Based on the modular V-6 Audi uses worldwide, the new engine is known as the 3.0 TFSI -- or three-liter, turbocharged fuel-stratified injection. That's a bit of a misnomer since it isn't a turbocharger buried in the six-cylinder's 90-degree V-angle, but a Roots-type supercharger and intercooler. Audi aficionados will already recognize the high-output version of this engine as the same 333-horsepower supercharged V-6 found in the 2010 Audi S4 and S5 Cabriolet. Though it's down some 17 horsepower to the 4.2-liter V-8 it replaces in the Q7, the high-output 3.0 TFSI makes the same amount of torque (325 pound-feet) and is substantially lighter and more efficient -- to the tune of 22 mpg combined on the EU fuel-economy cycle. For a seven-passenger SUV, that is a pretty bold claim, so we'll have to wait for our own EPA numbers when Q7s arrive this fall. To ensure it remains distinct as the 4.2-liter V-8 replacement, the high-output Q7 will have a "supercharged" badge applied on the lower front fender and will feature the S-line exterior package (front and rear bumper treatments and side sills) as standard. Entry level Q7s get a lower-output version of the 3.0 TFSI making 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That is eight fewer ponies but 29 more pound-feet of torque than the naturally aspirated 3.6-liter VR6 engine it replaces, also with far better fuel economy, says Audi.
To further improve efficiency, all Q7s will receive the same eight-speed Tiptronic found on the A8. Gear ratio spread has been increased to 7.25:1 over the eight forward gears, which Audi claims minimizes jumps in engine rpm and keeps it closer to optimum running speed at all times. To reduce fuel consumption at idle, start/stop function has been added as well, though it's not clear if this feature or the paddle shifters will make it to the U.S. Transmission weight has been reduced by 24.2 pounds, and the engine has been made more thermally efficient -- meaning it reaches optimum operating temperature faster. Audi claims these improvements alone result in 4-percent-better fuel economy and much better acceleration times. For the high-output Q7, Audi quotes a time of 6.9 seconds to 100 km (62 mph); for the base model, add one second. Impressive stuff for drastically smaller engines churning through two extra gears.
But what is it like to drive? Well, our route was laden with traffic and enraged pedestrians shouting expletives in foreign tongues, which means it was surprisingly similar to conditions in L.A. Handling is not appreciably better or worse than the Q7 we lived with for a year; dynamically the Q7 is an elephant in ballet shoes. Unwieldy looking, but surprisingly light on its feet. In Munich city traffic it drives small, easily squeezing through narrow country lanes and urban byways.