Don't tell editor Bidrawn, but I nabbed the keys to the Q7 and rushed to the California coast for a wedding. Could you blame me? I had my wife and baby girl, and I wanted my Los Angeles trip to be a lasting memory, characterized by a high-rolling, over-the-top lifestyle. I live in Kansas now-that's my excuse.

When I first heard this Q7 cost $70k-plus as equipped, I almost laughed. Who on earth would buy this thing? Then I saw it. The S-line options in particular really bring a sporty look, thanks to the 10-mm lower stance, 20-inch five-spoke wheels wrapped with 275/45-series tires and the body color-matched sport bumpers and rocker panels.

Inside, the plush Alcantara/leather seats cosset your bottom so comfortably you don't want to get out. The navigation system is controlled easily via the Audi MMI. Not having to take one's arm off the armrest makes it ergonomically sound. I was also particularly happy to discover the large, electronically controlled sun and moon roof-perfect for our drive up Highway 101.

In the rear quarters, seating space is pretty remarkable, even for a car of this size. Hauling eight people isn't a problem, unless they each had big pieces of luggage. Transporting large items is accomplished by folding down the third-row seats flush to the floor, but that eliminates seating for three. Passengers in the second row enjoy two LCD screens set into the backs of the driver and passenger headrests. Their climate zone is also controlled separately, so there's little left to be desired for those not riding shotgun.

Leave the keys in your pocket, press the Engine Start button and a 4.2-liter V8 is ready for action. It doesn't sound like a normal SUV. Click it in reverse and the navigation screen turns into a rear-view monitor. Turn the wheel to the right and digital guidance lines start to point left, and vice versa. The lines trace the wheels' intended path and show what possible obstacles might be in the way. Put the shift lever back into Drive and the screen reverts to navigation interface.

Just a few seconds of driving makes it clear where a good chunk of the money has gone. The 350-hp engine obliterates the letters S, U and V. Couple that with the sporty S-line suspension and tires, and this thing almost begs for some high-g turns. The torque gets the car off the line so easily that I found myself trying to outrun everyone at almost every (cop-less) traffic light. It's a miracle I averaged nearly 19 miles per gallon. Keep your foot in and the revs climb smoothly to redline. Audi claims a 154-mph top speed in sixth gear. Sounds impressive, but I wasn't going to try it.

For an SUV, the Q7 is fast. It even has steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for F1-style gearshifting action. However, the car is so plush and smooth that it brings out a more relaxed demeanor-one hand on the steering wheel and cruise, cruise, cruise. Thanks to the Q7, my California trip was a high-class, business exec-like experience. And it was priceless. I got everything I wanted from the car and by the end of the weekend there was only one thing left to accomplish-sneak the keys back into Bidrawn's office without him knowing.

"Just a few seconds of driving makes it clear where a good chunk of the money has gone. The 350-hp engine obliterates the letters S, U and V."

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