Mar 202017
 

Riding the wave of growing sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales, the premium SUV segment reported an increase in sales year to date by five percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The segment is not the largest, but when you drop an average of $60K on a premium SUV, be prepared for lots of bells and whistles.

Latino Traffic Report recently drove the all-new 2017 Audi Q7 for a weeklong test drive. Its premium appointments inside stood out, but not all were standard and the extras did cost a pretty penny.

What sets an Audi apart in the segment is its performance heritage. The Q7 gets its power from a 3.0-liter V6 with 333 horses and 325 lb.–ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission—hence the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It’s also equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.

The EPA expected fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. I averaged 21.1 mpg.

Like most premium SUVs, the Q7 adheres to expectations, with plush leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a singular infotainment system, MMI—Audi’s is less intuitive than others, but I did like that it allowed for 48 different radio presets.

The test model also included red, white, and blue, interior lighting accent strips, a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled seats in the front, and a power liftgate. What really distinguished Audi’s interior, besides the fit and finish, were features like a pop-up display above the center stack that displays navigation maps and other functions. With seating for seven, it has a convenient button to release the third-row bench to fold flat. The second row, was not automatic and therefore, a little less easy to deploy.

Unique safety features like  Audi pre-sense basic and pre-sense plus that help detect and mitigate a potential collision, were also included.As mentioned earlier, additional creature comforts came at a price.

The Prestige Package ($9,500) added 20-inch ten spoke wheels, the Bose 3D surround sound stereo system, navigation, and a heads up display on the windshield, Audi Connect Prime and Plus, Audi Connect Care, and my favorite safety features, a blind spot monitor and rear parking sensor. For $4,000, the Q7 amped up its ride and handling with an Adaptive Chassis Package that included air suspension and four-wheel steering. The Driver Assistance Package ($2,400) added adaptive cruise control, another of my favorite features, active lane assist, and traffic sign recognition. Finally, the Cold Weather Package ($500) included a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.

Redesigned for 2017, the second-generation Q7 has a starting price of $55,750.The as-tested price came to $72,875.

 

Sí: The Audi Q7 lives up to its premium brand with sophisticated design, inside and out.

No: Upgrades to the Q7 can add up quickly.

Apr 282016
 

2015-10-13 audi.A7

Luxury sedan buyers seek status, style, and performance. A recent test drive by Latino Traffic Report revealed that the 2016 Audi A7 fits the bill.

The A7’s appeal begins with a distinctive exterior, accentuated by design cues that several brands have emulated, i.e. how many trapezoidal grilles can you count on the road?

2015-10-13 audi.A72For the current model year, the A7 received a new front fascia with LED headlights that emit the Audi light signature (also widely copied), a widened grille, LED taillights, and new trapezoidal tailpipes at the rear. Its long and sleek silhouette belies its midsize classification.

A 3.0-liter V6 supercharged turbo engine powers the A7 (diesel engines have been removed from the lineup for the time being). Matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel and equipped with quattro permanent all-wheel drive, the engine achieves 333 horsepower and 325 lb.–ft. of torque. This powertrain accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds. The EPA estimated fuel economy is 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. I averaged 32.2 mpg.

2015-10-13 A7.stackA beautiful exterior demands an exceptionally plush interior, and that’s what the A7 delivers. While I would expect to find heated leather seats and real wood accents, the test model pushed the envelope a bit further with the optional ($700) layered Walnut inlays.

Inside, the A7 offers plenty of cabin space, including 37 inches of rear legroom and 24.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity in the trunk. The 60/40-split rear seat expands cargo room further. As an added premium touch, the test model included a power button on the trunk, akin to one on a power liftgate.

Infotainment technology begins with an eight-inch center screen that displays the Audi MMI system featuring Audi connect that allows access to the internet via a 4G LTE connection, as well as an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot for passenger devices. Plus, there’s a CD player.

