During its year-long stay, the Q7 traveled to our local Audi service department more than to the nearby mountains. Recalls mandated three visits; the problems proved relatively minor. A coolant-warning lamp haunted our rig like a ghost, suddenly appearing to staffers who were driving late at night and far from help but then, back in the service bay, refusing to prove its existence. The technicians never found a problem, though we were never able to banish the ghost entirely, either. An electric rear hatch that wouldn't close took a nearly week-long service stay to diagnose fully and repair. All problems were fixed under warranty and without charge. Not gratis was a bent 20-inch rim-the fault of a staff miscreant who has yet to come clean-which cost us $682.10 to replace.

By the time we bade farewell to our Q7, our collective assessments were mixed. Drive the Audi hard, on pavement, and it rewards as few of its classmates can. The V-8 snarls, the chassis locks down, the brakes erase velocity with ease. You're chasing the wind, and looking good. Yet the logbook also noted "hopelessly numb" steering, unappetizing squeaks and rattles, a year-long fuel-economy average of just 14 mpg, and...that stratospheric sticker. It costs big-money and patience-to carry six in such high-fashion, technological splendor.

Perhaps it's fitting we conducted our long-term test primarily in the environs of Tinseltown. The Audi Q7 can raise your pulse and take your breath away, but as an SUV, its appeal is mostly due to great makeup and special effects.

From the logbook
"Driving the Audi is effortless. Want to whiz past slowpokes on the highway? Right foot down-you're gone. Want to control shifts yourself? Feel free-the response is quick, and the control is instantly rewarding. The S Line wheel and tire package provide too harsh a ride on the freeway, and I didn't get to experience the payoff (the improvement in handling)-because I didn't want to slosh ice and Mountain Dew all over the interior."

  • Allyson Harwood

"The old saw-you get what you pay for-is not true with this Audi. In order to raise the third-row seats, you have to push and hold the release button down, against the direction of travel, while pulling up in order to unlock the seats. It's more difficult than it sounds and is completely antithetical to user convenience. Fire that engineer."

  • Thomas Voehringer

"I really like the blind-spot warning system on the Audi Q7. When another car is positioned in either the right or left blind spot, a light on the inner part of the respective sideview mirror housing lights up, warning you another automobile is sitting there. Should you not notice that light and if you put on your blinker and attempt to change lanes, then that light will flash at you three times, letting you know that perhaps you should stay in your lane."

  • Ron Kiino

"Naturally, I adore riding in any automobile being driven by Arthur St. Antoine, but this Audi Q7 is German, so of course it is the best. Like me. The Q7 is so happy for the eyes, you just can't say no to it. Like me. Also so great is the way the leather feels against...Verdammt! I have spilled my spaetzel on the nice Audi carpet!"

  • Heidi Klum

Our Car
Base price $60,620
Options S Line Sport Package ($2150: S Line 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, 20-inch S Line wheels w/all-season tires, modified front grille, S Line bumpers & badges, brush-aluminum interior trim, headlight washers, full body paint), Audi Side Assist ($500)
MSRP, as tested $63,270
Total mileage 22,223
Problem areas Electric tailgate-latch failure, intermittent activation of coolant warning light (no problem found with cooling system)
Maintenance cost $0 (mfr provided)
Normal-wear cost $0 (mfr provided)
Recalls 3