What is it?
Audi’s spectacularly powerful range-topping Q7, the world’s first V12 diesel SUV. Not exactly a car for the times, we admit, although the uber-Q7’s massive performance is certainly worthy of note.
The Q7 V12 TDI has been developed by Audi’s quattro GmbH division – also responsible for the RS4 and RS6, as well as the mould-breaking R8. So, although the Q7 doesn’t receive the ‘R’ badge itself, it’s certainly in good company.
The 6.0-litre V12 diesel powerplant made its debut in the R8 TDI concept car earlier this year, and was inspired by the engine in the Le Mans winning R10 TDI racer. It’s based around the existing 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, sharing cylinder bore spacing but getting a 60-degree bank instead of its sibling’s 90-degrees.
It’s good for 493bhp at 3750rpm, with 737lb ft of torque from 1750 and 3250rpm – fearsome outputs even in a big four-wheel drive. For perspective, VW’s existing 5.0-litre V10 ‘unit injector’ engine pumps out 350bhp and 626lb ft, and no-one’s ever accused that of being short of shove…
What’s it like?
Given the V12 TDI Q7 tips the scales at a massive 2635kg, it’s acceleration is nothing short of spectacular. Audi claims it can dispatch 0-62mph in just 5.5sec. Top speed is electronically pegged to 155mph, but officials at quattro GmbH reckon the big seven-seater would haul beyond 180mph without the limiter.
Even more impressive, is a combined cycle economy average of 25mpg, which theoretically gives the Q7 V12 TDI a range of 550 miles. In the real world, and using the performance, that average plummets – enthusiastic use sees the trip computer showing a less impressive 12.3 mpg. Unlike many big capacity diesels, Audi’s new V12 sounds great when wound up with a heavy application of right foot, with an alluring combination of mechanical roar and exhaust blare.
As in all recent Audi models, the quattro four wheel drive system and Torsen centre differential has been set up to provide a nominal 40:60 front-to-rear drive split. And for something so vast in size, the Q7 is remarkably agile. The steering gets revised steering mapping and air spring settings, reducing the ride height by 5mm compared to the standard car, but retaining its 240mm ride height in lift mode.
The handling feels nose-heavy, unsurprising given the engine’s 300kg mass, but excellent body control helps the Q7 V12 TDI to disguise its enormous bulk. Braking is assured by massive 420mm (front) and 370mm (rear) carbon ceramic discs from the Bentley Continental GT, gripped by Brembo calipers from the RS6.
Should I buy one?
If you’re looking to combine SUV practicality, sportscar performance and diesel economy then the Q7 V12 TDI is top of the pile, although its massive pricetag makes it nearly twice as expensive as the Q7 V8 TDI.
The range-topping Q7 is a remarkable technical showpiece for Audi. It’s not a car that can be justified by rational criteria, but it’s certainly raised the bar for diesel power.