All-wheel steering is now offered in the Porsche 911, and in the Acura RLX sedan. The Acura system requires a bit of a learning curve to understand exactly when the rear wheels are going to pivot and give you a predictable, pronounced nudge—hopefully back onto your indended, non-understeer trajectory.
German, on a French Curve
Compared to that Acura system, the Audi system provides less of the nudge and more of a consistent, French-curve-tightening of your cornering arc. From the driver’s seat it feels as if the vehicle is no longer pivoting around its rear wheels but, momentarily, a point a lot closer to your tailbone. It’s slightly unsettling in maybe the first few tight hairpins, as you might actually dial in more steering input than needed; but beyond that it’s completely intuitive and fluid.
Reduced to its essence, all-wheel steer helps correct for improper lane positions on curvy roads and acts as an additional window of safety. It erases some weight and pretends the wheelbase is shorter, making this three-row model feel like a two-row crossover.
And what differentiates Audi’s Auto mode—for the suspension, steering, throttle, and transmission—from those in other luxury vehicles, Underberg explained, is that it doesn’t merely switch back and forth between maps for Dynamic and Comfort characteristics; it instead builds its own, choosing the best behavior for each input.
This fancy chassis stuff is all very exclusive
There’s a very big asterisk attached to this. The all-wheel steering system and adaptive suspension are only available in a so-called $4,000 Adaptive Chassis package—which you can only add to a top Q7 Prestige model, then adding up to at least $68,300 (and likely well beyond the $70k mark with other options). Audi expects Q7s with that option to comprise less than five percent of U.S. sales.
This sounds a lot like what happened to GM's Quadrasteer, which at the time was impressive technology—though never properly packaged. GM spokesman Otie McKinley today points to the cost of that system as being more than customers were willing to pay. Let's hope Audi finds a way to bring this system to more Q7s.
The good news is that the standard-issue Q7, with its steel-spring suspension (yes, there are plenty of aluminum alloy components underneath, too) drives nearly as well. It doesn’t tweak the laws of physics in quite the same way, or completely quell side-to-side pitchiness in quite the same way, but it’s predictable and progressive and still makes this big crossover feel quite nimble.
And what you get in powertrain performance is the same across the entire model lineup, for now. The Q7 is powered by Audi’s now-familiar 3.0-liter supercharged gasoline V-6, making 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, and mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Diesel and Hybrid models are on the way, and more fuel-efficient, value-priced 2.0T model will be brought into the mix later in the model year; but in the meantime, EPA ratings for this engine are at 19 mpg city, 25 highway, and over around 250 miles of pretty rapid twisty-road driving, over several vehicles, we saw an average around 20 mpg.
The air suspension might help both high-speed fuel efficiency and driving ease on the trail or in heavy snowfall, as it raises the ride height 2.4 inches in the Offroad setting and automatically lowers the height an extra 1.2 inches below normal in high-speed 99-mph-plus) driving. Towing capacity is 7,700, provided you’ve ordered the towing package, and that capacity is the same whether you have the rear-wheel steering system and air suspension or not.