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12 cylinders of the apocalypse. Image by Audi.

12 cylinders of the apocalypse
Audi drops its V12 TDI Le Mans engine into the Q7 SUV and drops the ball in the process.

 



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| First Drive | Dusseldorf, Germany | Audi Q7 V12 TDI |

Audi is justifiably proud of its V12 TDI engine. It has won Le Mans with it, showcased it in an R8 concept and now it's squeezed under the bonnet of the Q7 SUV to create a monstrous performance machine. This is a 6.0-litre, 493bhp, 738lb.ft V12 TDI flagship that's able to sprint to 62mph in 5.5 seconds and trouble its 155mph electronic limiter in no time. A car for these times then? Err, no.

In the Metal

Wearing the usual accoutrements that accompany a performance makeover the Q7 is certainly an imposing machine. From the huge, assertive front end, with its LED lights and butch grille, to the massive wheels filling the large wheelarches the Q7 V12 TDI isn't for shy, retiring types. The Q7 has always been vast, but just knowing that there's an engine under its bonnet with such mighty twisting power only seems to make it seem more so. The Q7's styling has always been a bit Marmite: some love it, others just don't get it. We fall into the later category - the Q7's shape lacking the purity and architectural quality that pervades the rest of the Audi range.

What you get for your Money

You don't get quite as much for your money as you might expect. Audi hasn't exactly thrown kit at the Q7 V12 TDI. Though it should have, as it's asking crazy money for the new SUV flagship. For the pleasure of owning one you'll need to part with 96,295, which is almost double the price you'll pay for the next model down in the Q7 line-up. Audi points at its ceramic brakes, DVD navigation and Bose audio, but at this level it's rather surprising to see there's an options list at all. But there is, Audi happy to relieve you of more of your hard earned (or perhaps not hard earned if you've been injured for most of the football season) for its Bang and Olufsen stereo, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane assist and side assist among others.

Driving it

It is impossible to stifle a giggle when you first prod the Q7 V12 TDI's accelerator and feel the energy being released to the road through the Q7's quattro four-wheel drive. Nothing this big and heavy should be able to lunge forward so forcefully. The figures say that 62mph arrives in just 5.5 seconds, which is quite incredible. Top speed is limited electronically to 155mph, and it's difficult to predict just how fast the Q7 might go if the electronics were to be removed.

What's not so impressive is the noise from under the bonnet. It's almost as if, in attempting to squeeze all that engine up front, Audi has been unable to add soundproofing. The sound it makes isn't rousing or tuneful, and it lacks the culture of V8 petrol rivals, or indeed its 4.2-litre V8 TDI relative. There's a pounding resonance that fills the cabin at constant speeds. It's all rather intrusive and really rather unpleasant in what should be a refined, effortless machine. Give us a burbling, rich V8 note any day. If the scale and noise of the Q7 doesn't reign in your enthusiasm to push it then the body control will. Push the accelerator and it squats on its suspension, while it will stand on its nose when you squeeze those ceramic brake discs. Add steering that's lacking in feel and the Q7 lacks the finesse to take on more dynamic rivals.

Worth Noting

The badge says TDI so the expectation is of decent economy and emissions. In fairness Audi's engineers have somehow managed to eke 25mpg out of it on the official combined cycle and have it produce 'only' 298g/km of CO2. That's almost as good as its 4.2-litre TDI quattro relative. Speaking of which, you could have that 4.2 TDI for nearly half the price of the Q7 V12 TDI. And don't think you'd be short changed on the performance stakes either, as it only takes a single second longer to reach 62mph and isjust as fast in real-word daily driving. That and 46,000 in change is a serious argument for the V12's V8 TDI relative.

Summary

Audi seems to have rather misunderstood the zeitgeist, producing a pointless flagship for its Q7 range. Sure, it's a turbodiesel, but it's still very difficult to justify. Audi UK reckons the Q7 V12 TDI will find 40-50 owners here, there just about enough Premiership footballers to make that achievable. This would be forgivable as a congratulatory pat on the back for itself for its Le Mans success if the Q7 V12 TDI were an outstanding car, but it's far from it: its cheaper relatives are far more desirable ownership propositions.

Kyle Fortune - 19 Sep 2008









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2009 Audi Q7 specifications:
Price: 96,295 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Combined economy: 25.0mpg
Emissions: 298g/km
Kerb weight: 2605kg

Full technical specifications

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.



2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 

2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI. Image by Audi.
 






 

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