Go back about a decade, and Audi’s audacity was on full display. Its first supercar, the R8, had just recently debuted; the R10 V-12 diesel race car took the checkered flag at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the A8L W12 galvanized Audi’s place among full-size luxury sedans; and in Europe, Audi introduced a hedonistic version of its Q7 SUV. Powered by a snarling, turbo-diesel 6.0-liter V-12 with 500 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque, the Q7 V12 TDI was a literal heavyweight at more than 5700 pounds and was offered only to its European customers for the equivalent of about $185,000, making it the most expensive Audi of its day.
Since then, Audi’s grandiosity has receded somewhat from that high-water mark. The brand has pulled out of endurance racing. The R8 may be super-er than ever, but 12-cylinder full-size luxury sedans like the A8 W12 are an endangered species. The Q7 V12 TDI’s successor, the SQ7 TDI, has lost four cylinders, a chunk of torque, and is half the price. And here we are in a version of the Q7 that the market hadn’t considered or wanted back in 2008, powered by an engine with one-third of that mighty diesel’s displacement and cylinder count: the Q7 2.0T Quattro.
Faint Praise for the Four-Pot
Since you’ve probably already glanced at the spec panel, you may be surprised (as were we, frankly) that with just 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, the Q7 2.0T accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds in our testing, a not-at-all-terrible number for a three-row luxury SUV. This could never have been possible without the extensive use of aluminum in the second-generation Q7’s slightly downsized body and redesigned suspension, resulting in the loss of hundreds of pounds compared to its predecessor. Indeed, at 4776 pounds with a full tank, this Q7 weighed approximately half a ton less than the Q7 V12 TDI and is 309 pounds lighter than our long-term Q7 3.0T.
That said, the 2.0T doesn’t feel that spry all the time. The 8.2-second street start figure shows the extent to which downshifting and turbo lag hinder acceleration, so unless one toggles the shifter into Sport mode and/or places the engine in Dynamic mode via the Audi Drive Select system, sluggishness is almost unavoidable. We found ourselves pushing the pedal to the floor often, which didn’t help our fuel economy. Over the course of its stay, the 2.0T averaged 18 mpg, 4 mpg less than the EPA’s 22-mpg combined rating and 2 mpg less than we’ve seen so far in our long-term Q7 3.0T. At least the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and crisply, particularly in Sport mode or when shifting manually with the shift lever or steering-wheel paddles. And all through the rev range, the four-cylinder spins with a sinewy smoothness commensurate with its luxurious host vehicle.
The Q7 2.0T’s comparatively lower curb weight also helps it feel nimble and responsive, changing direction quickly and predictably. But even with its optional 19-inch wheels and 255/55 all-season tires (a $1000 upgrade from the standard 18-inch wheels and 255/60-series tires), its lateral grip of 0.80 g was markedly lower than the sports-car-like 0.90 g of our overachieving long-termer. We should note that our long-term Q7 benefits from the optional, $4000 Adaptive Chassis package (adaptive air suspension and four-wheel steering), 21-inch wheels, and low-profile 285/40 series tires, none of which are available with the four-banger. Even so, the base Q7 suspension ably absorbs bumps and keeps the body from rolling excessively.
The four-cylinder’s more modest rolling stock might also account for the Q7’s disappointing 186-foot stopping distance from 70 mph, a whopping 31 feet longer than our heavier 3.0T despite using same substantial 14.8-inch front and 13.8-inch rear brake discs. The Q7 2.0T’s optional 20-inch wheels and 285/45-series all-season run-flat tires that might represent a worthwhile expenditure, especially considering that they only cost another $800 more than the 19s on this vehicle. Oh, and take note, towing enthusiasts, as this one is rated to tug a trailer up to 4400 pounds.
The relative humility of our test example was accentuated by its color scheme. Painted in Florett Silver (a $575 option), this model’s exterior was downright boring, and nowhere near as cool as our Graphite Grey long-term Q7 3.0T’s, with its Titanium-Black Optic package and aforementioned 21-inch wheels. Only close inspection reveals the styling nuances of the Q7’s design, including flared rear fenders, serrated grille vanes, and skid-plate-like lower bumper details. Helping somewhat were full-LED headlights and taillights that are part of the $2000 Vision package, which also includes a top-view camera system and Audi’s nifty 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster.
That Virtual Cockpit display, in fact, was the highlight of our test Q7’s interior, which was outfitted with black leather. While we’ve sampled several other 2017 Q7s with more stylish color schemes, this one’s blackness was downright gloomy, its dark gray oak wood inlays barely noticeable anywhere except for the center console. (The memory card with our interior images became corrupted, so the photos in our gallery show a brown interior from a different Q7 2.0T; we think it looks far less dire.) Only after more time spent pressing its haptically perfected buttons and switches, scanning the razor-sharp resolution of both the Virtual Cockpit and the stand-up infotainment screen, and appreciating the sensible logic of its MMI infotainment system does one come to enjoy the refinement of the Q7’s cabin. Front and rear seating areas feel open and expansive, thanks in no small part to the standard panoramic sunroof. We can’t say the same for the third row, which is best left for wee ones or folded to make way for cargo.
At least our test Q7’s price didn’t climb into the stratosphere from its $49,950 starting point. Even with the options already mentioned, the $4000 Premium Plus package (including keyless entry and starting, MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch, smartphone integration, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, a power steering column, LED interior lighting, and more), the $500 Cold Weather package (heated steering wheel and rear seats), and the $350 rear side airbags, the our test car was comfortably under $60K, totaling out to $58,375.
This experience with the 2.0T didn’t necessarily burnish our enthusiasm for the Q7 somewhat, but it remains our favorite mid-size luxury SUV. Neither did it diminish our anticipation for some of the more exciting Q7 variants that Audi has planned in the future, including an electric Q7 and even a possible RS Q7. We would advocate for upgrading to the $6500-pricier 3.0T, however, and barring that, at least get an interesting color.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $58,375 (base price: $49,950)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 121 cu in, 1984 cc
Power: 252 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 117.9 in
Length: 199.6 in
Width: 77.5 in Height: 68.5 in
Passenger volume: 136 cu ft
Cargo volume: 15 cu ft
Curb weight: 4776 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 7.0 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 19.2 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 31.1 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 4.2 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.4 sec @ 91 mph
Top speed (governor limited, mfr's claim): 130 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 186 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.80 g
EPA combined/city/highway: 22/20/25 mpg
C/D observed: 18 mpg