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Audi Q7 V12 TDi review (2008 onwards)
What – Audi Q7 V12 TDI
Where – Düsseldorf, Germany
Price – £96,295
Available – January 2009
Key rivals – Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG, BMW X6 5.0i, Lamborghini LM002, the National Grid
V12 diesel-engined Audi SUV with two turbochargers, a massive price tag and even more attitude. What else do we need to say?
We like: ridiculous torque, visual impact, spruced-up interior, rangeWe don’t like: absolutely not subtle, 2,600kg weight, the cost
Hello, monster. Well, what else do you call a 2.6-tonne SUV that can do 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds? And can you even begin to imagine the impact made by the front of this thing when it rapidly appears in a rear-view mirror? The distended honeycomb vents look fit to gorge on slower-moving traffic.And there will be plenty to feed on where this 4x4 is concerned. This is the Audi Q7 V12 TDi. Yes, TDi. This is the world's most powerful diesel passenger car. It produces 493bhp and 738lb ft of torque - that's as much torque as Mercedes' AMG 65 engine. It costs a suitably mammoth £96,295.
That's nearly one hundred grand, and a hell of a lot of cash for an Audi - let alone an Audi SUV. But this is a remarkable car. From the moment you start it up it simply oozes unmitigated power. It feels like Sellafield on wheels - and that's just at idle.The 6.0-litre V12 is apparently "remarkably space efficient". But Audi had one on a plinth next to the SUV, and it's safe to say we're talking about an immense amount of engine. Twin intercoolers, twin variable vane turbochargers - each providing a maximum 2.7 bar of boost - and a hugely sophisticated common rail injection system.
This generates 2,000 bar of maximum pressure, just like Audi's R10 sports prototype racer - which also has a V12 TDi engine. Except, the Q7's common rail system is even more complex, capable of up to five injections per cycle. Making the Q7 not just powerful but also efficient. Relatively speaking...On the road the result is a bellowing behemoth of an accelerative experience. It's not just that the Q7 is fast - which it is, very - but that the movement is at once so effortless but also so obviously the result of such serious engineering. This car feels powerful everywhere.
Even the most disinterested passenger is going to know they're in something special: from the strangely turbinous noise, which, even when muted - and it isn't always - is somehow transmitted down at the chromosome level; to the way in which regular cars - including fast ones - are passed with indifference, even disdain.There is proper shock and awe at work here. If you thought 0-62mph in 5.5 was impressive, the Q7 actually does 0-60mph in 4.9. That's as fast as an Aston Martin Vantage Roadster. Three-tenths of a second ahead of a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.6. Half a second quicker than a Mercedes SL 500.
Ok, so the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Mercedes ML 63 AMG both accelerate harder, making 62mph in 5.1 (4.8 for the S version) and 5.0 seconds respectively. But neither SUV has anywhere near the Audi's level of torque - 738lb ft being a nice round 1,000Nm, incidentally - which makes the Q7 seem so effortless.And little wonder Audi has developed a specially strengthened six-speed Tiptronic gearbox just for this car. While it does occasionally help to downshift yourself using the wheel-mounted paddles for added engine braking, for the most part this deals with the forces remarkably well. Top speed is (thankfully) limited to 155mph.
Ride and Handling
The V12 TDi gets massive state of the art carbon-ceramic brakes - borrowed from Bentley - as standard. But even with these thoroughly up to temperature we did sometimes find ourselves wishing the Q7 shed speed slightly more aggressively. Usually such wishes - we won't quite call them prayers - occurred on the way into a corner.It's not that the V12's three-setting air suspension, with its electronic dampers and roll control systems, can't cope with the Q7's thundering bulk. Rather that, given the speed you can achieve over the shortest of distances, we'd be happier if it coped a little more comprehensively. Repeated - sudden - direction changes are best avoided.
In common with all the latest quattro variants, the Q7's four-wheel drive is set up with a healthy 40:60 front-rear bias. This helps quench some of the understeer inevitably imbued by the sizable front-end presence of that engine. Once you've got the Q7 set up and leaning, grip levels are predictably determined.
The handling isn't exactly sophisticated, but it is entertaining. Got your sightline to the corner's exit all sorted? Then squeeze on some more throttle - judge everything correctly and the V12 blazes out of the bend in a mild four-wheel drift. As for the ride: 2,605-2,635kg (depending on seat layout) means bumps don't stand a chance.
Audi has done a decent job of making what is essentially the same interior as an A6 seem like something special in the Q7 V12. Leather-trimmed dashboard, gorgeous - if somewhat 'new money' - carbon-fibre inlays, Bang & Olufsen stereo option (Bose is standard), LED ambient lighting - all is included or available.Our test car even had the rather over-indulgent four-seat interior option. Imagine: all that SUV, just four passengers. But you can have five, six, or seven seats instead. Oh, and double-glazed windows if you want them. The wheels are 20-inch cast alloy, with 21s optional. The roof rails are standard...
Economy and Safety
Six airbags, electronics, and a strong structure keep you safe. But put the Q7 V12 TDi up against a regular diesel, and the economy struggles. Compare it to that Porsche Cayenne Turbo and the Mercedes ML 63 AMG, though, and the Q7 looks like a hippie. The Audi returns 25.0mpg, the Porsche 19.0, and the Merc 17.1.CO2 emissions are also comparatively impressive - 298g/km for the Q7, 358 for the Cayenne, 392 for the ML. Target buyers perhaps won't care about the cost, but they might appreciate the Audi's theoretical 550-mile range. In our hands the on-board computer registered less than half the claimed mpg overall, however.
MSN Cars Verdict 4/5
Well, it isn't exactly environmentally or politically sensitive, but Audi has built one heck of a showcase for its diesel engine technology. Buy this car not because it is the finest SUV available, but because it offers something unique: a twin-turbo V12 diesel engine with 738lb ft of torque.Both Cayenne Turbo and ML 63 are more on-road competent, faster, and cheaper, too - although if you opt for the Cayenne Turbo S only by about £6,000. But neither offers the Audi's assaulting visual presence, nor its exclusivity. Very few Q7 V12 TDis will come to the UK; if you see one, we suggest you move out of the way...
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