks.

The navigation system has a “richly detailed” three-dimensional map, Sirius traffic information and a joystick controller.

It also is capable of taking voice commands to direct the driver to various destinations. They include such simple statements as “I'm hungry,” “I need gas” and “I need coffee,” which then are translated into guidance to the nearest locations.

The Q7 has a federal five-star crash safety rating and has been designated a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Standard safety features include electronic stability control with traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, front seat-mounted side air bags and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all passengers.

Luxury features abound, including automatic climate control.

Both gasoline engines come with direct fuel injection, which helps improve fuel economy.