2007 Audi Q7

Where are all the men? In discussions with those shopping for light-duty SUVs built for slippery roads while hauling families, Audi researchers found that men were largely indifferent. According to Audi designer Dany Garand, they were happy to go along with whatever their wives wanted, because the men sure as hell didn't plan to pilot these mommy-mobiles themselves.

Therefore, Audi reasoned, the key to success in this hotly contested segment was to design a new crossover family hauler that also appeals to men. But bold, aggressive guy-friendly off-road looks could scare away women. The solution for Audi is a racy style backed by real performance muscle. Remarks Garand of the new Q7, "We wanted to make it as sleek as possible, so guys will like it, too."

The Audi stands apart from chunkier competitors like the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. The trick was packaging three fairly useful rows of seats in a shell that doesn't evoke thoughts of container ships, long jellybeans, or pregnant pachyderms.

Designer Garand's success lies as much in the well-executed details as in the broad strokes, with nice touches like turn signals integrated into the side mirrors as thin horizontal slices of LED that visually split the large mirror housings to reduce their apparent mass.

Inside, however, the company, often cited as setting the standards in design and quality, played it a little too safe. The restrained cabin will never be criticized for any overt mistakes, but simultaneously, it does seem nice, if a bit generic. The black interior, in particular, feels downright Spartan, an echo of chilly interiors of the not-too-distant past. The beige layout is significantly warmer, especially when matched with the impressive Open Sky three-panel panoramic sunroof that boosts ambient light throughout.