Performance SUVs powered by diesel engines, a species that’s all but extinct, have always baffled many enthusiasts—when you can afford such a high-end vehicle, why even bother with an oil burner? And it today’s gas- and electricity-dominated SUV stratosphere, that question seems more difficult to answer than ever. Things were not the same in 2008, though, when Audi introduced the only production car with a V12 diesel, the Q7 V12 TDI.
The 5,934 cc (362.1 ci) V12 diesel was built by Audi’s Quattro Gmbh go-fast arm. Packing a configuration that’s normally reserved for marine engines or trucks, the monstrous motor was born out of the ambition of providing a road equivalent for the highly successful endurance racing campaign the carmaker ran in those times.
Running the V12-animated R10 TDI race car in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Audi grabbed no less than three world titles in a row back in the day.
In the transition from motorsport to production engine, the V12 lost many of its impressive tech bits, but remained an impressive engineering feat nevertheless. And while the unit was initially destined for the R8, Audi realized that reworking the mid-engined machine to accept the engine was too much, even for this bold plan. And this is how the V12 TDI landed under the hood of the Q7.
A beast that torquier, more technically complex, and rarer than the R8 supercar, the Q7 V12 TDI continues to be a source of fascination to this day.
And we’ve brought along a short video that sees one of these rare birds stretching its legs on the German Autobahn. Naturally taking on a derestricted section of the country’s highway network, the full-size SUV puts its 493 hp (500 PS) and 737 lb-ft (1,000 Nm) of torque to full use.
For the record, the official velocity numbers of the 2.7-ton (5,950 lbs) show that the 0 to 60 mph (96 kph) sprint can be covered in 5.5s. As for the top speed, this is limited to 155 mph (250 km/h), but there are unlimited versions that can go over 170 mph and this seems to be one of them.
The Q7 V12 TDI’s real-world numbers on the German Autobahn
The six-speed automatic transmission, which is the reason for Audi having to limit the torque of the twin-turbo V12 to the said value, seems to do a respectable job. And the driver, the YouTuber behind the AutoTopNL YouTube channel, doesn’t cut the monster any slack. From the standing start acceleration test to pushing the speedo all the way to 277 kph (172 mph), this is a proper velocity test.
However, if we zoom in on the GPS-delivered speed shown on the smartphone sitting to the driver’s left, this seems to reach a 262 kph (163 mph) climax. Regardless, it’s clear that the not-exactly-smooth aerodynamics of the behemoth seriously limit the monstrous engine’s ability to push the hefty mass of the vehicle forward past 200 km/h (124 mph) and you can easily notice this by checking out the speedo.
Depreciation has hit the big Audi hard
The Q7 V12 TDI appears even more eccentric when you consider than its 2008 launch year also saw the global financial crisis hitting, while the VW Group’s diesel emissions scandal came later on.
This thing was uber-expensive back in its time (it wasn’t sold in the US), with prices kicking off at $132,000 before options (that would be $175,000 in today’s money). And, with the Q7 range already including the mighty V8 TDI, sales were poor (for instance, the UK is said to have bought only 40+ units).
Nowadays, though, a brief online search reveals that you can grab one of these for around $35,000 or so, but with such a low-number, complex motor, one would need a pretty strong fetish for diesels or straight offballs to justify the purchase.