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click for a gallery of shots from Day Three of the marathon

Day Four is upon us and we're on our way out of Chicago. We've got one of our longest days of the trip today, with a 550-mile run to Memphis for some BBQ. In Chicago we had our first driver crew swap. The first of four legs is over and a predominantly new group of drivers is taking over the diesel Audis as we move on to Dallas, Amarillo and Denver on Sunday. The nature of this trip is predominantly highway running punctuated by lunch and overnight stops in the various cities along the route. That means the diesels are truly in their element... and it shows. Diesels love steady state running and there is no way even the sophisticated two-mode hybrid system in the Chevy Tahoe can get anywhere near 30 mpg even on a long highway cruise. We're seeing up to 33 mpg in the Q7s and 38 in the Q5s. The A4s and A3s are topping 44 and 50 mpg respectively. Of course, around town those numbers drop off, but they still turn in very respectable mileage in the low 20s. Having said all that, read on after the jump to find out who was victorious in over the first leg and what I think about driving across America in a Q7.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

One thing becomes quickly apparent when you leave the geographical periphery: this country is huge. The vast majority of the population lives near the edges, but scattered throughout the middle are pockets of humanity separated by seemingly endless miles of emptiness. Driving across the United States is particularly entertaining if you do it one of two ways: the Brock Yates Cannonball run approach, where you run coast to coast at maximum speed just to prove you can do it.

The other, far less dangerous and legal approach is to take a leisurely route, staying off the interstates and stopping frequently to see the communities and meet the people that make up the gumbo that is America. Somewhat unfortunately, our route is the middle-ground between the two, causing us to miss the best (and worst) the other options have to offer. We have stuck mainly to interstates and gone directly from one major city to the next without stops. We stay overnight and move off again, never really getting to experience the location.

If however, you're going to do this, the Q7 is a damn fine way to travel. Anyone who has read my opinions here knows that I am by no means a fan of SUVs and this journey has not changed my thoughts of this particular genre of transport, especially if you live in an urban area like New York, Washington or Chicago. I would opt for something smaller and more manageable like an A4 or A3. But, if you have a need to regularly transport more than three friends or tow 6,600 pounds you might choose otherwise.

The Q7 provides those capabilities in combination with all the other attributes enjoyed in modern Audis. The interior materials and build quality are outstanding, with sewn leather covering the top of the instrument panel, the armrests and seats. The chairs are comfy and supportive over long journeys, but so are the sedan seats. Plus, there are plenty of power outlets to plug in your gear.

Is the Q7 the package I would opt for on a road trip if I didn't have to tow or deal with poor traction conditions? Probably not. My first choice would probably be the A4. But if I needed the extra space to stretch out my kids and carry stuff, I'd like a package more like the Ford Flex. The lower floor means more usable interior volume than a typical high riding SUV. If however, I was forced to select among available large SUVs, the combination of 30 mpg cruising capability and the performance offered by this 3.0L V6 diesel would be a no-brainer over anything else in the segment.

So how did that mileage thing work out? The team from IMSA came up with a formula that comprises a blend of speed and fuel economy. The bias was toward the latter, with the speed component largely aimed at ensuring that people don't dawdle along the freeway at 40 mph. Among the Q7 group on leg one from New York to Chicago the mileage ranged from a low of 26.4 mpg with an average speed of 53.8 mpg to 30.0 mpg at 48.8 mph. The overall winner with 488 points based on an average of 29.4 mpg and 52.4 mph was Q7 #3. That team relied mainly on cruise control and staying close to the speed limit without doing anything erratic. There were no folded mirrors or pumped up tires and no drafting behind trucks. So who was driving this vehicle? Jason Allan of Kelley Blue Book and yours truly.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Can anybody tell me how much this beast is going to cost. I could not find pricing for TDi version of Q7.
      Help please.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Tahoe is also a lot larger vehicle (with a larger wind profile).

