In European DIN terms, the 2009 Audi Q7 V12 TDI can straddle Bavaria like a colossus, shouting proudly about its 500 horsepower and 1000 Newton-meters of pounding torque. Of course, when we slap this mongrel dog upside the teats with the reality of all-powerful SAE ratings, suddenly Mr. Colossus is just a big diesel with no four-figure numbers to humble the villagers. Make that 493 hp with a side of 738 lb-ft of torque. That's still a lot, but it's moving a lot--5,743 pounds minimum hurtling to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds.
But just about none of this matters much since North America will never get this stadium-filling monster truck. No, this Ingolstadt horse pill is placed on Earth's crust to please your local Russian oligarch, Middle Eastern sheik, and any former Eastern Block fiefdom filled with black-lung coal miners, downtrodden tenant farmers, and their pointy-bearded overlords. This is the poster car for the most corrupt people in the world of new money.
Oh, those lucky oppressors.
The first time we heard of a VW Group V12 TDI was in the R10 LMP1 prototype two seasons back. In that 90-degree 5.5-liter all-aluminum application this engine configuration sounds like a huge ShopVac on reverse thrust. Went like stink, though, and more importantly it regularly kicked the Peugeot team's arse all over the world. A Frenchman scorned is always very fun to watch.
Then came last year's fun and frolics exploration car in Miami, the R8 V12 TDI with this very bi-turbo 60-degree 6.0-liter with cast vermicular graphite iron block. Even though the benefits of power and torque like this cannot be denied in a configuration like the R8, I had to concede that this was a completely silly effort that should remain squarely in the Audi Forum museum downstairs from the Rosemeyer sex machine they should have green-lighted instead back in 2000.
Even so, this heady version of the very unexciting Q7 Audi package (I have trouble with the boring front half of the Q5, too--I hold out hopes that the Q3 will actually look really good) is every bit as impressive as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S or VW Touareg W12, and it averages 40 percent better fuel mileage than either of those gas combusters. An aesthetic plus here is that the more authoritative looking front end with larger low air intakes at least improves upon the standard Q7's drabness.
Like all ber Audis, the Q7 V12 TDI--project codename "43608"--receives its full final assembly and prep in Neckarsulm at Quattro GmbH. Besides the high power and torque, standard fare includes cast aluminum 10x20-inch ten-spoke wheels (21-inch options are available), 295/40ZR20 Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires, and 16.54-inch front ventilated ceramic discs and 14.57-inch ceramics in back. This is a good package setup as the brakes damned near sent my fillings through the windscreen during some late braking maneuvers.
Thanks primarily to the ready Garrett VTG turbochargers' maximum absolute boost of 39.16 psi (and the two big intercoolers), the throttle play is brilliant. From a 620-rpm idle speed, all of that 738 lb-ft of torque starts at 1750 rpm and lasts through to 3250 rpm. With the 493 horses maxing and falling away at just 3750 rpm, it doesn't make much sense to push the V12 TDI any closer to the 4800-rpm redline than maybe 4000 revs. That sort of low-down exhaust recirculation momentum requires a different approach to getting the most out of the drive. In the Tiptronic S six-speed's Sport mode, the shift timings from the paddle flicks at the steering wheel are just as quick as I require from such a rumbling pitbull. Even at start-up, this diesel sounds more like an Aston Martin or Corvette V8.
The world's first 12-cylinder diesel in a passenger car, and the most powerful production SUV in the world, delivers (when driven very conservatively) an average 20.8 miles per U.S. gallon. This is attributable primarily to the very latest version of fuel stratified injection, FSI, using 2000-psi Bosch piezo injectors each with an eight-hole nozzle.
For this cash-splashing crowd, the optional sport suspension plus offered on RS models really isn't necessary, the five-mode Continental Teves adaptive air suspension providing exactly the range desired for these meat-footed owners. With the possibilities of the Q7 having a lurchy-feeling ride with all that jet propulsion going on and all that weight shifting, the over-the-road abilities are managed really well by the underpinnings.
Deliveries of the Q7 V12 TDI began in October of 2008 at a starting price of 109,700 (or $142,000 if we're doing a straight exchange). With the full leather interior and plush Alcantara roof liner, though, I feel so coddled that I could see myself as a fat Russian industrial magnate wanting this big bear.
Audi Q7 V12 TDI
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
6.0-liter V12, dohc, 48-valve, turbocharged and intercooled
Six-speed Tiptronic S automatic
Five-mode adaptive air suspension by Continental Teves
Eight-piston aluminum calipers, 16.5-inch cross-drilled ceramic rotors (f), four-piston aluminum calipers, 14.6-inch cross-drilled ceramic rotors (r)
Peak Power: 493 hp @ 3750 rpm
Peak Torque: 738 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.5 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)