If you're looking for a large, luxurious crossover that doesn't pretend to be something it's not, the 2012 Audi Q7 may be your answer. Doing away with almost any pretense of off-road ruggedness in favor of on-road comfort and capability, the Q7 is luxurious, spacious, and, to many eyes, attractive.
With an available seven-seat configuration and more length than its platform mates, the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, the Q7 cuts a slightly different figure--and fits a different need. Following in Audi's mold of conservative, understated styling--aside, perhaps, from the bold front end--the Q7 also fits a different style. Inside, ample leather and wood give a warm feeling to the typical German interior design.
Power is available in several forms, including a V-6 TDI diesel that generates 225 horsepower but a stout 406 pound-feet of torque and manages 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. A pair of supercharged V-6 gasoline engines are also available for those with a greater need for speed: a 280 horsepower base model and a 333-horsepower upgrade for S Line models. The 333-hp engine shuttles the big Q7 to 60 mph in under seven seconds, but at the cost of fuel economy: it gets just 16/22 mpg from the EPA. The standard gasoline V-6 gets the same rating, however, so if you're set on gasoline and can afford the upgrade to more power, you won't lose anything at the pump. Equipped properly, the Q7 can even tow up to 6,600 pounds.
As you'd expect with the refusal to pretend about off-road capabilities beyond the minimum, the Q7 handles very well on the road, for its class. An air-adjustable suspension offers sport, comfort, and automatic modes, as well as a small amount of ride height adjustment when off-roading is necessary. Ride quality, likewise, is very good, particularly when in comfort mode, absorbing bumps and road surface imperfections with ease, the long wheelbase helping to mellow any undulations. Seating is also roomy, both up front and in the second row, though the third row in equipped models should be reserved for kids.
A wide range of standard and optional equipment is available, including a Bang & Olufsen sound system, MMI with Google Earth, and WiFi hotspot capability. Standard safety features include a full set of airbags, plus somewhat rare side thorax airbags. Lane-departure warning, a rear-view camera, and blind-spot warning are available to complement the standard ABS and stability and traction control systems. The NHTSA hasn't fully tested the Audi Q7's safety, but scores it four out of five stars for rollover resistance. The IIHS rates the 2012 Q7 its top score of "good" in front and side impact tests, but doesn't award it a Top Safety Pick.