      The Touareg was rated at 15/20 (new-style ratings), the Tahoe is rated at 21/20. I think the Touareg is 4WD though (Tahoe is 2WD at that rating). Again, the Touareg is still not as large as the Tahoe. Probably can tow more though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Tahoe, 202 in long, 79 in wide, 74.8 in tall, 116 in wheelbase
        Q7 200.2 in long, 78.1 in wide and 68.4 in tall, 118.2 in wheel base

        The only dimension where the Tahoe is notably larger is height and that admittedly has a major impact on frontal area. The Tahoe hybrid is also about 400 lbs heavier than a Q7 TDI
      • 6 Years Ago
      If you didn't pay truckers, they'd have to do something else for 10 hours a day now wouldn't they?

      Driving cross-country isn't that bad. I prefer it to flying.

      And why compare the V10 Touareg? That was meant to be the 'sporty' Touareg, not really focused on economical.

      The Q7 3.0 TDI looks like it will have the same acceleration, better mileage and towing capacity than the TaHybrid.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I saw the Q7 crusing down front street in downtown memphis this morning shortly before 8:00 am. there are no bbq joints open at that time.
      • 6 Years Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Diesel power is the way to go. I wish we have more European and Japanese diesel powered vehicle available in the U.S. Not to mention the Ford and Chevrolet diesel powered vehicles only available in Europe. Dont get me wrong I will always prefer Ford, Chevy, and Dodge heavy-duty diesel pick-up trucks, but I love anything with a Diesel engine.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Congrats Sam!!

      So, I'm glad to hear that these mileage figures seem to be attainable by the average consumer. Your comments seem to indicate that the vehicles were driven pretty much like any normal driver would drive them, am I correct?

      Additionally, you state that the cruise control was used and based on the average speeds am I to assume that you were staying a fair amount below the speed limit or did the urban areas really drop the average that much?

      It seems most of the open highway you would be travelling should have speed limits in the 65-75mph range. Not to mention that highways seem to have made up 90% of the journey as well. That being the assumption, 48-52mph average seems somewhat low.

      Nonetheless, the mileage figures are impressive all around and it seems like it would be a fun way to spend a week or so.

      I wouldn't mind owning an A4 3.0TDI. I was thinking we'd see it with the 2.0L TDI, but the 3.0TDI would be fun. Too bad it wouldn't come as an Avant though(if it makes it here at all). I'd buy one of those over a Q7 TDI any day of the week.

      With BMW offering the 335d here, I'd think Audi would be wise to approve the A4 3.0TDI posthaste.
        • 6 Years Ago
        We stuck pretty close to the speed limits all the way. Keep in mind that that there were many areas where the speed limit is only 60-65. In addition speeds through Manhattan, Washington, Chicago were often more like 5-10 mph. Plus we had toll booths through NJ, Pennsylvannia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. We didn't drive below the speed limits either. That's just what the average worked out to.

        So if you consider not speeding normal, everything else was pretty straightforward, no drafting or coasting through stop signs.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That just makes the attained mileage that much more impressive.

        Consider the A3, it has the same 2.0L TDI as the Jetta which is rated at 40mpg hwy. In this case, the drivers are achieving mighty close to 50mpg(25% improvement) average. I can't think of any other vehicle that would be able to post such great numbers under the same conditions.

        I only looked at the A3 since we don't have EPA figures yet for the other engines.

        I can't say I'm terribly surprised, but it's still nice to see some real-world figures nonetheless.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I saw the Q7s this morning on Jackson in downtown Chicago about 9:30. I guess the A4s are going another route?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'll take two of each.....
      • 6 Years Ago
      I saw the number 4 Q7 3.0TDI heading east on the Kennedy Expressway yesterday afternoon. I was under the impression that they were supposed to be heading west and the photos here back that up, so I'm not quite sure why I saw them where I did. Regardless, I hope diesel makes a comeback here in the States. Godspeed, men...
        • 6 Years Ago
        You saw us head east into downtown after our stop at the designated filling station, which was northwest of downtown. The hotel we stayed at was back the other way.
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