Tiny bits of gravel crunch and pop under our tires as we roll across a hard-packed dirt path, just outside of Ingolstadt. Traffic is bad, really bad; a midweek holiday and long weekend have conspired to pack Germany's usually efficient autobahn tighter than an Oktoberfest biergarten. So we're taking backroads on the return to Munich, which doesn't really explain why we're on a mostly deserted bike path -- or what happens next.

At a shaded T-intersection, we slow to a stop to check for pedestrians and pedalers. A well-dressed gentlemen Schwinns in from the left, posture stiffening as he catches sight of us. With a baleful glare and all the bile he can muster, the man spits out, "Prick!" as he zooms by.

Hey, mein freund, don't blame me, the nav lady said it was okay.

Audi's U.S. P.R. flack, who shall remain nameless because he's, ahem, cackling in the seat behind me, tells me that our bike path jihad probably wasn't the only issue. Dieter's dander likely was up because much of the German population despises the Q7.


Turns out that, to a country obsessed with engineering and efficiency, the Audi Q7 represents all that is wrong with the rest of the world. No matter how smoothly styled or LED illuminated, the porpoise-proportioned, seven-passenger, V-8-powered, gas-sucking SUV screams supersize fatuosity auf Deutsch.

Perhaps that explains why Audi is completely reformulating its Q7 petrol powertrain strategy for 2011. Bid aufwiedersehen to the 4.2-liter V-8 and 3.6-liter V-6 engines; all gas-powered Q7s will now come equipped with an all-new supercharged, direct-injection V-6 engine in either a high- or low-output configuration mated to a slick new eight-speed Tiptronic transmission.

This new strategy simply reeks of clever engineering. Though two engine outputs are on offer, they are the result of two different states of tune applied to the same engine. This one hardware/two output approach saves Audi vast sums of money, which it clearly dumped into powertrain development.