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HIT THE ROAD

Torquish delight

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AUDI W12 (SEEN ON THE AUDI A8): 580NM: Just the W12 badge says it all. With all of 6. 0 litres and 12 cylinders, Audi's flagship sedan puts down a humongous 580 Nm of torque through all four wheels. And when this monster saloon starts 'Torqueing', it demolishes most speed barriers with ease.

Bollywood's favourite vehicle now has a new variant. With a earth-moving 4. 2-litre TDI engine, the Audi Q7 has become India's most powerful diesel SUV. TOI-Crest brings you up to speed.

In 2006, Audi launched its first ever SUV - the Q7. While many doubted its chances of success at that time, the phenomenon that the monster has become is proof of its success, and acceptance. It has been quite a hit with buyers, especially in India where it has almost become the official Bollywood vehicle. The Q7 as a diesel till now was only available in the 3. 0 TDI Quattro variant with 240 PS (for nonauto buffs, that's German for horsepower) and a massive 550 Nm of torque. However, with new entrants like the Toyota Land Cruiser V8 and the recently launched GL class from Mercedes, it was about time for the Audi to counter attack.

So, to accompany the 3.0 TDI we now have the 4. 2 TDI Quattro with which Audi hopes to take the benchmark in the premium SUV segment even higher.

With the Q7, it's all about the size. Being a little over 16 feet in length and as tall as a tree, the Audi is simply gigantic. While the Q7 was never a beautiful looking car, it more than made up for it with its presence and size. The 2010 version has received a host of updates which add a lot of elegant touches to it. Space was never an issue with the Q7 either. It's almost like an overtly luxurious mini bus for seven people. And thanks to its massive wheelbase and interior flexibility, there is always room to spare.

The trim has also been updated with more wood, and the 2010 model also gets the third generation MMI navigation/entertainment/information system. Overall the interior of the new Q7 is an extremely pleasant and comfortable place to be in. And while the V8 under the hood sings some pretty glorious tones, it's the Bang & Olufsen that really sets the mood.

Similar to the A8 sedan, the sound system sends more than 1, 000 watts through 14 strategically placed speakers, each of which is powered by its own amp. Yes, that makes it all of 14 amplifiers in the car. Moving on to the real meat of the story now - the Q7 4. 2 TDI's powerplant.

The 4. 2 TDI puts out 340 PS @ 4000 rpm and an unbelievable, eye-watering, earth-rotating 760 Nm of torque between 1750-3000 rpm making it the most powerful diesel SUV in India. Apart from being the most powerful, Audi has also made sure that the engine is an efficient one. The new generation V8 features a very effective high-tech component from Audi's modular efficiency platform, the energy recovering system.

Driving around normally, one can barely feel all that firepower beneath the hood, but the moment you step on the gas, there is a moment of calm before the storm as the massive turbo spools up and the 6-speed tiptronic gearbox gets into the attack mode.

And within absolutely no time, you are buried deep into the seats with the Q7 sitting squat on its haunches and the nose almost pointing skywards. Such is the intensity of the acceleration, that for a moment you think that the Q7 would pick its front wheels off the ground. Dial in the revs, mash the throttle and the Q7 accelerates like it's been shot out of a cannon. Before you know it, the speedo has already swung past 100 km/h and it takes exactly 7. 2 seconds to get there. The vicious acceleration doesn't stop there and it was only close to the 220 kmph mark that you feel a slight let up. While we ran out of road at 231 kmph we have absolutely no doubt about Audi's claims of a 240 kmph top whack. For a 2, 450 kg behemoth, these figures simply defy logic.

Thanks to the Quattro system and the brilliant chassis, it's not just on a straight road that the Q7 impresses. While it's a no track tool, it certainly doesn't believe that it's a big hulking SUV. Bodyroll is pretty acceptable and grip levels are simply neck snapping. The 255 section tyres seem to suck on the road like a leech refusing to give way.

Both the 3. 0 and the 4. 2 TDI share the same equipment levels and even look the same barring that displacement badge at the rear and the alloys. So why would one shell out Rs 58, 68, 000 for the 4. 2 TDI? The 3. 0 TDI offers more than what you could ask for. But if you're the one who likes to drive, that's when the 4. 2 TDI starts to make sense. With the kind of firepower it possesses, it's likely to shame most sportscars in your neighbourhood and carry seven people in reasonable comfort while at it.

Then there is the practical aspect. It's a diesel and returns 10. 10 kmpl (company claim) which is simply amazing for a 4. 2 litre V8. Great looks, presence, space, pace, technology and practicality, the Audi has it all. Now all I need is to win that next state lottery to buy one!

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