Audi Q7 V12 TDI (2008) review

By Glen Waddington 18 September 2008

By Glen Waddington

18 September 2008

There are big numbers at play with the Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Try these for size: 2635kg (big SUV), V12 (the first 12-cylinder diesel engine yet fitted to a passenger vehicle), 493bhp (it’s the most powerful, too), 738lb ft (that’s one hell of a stack of torque) and £96,295 (yes, you read that right). The question is, do all the numbers add up?

Hmm. 738lb ft? In an Audi Q7? Tell me how that feels

Short answer? Fantastic – but with provisos.
This car is all about its engine. We’re used to the Q7, and most of us would be happy to ‘make do’ with the V8 TDI – at £50,695 it’s barely half the price of the V12. Audi is playing on the V12 TDI’s sheer scale (remember those numbers), and the fact that its engine is related to that of Audi’s R10 Le Mans-winner, to market it at the top of the SUV pile.

Start the engine and you’re immediately aware of its presence. It throbs quite vocally, almost malevolently. Slot the selector into Drive, a blast on the go-pedal and you’re away. Immediately, the thrust feels like the kind of experience you’d more normally associate with Boeing badges and a runway. Yes, 738lb ft, even in something this heavy, feels quite extraordinary.

Extraordinary, yes. But what’s the catch?

Well, all too soon you run into the red line. That’s fine in itself because you’ve got six ratios to play with, so the mad assault on the horizon continues unabated. Yet you feel slightly cheated because you just want the thrust to continue seamlessly, with the revs rising to match. It would be churlish to call it frustrating.

So maybe the Q7’s put me in a churlish mood, because there’s another problem too. It just doesn’t sound alluring. Vivid, yes. Threatening, yes. Belligerent, dramatic, exciting, even. But it’s not remotely appealing for its own sake, just a loud, booming resonance, with no hard edges nor any subtle tones with which to enthrall you. No, it just bullies your ears then hits the red and shifts up a gear.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi Q7 V12 TDI first drive

Er, does it handle?

What do you think? This is no sports car. It feels extremely big (it is extremely big). Hustle it and you might breathe in when something comes the other way, and it pitches and dives as you come on and off the throttle. But it’s not difficult or heavy to drive. The steering’s numb, not especially quick, but at least it’s linear. There isn’t much roll, and body control is decent over longwave undulations. Surface bumps are smothered away with a shrug and a shudder under 2635kg of steel, so it’s pretty comfortable. But if you want a sports car with this kind of power, status and price, buy a Merc SL63.

So what else does nearly £100k get you?

The Q7 V12 TDI is pretty much fully loaded: DVD sat-nav, Bose sounds, heated seats front and back, ceramic brakes, xenons, electric tailgate, air suspension. Extra money buys a Bang & Olufsen stereo, with cute tweeters that pop out of the dash when you switch on the ignition (Walcot and co will love that), and there’s no doubt the Q7 has the potential to be the coolest wheels before the Premiership’s decided this season.

What it doesn’t have is the cabin ambience of a £100k motor - you’ll pay extra for the leather-covered dash that does that job. Fine Audi finish or not, the big slab of soft-touch plastic looks a bit downmarket at this price.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi Q7 V12 TDI first drive

Could I live with myself if I bought one?

Only you can seriously answer that question, but I’ll give you a guide. Audi is expecting to shift around 40 V12 TDIs in Britain next year, which doesn’t leave many after the Arsenal/Chelsea/Man Utd crowd have ordered theirs. But, then, as Lehman Brothers collapses (and others surely follow), will there actually be 40 Brits who can afford one?

Audi makes some interesting claims about efficiency: the Q7 V12 TDI is apparently 44 percent more economical than its closest petrol-fired rival, and its emissions per unit of engine capacity (53g/km per 1000cc) look highly efficient compared with the Range Rover 4.2 (89g/km per 1000cc) or the Porsche Cayenne Turbo (74g/km per 1000cc).

Fine - but the Audi sports an extra litre or two, so you couldn’t exactly call it green. And I thought zeitgeist was a German word.

Verdict

In a field of, er, one, the Audi Q7 V12 TDI is the undisputed champ – and you should either love it or hate it. Yet, in fact, it’s possible to be a bit ambiguous, and that’s this particular Q7’s problem.

It’s top of a tree that just didn’t need a branch this high. If you really wanted to tell the world that ecology is a thing of the past, you might want to have a bit more fun behind the wheel while you’re doing it – one last blast before the straightjacket goes on. And, no matter how creative Audi might be with the green stats, you know and I know that if you cane this thing everywhere, you’ll never see 25mpg.

So those big numbers add up to a sense of bewilderment. If you want to be truly wicked, best look elsewhere, because you won’t necessarily enjoy killing the planet in this car.

Would you buy an Audi Q7 V12 TDi? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Statistics

How much? £96,295
On sale in the UK: January 2009
Engine: Engine 5934cc 48v twin-turbo diesel V12, 493bhp @ 3750rpm, 738lb ft @ 1750-3250rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 5.5sec 0-62mph, 155mph (ltd), 25.0mpg, 298g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 2635kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 5063/2000/1772

Ratings

Handling 3 out of 5
Performance 3 out of 5
Usability 4 out of 5
Feelgood factor 3 out of 5
CAR's Rating 3 out of 5

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