The A7 also comes with a power sunroof, power adjust steering column, four-zone climate control, a rearview camera, parking sensors, and navigation.2015-10-13 A7.camera

Available safety technology for 2016 includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, enhanced night vision assist, and the Audi pre-sense system. The test model also included Audi active lane assist that helps keep the vehicle in its lane, so much so, however, that it can feel aggressive, like a ghost in the machine.

Available in two trim levels, Premium Plus or Prestige, Audi A7 2016 pricing starts at $69,225. I drove the Prestige that added $2,650 to the price including the Bose surround sound stereo, ventilated front seats, LED interior lighting, and the head-up display.

2015-10-13 A7rearWith three additional packages, the as-tested price came to $77,725.

: The A7 will not disappoint buyers looking for a status symbol with a distinctive design and plush interior.

No: Too many safety and tech features come as part of packages rather than standard features, escalating the price substantially.

May 042015
 

2015-04-15 Q5

Once car prices pass the $40,000 mark, there should be little to complain about. Folks will pay at least that much for the 2015 Audi Q5 luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV). On a recent test drive in Austin, TX, there was indeed, lots to like, and a little not, about the elegant SUV.

The specific test model was the Q5 TDI quattro Tiptronic. Few manufacturers have remained as committed to selling diesel powertrains in the United States as Volkswagen, and the same goes for its luxury brand, Audi.

More refined than ever, diesels are quieter and cleaner, but efforts to dispel old sooty images remain a challenge. I literally forgot that I was driving a diesel and its impressive EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway made it so I didn’t need to pump more fuel. The fuel economy on the diesel even surpasses that of the Q5 Hybrid.

Elegant two-tone leather seats.

Elegant two-tone leather seats.

The powertrain includes a 3.0-liter V6 clean diesel engine with 240 horsepower and 428 lb–ft of torque, matched to an eight-speed Tiptronic engine with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for simulated manual shifting.

There is an average fuel economy calculator onboard to measure fuel efficiency, and once I found it using the Owners Manual (it was hidden behind the Tiptronic shifter on the steering wheel and attached to the windshield wiper wand), it showed my average mpg hovering at around 31.5.

As the name implies, the Q5 also came equipped with the quattro all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. It reduces fuel economy a tad but provides added confidence on slick road conditions and improved driving performance. Introduced 35 years ago, it was the first permanent AWD system for passenger cars.

Q5 Dash (not test model)

Q5 Dash (not test model)

Another feature that made itself immediately apparent was the blind spot warning system, or Audi side assist, that flashes brightly on the side view mirrors. Surprisingly, this system, and many more, e.g. back-up camera, aren’t standard but available on the Prestige model that adds $7,500 to the price.

Standard safety features include the usual suspects, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and side curtain airbags, among others.

Available in five models, 2.0T, 3.0T, TDI clean diesel, hybrid, and SQ5, and three trim levels, all Q5s come with leather seats, tri-zone climate control, cruise control, an AM/FM/SAT radio with SD card reader and CD player, and power liftgate. Stepping up to the Premium Plus trim level adds Audi Connect that includes one of the first in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots for up to eight passenger devices as well as Google Earth Mapping and real-time access to information.

2015-04-12 Q5cargoThe Premium Plus also adds a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and Audi advanced key—keyless start, stop, and entry. The Prestige (the test model) includes all the above plus a rearview camera, Audi side assist, and MMI navigation plus with voice control and Audi connect.

With any SUV, versatility matters. The Q5’s 40/20/40 split rear bench folds easily. Once folded flat, cargo volume expands to 57.3 cubic feet. I had a chance to test this on the way to an event where I sold serapes as a fundraiser for the Center for Mexican American Cultural Arts in Austin.

The Q5 TDI offers excellent performance and fuel economy, but packaging to get features like a back-up camera that other brands include as standard, will force the price up very quickly. Pricing for the 2015 Q5 2.0T starts at $40,225. The as-tested price for the 2015 Q5 TDI that included several additional packages came to $62,025.2015-04-15 q5lic

 

Sí: Very quiet and refined diesel with impressive fuel economy.
No: Packaging sets too high a price for features that should be standard on a luxury vehicle.