The Return of the Magnificent 7

I’m a sucker for sports cars. I love the cacophony of a throaty, high-revvin’ motor racing up to its red-line max. I adore carving mountain curves on the ragged edge—tires squealing, brakes smoking, blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror.

Well, maybe not that last part.

While I enjoy the occasional thrill ride, my daily reality is a little different. Life in the fast lane for me is bumper-to-bumper traffic on Tamiami Trail. It’s that stop-start crawling, and I’m going nowhere fast.

At least in this scenario I’m relaxing behind the wheel of the new Audi Q7. This luxury SUV essentially pilots itself, so I’m resting easy with one hand loosely brushing the wheel, feet off the pedals, mind at ease, chatting away with my passengers.

This dreamy scene comes courtesy of the appropriately named Traffic Jam Assist feature. With more sensors than a CIA listening post, it keeps the Audi centered in its lane at a perfect, pre-set distance from the car in front and at the exact speed as the surrounding traffic.

If some distracted driver slams on his brakes and the world grinds to a halt, so will the Q7. When your fellow stop-starters finally move on, this Audi will automatically follow. Stress? What stress?

Of course, much of this tech is available on many of the Q7’s rivals, including Volvo’s benchmark XC90, Mercedes’ new GLS, and Acura’s MDX. But once you add all this technology to the Audi’s mile-long list of other can’t-live-without features, that’s when the Q7 really starts to shine.

When Audi launched the Q7 back in 2007, it was the luxury SUV of choice for anyone anti Range Rover. But after going 10 years without a makeover, it faded from public consciousness. A decade without a new look is an eternity for our love-of-the-latest society.

Now, the Q7 is back with a vengeance, boasting razor-edged styling and a slimmer frame. Just how much banished bulk are we talking? A whopping 474 pounds, thanks to a diet of lightweight aluminum and high-strength steel.

As a lover of the original Q7’s rounded lines, it took me a while to embrace this alternative look. Especially the reimagined front end with its trapezoidal grille. Distinctive? Yes. Subtle? No.

But open the door, slide behind the wheel, and the appeal of this seven-seat Audi becomes obvious. It’s gorgeous, with beautiful features such as colorful LED lighting, a panoramic glass roof, and an all-digital dashboard dubbed the Virtual Cockpit.

The quality, fit, finish, and tactile delight of the leathers and plastics are just outstanding. All this with a base price of around $55,000, or $70-grand very nicely loaded.

The cabin’s versatility is exceptional. The second and third rows flip and fold to accommodate any mix of cargo and passengers. With everything flat, the load floor stretches almost 80 inches long, swallowing up to 72 cubic feet of stuff. There are Pods storage units smaller than this.

For the time being, there’s just one engine choice: Audi’s proven 3-liter, supercharged V-6 mated to an 8-speed automatic with standard Quattro all-wheel drive. It’s a joyful powertrain boasting a healthy 333-horsepower to punch the 2.5-ton Q7 from standstill to 60 mph in a rapid 5.7 seconds. As a long-distance, hushed, high-speed cruiser, it is simply superb.

Yet, here is a big SUV that drives more like a luxury sedan, with athletic, sure-footed handling, a velvet-smooth ride, and super-precise steering. Think of it more as a wagon version of Audi’s flagship A8 sedan rather than a load-carrying sport-ute.

Of course, I’m waiting with bated breath for the next-generation Q7, the one that will pilot itself. Maybe in another 10 years, if I’m lucky.


PRICE: $54,800/$68,925 as tested
ENGINE: 3-liter supercharged V-6
POWER: 333-hp
TORQUE: 325 pound-feet
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
0-60: 5.7 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155 mph
LENGTH/WIDTH: 199.6/77.5 inches
WHY WE LIKE IT: Because it drives like a sports sedan but can carry seven in comfort.

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