Audi Releases its First SUV
by JASON MOORE
At the height of the SUV craze, Audi of America's then-president glorify his company that it seemed to be the only one not making an SUV. He even jokingly suggested Audi should adopt 7-Up's slogan and start calling itself "the un-SUV" car company.
His joke was accepted due to 3 reasons: the luxury SUV segment did not really exist at the time; all of Audi's vehicles were available with quattro all-wheel drive for car buyers who needed or wanted it; and he could not predict how enthusiastically consumers would embrace SUVs even extremely expensive ones.
Over the past couple of years, dramatic fuel price increases have had an equally dramatic impact on consumer demand for SUVs. So it seemed as if the introduction last month of Audi's first-ever SUV, the Q7, was poorly timed. But industry statistics insinuate demand for premium SUVs remains high even as interest in mainstream models declines.
And Audi's sales statistics certainly suggest that timing isn’t bad after all. The Q7 has been selling fairly well. It's difficult to cite specific figures for the Q7 didn't debut until June 2006. However, sales increased 26 percent this June and about 10 percent the first half of this year.
The least expensive Q7, which was the 3.6 base model, starts at about $40,000, while the most expensive Q7, the 4.2 Premium, costs around 20 grand more.
The fire-breathing, V8-powered 4.2 has a lower EPA mileage rating, and both models run on premium petrol. The diesel-powered 3.0 TDI BlueTec, which due for release until next year, is supposed to get about 20 percent better mileage than the Q7 3.6.
Audi says the Q7 3.6 takes an uninspiring 8.2 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph. It feels quicker because its throttle response is about as smooth as a buggy ride on a dirty road. On the highway, things smooth out, and the Q7 shines in passing situations. Other than that, the Q7 thrives on the highway in other respects. It feels so secure and stable it seems as if it could be safely driven at twice the legal speed limit.
Around town and on back roads, the Q7 feels solid and stable as well. An impressive list of high-tech, performance-enhancing suspension features include quattro all-wheel drive and electronic anti-skid and anti-roll protection. This combine with an excellently designed suspension that keep the Q7 planted and help it go where it is aimed.
The Q7 has a weight of 5,200-pound. And after experiencing how effortless it is to make the Q7 consume long, winding stretches of country roads, it’s hard to imagine that it weighs well over 2 tons.
As expected in a premium SUV, it also offers the kind of upscale interior, superior seating, and assortment of standard and optional features.
All Audi vehicles come with quality Audi catalytic converter. So expect that Q7 with one.
Proud to be the only one not making an SUV then, Audi probably is now proud to have its first SUV.