Diesel Audi Q7 TDI has power, elegance, but not much space

•Space. Published specifications show the Q7 less roomy than others with a similar full-size footprint; more like a midsize model inside. Example: Honda Pilot is 10 inches shorter, 1,200 pounds lighter than the Q7, but has 15% more passenger space — enough to carry eight passengers instead of the Audi's seven — and more cargo space, according to specifications from the automakers.

Getting into the Q's third-row seats is via a narrow aisle usable only by the nimble or the skinny.

•Complexity. Mundane tasks such as tuning the stereo and adjusting the wipers were annoyingly complex. Even the glove-box button was a bother. Hint: It's not located on the glove box. Another hint: It's identified by a symbol that's meaningless unless you already know what it means.

•Suburban fuel mileage. Midteens; not much better than some gasoline SUVs and worse than the 19-20 mpg of the (now discontinued) 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango full-size hybrid SUVs.

•Tailgate. You can power it up remotely from the key fob, but not down. You have to push a button on the gate to lower it. Audi says that's safer.

If you're practical, and not smitten by luxury brand names, consider that plenty of mainstream SUVs give you as much or more room for people and cargo, are handier in daily life, don't use much more fuel and are priced far lower.

Audi's more than a name, though. It's a high-end philosophy. The Q7 TDI comes with very large Brembo-brand disc brakes and sophisticated aluminum suspension components, for instance — the type of hardware you'd favor if driving on the no-speed-limit autobahn. If that sort of thing is more important to you than sheer utility, or ultimate value, Q7 TDI could scratch a deep itch.

ABOUT THE AUDI Q7 TDI

•What? Diesel-engine version of the brand's large, four-door, seven-passenger crossover SUV.

•When? The diesel version, called TDI, went on sale in April. Gasoline V-6 and V-8 versions were launched in the U.S. in 2006 as '07 models.

•Where? Made in Bratislava, Slovakia, with Hungarian engine, Japanese transmission.

•Why? Audi sees a future here for diesel because of fuel-economy benefits and low-pollution tuning.

•How much? Starts at $51,725 including $825 shipping. Audi says buyers might qualify for $1,150 federal tax credit. Lavish test vehicle: $62,375.

•How powerful? Typical diesel: Modest horsepower, big torque. 3-liter diesel V-6 rated 225 hp at 3,750 rpm, 406 pounds-feet of torque at 1,750 rpm, teamed with six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode and quattro all-wheel drive.

•How big? Lower roofline than Chevrolet Tahoe truck-based SUV or GMC Acadia crossover SUV, otherwise very close in size, but the Audi has less space.

Q7 is 200 inches long, 78.1 in. wide, 68.4 in. tall on a 118.2-in. wheelbase. Weighs 5,512 lbs.

Passenger space: 133.2 cubic feet. Cargo: 10.9 cu. ft. behind third row, 42 cu. ft. when third row's folded, 72.5 cu. ft. with second and third row folded.

•How thirsty? Rated 17 miles per gallon in town, 25 highway, 20 mpg (5 gallons per 100 miles) in combined driving. Trip computer in test vehicle showed 15.7 mpg (6.37 gallons per 100 miles) in easy-going suburban driving.

Burns ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel, holds 26.5 gallons. Audi says accessory tanks hold 10,000-mile supply of AdBlue, a urea additive needed by most diesels to meet clean-air rules.

•Overall:Powerful, classy; annoyingly complicated controls, disappointing space.

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