When Porsche is in your DNA, then even sports utility vehicles can rise above themselves. Like the Audi Q7 – it comes from the stable that produced the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Toureg.
And it can actually venture off road, not just off pavement. Audi Q7 also is just at home on the tarmac.
All of this falls under the "performance" heading – not something usually associated with an SUV.
The Q7 supplies all of the above – at a price of course. Our tester topped out at $65,210. It costs more to run as well – fuel economy is only 14 in the city at 19 on the road. (A 3.6L V-6 is thriftier but not as much fun.)
Its V-8 engine packs a punch: the 4.2L V-8 exerts 350 horsepower, coming up to 60 mph in an exhilarating 7.7 seconds via a six-speed automatic transmission. There are little paddle shifters on the steering wheel for the do-it-yourselfers.
High-performance brakes and electronic stability control join all this get-up-and-go.
To that comes one of the better four-wheel drive systems, the Audi quattro all-wheel. It distributes power where and when needed both on road and off. That means around 42 percent of the power normally goes to the front wheels and 58 percent to the rear, though that can vary with as much as 85 percent going to the back wheels and 65 percent up front.
If you're venturing into the boonies that's the sort of thing you want especially if it's aided by a center differential, roll-over sensing Hill Descent Assist and 20 – count 'em – 20-inch tires.
There's anti-lock braking, of course, and speed sensitive steering. An eight-way power and heated seat puts drivers in real command. The steering wheel has cruise and audio and electrically telescopes and tilts. There's a backup camera, too.
•Engines: 3.6L V-6; 4.2L V-8
•Dimensions: 118.2" wheelbase; 200.2" length
•Base price: $59,900; As tested $65,210
•Fuel economy: 14/19 mpg
The ride on pavement is nicely compliant, swooping over pavement dips. Curves are taken directly as pointed and the Q7 remains upright – kind of like a queen mother.
Yet the Q7 always feels surefooted, adding to its fun-to-drive quotient. This is a nice long-distance cruiser aided by the navigation system.
On the interior, there's something called "cricket leather" seats with matching grain-wood finishes. There are three rows of seats, the third folding away. The rear seats, as well as the front ones, are heated. The sound system has 14 speakers or nearly two per occupant.
The sunroof is composed of three panels with the front and rear panels opening.
The exterior roofline apes that of a coupe. The wheel arches are prominent and the Audi grille is very large.
Now if Audi would just make a minivan.