- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

At its annual press conference in Germany on March 10, Audi announced it had a record-breaking sales year with record-breaking revenue and profits in 2008.

What?

You mean to tell me there’s a carmaker out there in the beleaguered automotive world making money?

Yep. Audi is rolling in it.

“With our 13th successive deliveries record, 2008 was the most successful fiscal year in the history of our company … and the main financial figures for 2008 reflect this,” said Rupert Stadler, chairman of Audi AG.

What the rest of the world wants to know is, “How’d they do that?” It all comes down to value. Not measured by affordability - because Audi is expensive - but value as measured by being worthy of the money.

For example, take this week’s tester - the 2009 Audi Q7 with an out-the-door price tag of $81,995. This luxury vehicle will hold its value and depreciate at a slower rate than other luxury sport utility vehicles in its class.

The Q7 has received Kelley Blue Book’s prestigious 2009 Best Resale Value Award. KBB notes that high resale value is an indicator that the vehicle is solidly built, generates strong consumer enthusiasm and comes equipped with features likely to be highly sought after by consumers five years down the road.

The Q7 is also a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. And in consumer research firm Strategic Vision’s Total Value Index, the Audi Q7 earned recognition as the best luxury SUV on the basis of standard equipment, technology and affordability in its class.

Perhaps some of this ownership confidence in the Audi Q7 stems in part from the bullish front-end styling that as the automaker describes it “seems to forge ahead even while standing still.”

Moving forward is what we all want. If your car can express forward movement in a design language, then just maybe getting ahead can translate into the owner’s life. Audi has bullishly moved ahead while the rest of world is contracting. Through its vehicles, Audi is presenting a public face that is attracting success.

A successful exterior design is only part of the winning equation on the Q7. Other measurements include the interior outlay for convenience and comfort, as well technical achievements, including engine performance.

My Q7 tester offered the 4.2-liter V-8 that is rated to generate 350 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 325 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic for manual shifting. The base engine on the Q7 is the 3.6-liter V-6 with a horsepower rating of 280 and a torque rating of 265 lb.-ft. The EPA fuel-economy numbers on the V-8 tester are 13 miles per gallon city and 18 mpg highway.

Though the Q7 tester has as very hefty base curb weight of 5,324 pounds, the Audi is capable of driving on air with its latest generation adaptive air suspension. This was a $2,600 option on my test vehicle.

The air suspension system combines with an electronically controlled damping system for a just right blend of ride comfort and sport handling. In other words, you’ll experience dynamic handling in turning and cornering without pitching or rolling.

Another upgrade on the Q7 tester was the $1,850 panoramic sunroof with an ivory-colored mesh screen diffuser. It was a protective filter, yet allowed glimmers of light to come through. Interestingly, I find this filtering to be another subliminal message of always allowing light to come through from an automaker that right now is on top of the world.

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