2018 Audi Q7

Comfortable, capable, and quick, the Audi Q7 is one of the best luxury SUVs on the market, a distinction we made official by awarding it two straight 10Best Trucks and SUVs awards. Our long-term example arrived after the first trophy was handed out for 2018—the first year for the second-generation Q7, which improved upon its predecessor without abandoning its best attributes. Crucially, the current Q7 shed noticeable mass while retaining its family-friendly seven-passenger seating configuration and standard Quattro all-wheel drive. A standard 252-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four now opens the Audi’s lineup, but we opted to spend 40,000 miles with the available 333-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with up to 7700 pounds of towing capacity. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board.

Our model was a top-of-the-line $65,250 Q7 Prestige, which included goodies such as LED headlights, heated and cooled front seats, four-zone automatic climate control, an 8.3-inch retractable dashboard display running Audi’s MMI infotainment system, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster dubbed Virtual Cockpit. To that we added another $10,405 worth of goodies, including the $4000 Adaptive Chassis package, which brought a variable-ride-height air-spring suspension and four-wheel steering. Thus equipped, our leather-lined Q7 practically floated over road irregularities without sacrificing handling capabilities.

Walking on Sunshine

That ride quality was even more impressive given its massive 21-inch wheels, which are part of the $1500 Titanium-Black Optic package that also includes a blacked-out grille, window surrounds, and roof rails. The extra-large rollers came wrapped in a set of Continental ContiSportContact 5 summer tires that helped the 5085-pound crossover SUV grip the tarmac around our 300-foot skidpad at 0.90 g when new and 0.88 g by the end of our testing. Braking held steady, too, with the Q7 coming to a stop from 70 mph in an almost sports-car-like 155 feet.

The Q7’s cushy ride was complemented by a cossetting cabin that showed no undue signs of wear after 40,000 miles of use. Although the tight 50/50-split third-row seat drew its fair share of ire from full-size passengers, those seated up front or on the 35/30/35-split second-row bench seat found ample space and comfortable cushioning. Coupled with the $2400 Driver Assistance package’s adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and lane-keeping-assist system, the Q7 proved a highly sought-after mount for road trips.

Big Tow

To unlock that 7700-pound maximum towing number, one must order the $550 Towing package and a $125 seven-pin connector for trailer wiring, which we of course did. With 1200 pounds more tugging ability than the body-on-frame, eight-cylinder Lexus GX460, our Q7 predictably found itself pulling a load often. Senior online editor Kevin Wilson used the Q7 to pull a 3000-pound travel trailer on a 15-day road trip around Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula. The Q7 was later called upon to tow an Airstream Nest across the state for another camping excursion, while other staffers used the Audi to haul their roll-caged cars to racetracks for lapping sessions. In every situation, the Audi pulled the trailers with ease.

Over the course of the Q7’s 40,000-mile stay we observed 20 mpg, just 1 mpg less than its EPA combined estimate. Not too shabby, given the thousands of miles we spent traveling with a trailer in tow.

Although the Q7 never left us wanting for power whether accelerating from a stop, passing a slower driver, or merging onto the freeway, time did take a toll on the SUV’s passing acceleration, with the trot from 30 to 50 mph taking 0.6 second longer than it did when new.

Double Trouble

The frequency with which we found ourselves behind the steering wheel of the agreeable Q7 did make it hard to ignore its intermittent infotainment glitches and problems. Early into the Q7’s stay, it refused to boot up its infotainment system on a cold February morning. After a restart and several minutes of driving, the system finally reset itself and returned to full functionality. After a long trouble-free stretch, we were ready to write off this misbehavior as a one-time fluke, but the problem resurfaced seven months later—and repeatedly. One after another, staff members noted complaints of infotainment-system failures. After multiple dealership visits, our Q7 was finally diagnosed with a faulty electronic control module. Following a fix that included the removal and reinstallation of the system’s central display screen, we picked up the Graphite Gray Metallic crossover with the expectation that our troubles were behind us.

Alas, our optimism was misplaced, and a month later the Q7 was once again in our local Audi store’s service bay. This time, the dealership replaced the infotainment system’s control unit (known as the 5F module in Audi-speak)—a fix that finally vanquished our infotainment foibles. It’s tempting to excuse the electronic issues as the cost of experiencing a German luxury vehicle, but this stuff really ought to just work at this point.

Although the Q7’s infotainment repairs were all covered under warranty, three of our four scheduled maintenance stops—the first visit was free—totaled $1455. That’s a hefty sum considering those stops consisted of nothing more extensive than the typical fare of oil changes, engine- and cabin-air filters, wiper blades, and inspections. By comparison, our favorite nonluxury mid-size SUV, the Mazda CX-9, cost $615 to service over the course of its recent 40,000-mile stay. We also had to foot the $536 bill for a broken passenger-side sun visor in the Q7. Other than BMW, where maintenance is gratis for the first three years or 36,000 miles, this seems to be the price of German luxury.

Due to an alignment issue that caused uneven wear, we had to eat $727 for a pair of front tires at 20,408 miles. After installing the rubber on the Audi’s 10-spoke wheels ourselves, we dropped another $600 to have our local Audi dealer perform an alignment. What caused the Q7 to lose its alignment remains a mystery, but the problem never resurfaced, whether on the stock summer tires or on the Pirelli Scorpions that we installed during winter months.

Here’s where we forgive it anyway: The Q7 truly is a diamond among gems. The big Audi deftly combines the interior finery, comfort, and handling prowess of a luxury sports sedan with all the towing and hauling proficiency most people ever need. It’s the rightful leader of the mid-size luxury-SUV segment.

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