Multi-adjustable first- and second-row seats should let nearly any occupant find a comfortable position. The second-row seats recline and slide fore and aft, letting the occupants balance comfort and space as needed when the third-row seats are in use. The Q7 is available in a five-seat, two-row configuration, a six-seat arrangement with second-row bucket seats, and a seven-seat layout with a second-row bench. Both rows fold down to provide a flat load surface from the rear hatch to the back of the front seats.

The goal was to build an SUV with uncommon agility and responsiveness on the road, and it seems to have achieved that. However, even with interesting techno-gimmicks similar to those on the LR3, such as optional air suspension and hill descent control, the Q7 has no low range in the transfer case, making it seem like Audi is ceding the hard-core off-road segment to Land Rover.

The Q7 shares some components with the Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, but in the end it's more a common design philosophy than hardware. Only 10 percent of the Q7's parts are also used on the Touareg, and while the vehicles are built in the same assembly plant, they roll off different lines. Despite the added size, the Q7 weighs about the same as the Touareg, thanks to the use of aluminum for the rear hatch, front fenders, hood, and some suspension components.

On gravel roads, too, the balance makes it easy to play rally star, confidently powering through curves with the tail hung out just enough to help keep the Q7 pointed in the intended direction.

In Q7s sold in the U.S., power comes from a pair of gas engines: the familiar corporate 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and 350-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8. For now, the rest of the world gets possibly the best engine, a 233-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6, which provides smart acceleration and excellent fuel economy. Standard towing capacity for the Q7 is 5500 pounds (the vehicle can be equipped with an electronically hidden factory hitch), and it can tow as much as 6500 pounds with a standard, hard-mounted Class III hitch, which opens a world of possibilities to customers with medium-size trailers who might have felt the need to choose a less-refined SUV.

The Q7 demonstrates that German technology can still allow customers to have both beauty and brawn--the sweet spot of the market just keeps getting bigger. Expect Q7s to start at $50,000 with the 4.2-liter V-8 and to drop slightly when the 3.6-liter V-6 becomes available six months after launch.