Audi's seven-seater supercar-slayer
- High-tech engine
- Very fast
- Optional advanced chassis kit
- Neat cabin features
- Seven seats as standard
- Lots to go wrong
- Expensive to buy
- You need Driving Dynamics Package for full effect
The Audi SQ7 TDI is the latest entrant in the niche but ever-burgeoning performance SUV market, yet despite being the sportiest (considerably) and most expensive (ditto) version of the Audi Q7, it still weighs 2.2-tonnes, seats seven and drinks diesel.
As with rivals like the BMW X5, Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne, this doesn’t immediately sound like a recipe for a good time but very swiftly comes to reprogram your parameters, a phenomenon that in this instance is executed via a considerable amount of Vorsprung durch Technik…
Highly impressive new motor
For under the bonnet of the Audi SQ7 lies a new 4.0-litre diesel engine that produces 429bhp and 900Nm of torque. That’s an immense amount of muscle and it arrives at only 1,000rpm, thanks not just to twin sequential turbochargers but the world-first production car application of something called an ‘Electric Powered Compressor’ as well.
Only made possible by the SQ7’s upgraded 48-volt electrical system (regular cars make do with 12-volt electrics), this EPC device is essentially an instant electric booster that helps the turbochargers to respond much more quickly than is usually possible.
As a result the pause you sometimes get in turbocharged cars – especially big, heavy turbocharged cars – between pressing down on the accelerator and the engine reacting is almost entirely eliminated.
Though the combination of substantial bulk and a swift-acting eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard sometimes disguises quite how vigorously this technology allows the SQ7 to get moving, there’s no doubting the official 4.9sec 0-62mph time; keep a very close eye on the speedo, as you’ll almost always be travelling far faster than you realised.
The SQ7 is huge, but how does it handle?
It’s probably best to go for the optional carbon-ceramic brake upgrade to help counteract the SQ7’s momentum – especially since even this exceedingly powerful braking system begins to smell hot after an extended period of hard driving. We haven’t been able to try the standard brakes, but they will only find the pressure of halting this behemoth more challenging.
Yet despite its size, this vehicle is about much more than raw straight-line performance. The 48-volt electrics also allow Audi to offer an electrically operated active anti-roll system, which does a remarkable job of preventing the SQ7 from leaning over in the corners, allowing and encouraging you to go round them faster and faster.
Because this is an active system that can disengage when not required, it does this without ruining passenger comfort – though you can influence how effective this is with your choice of wheel size (alloys up to 22 inches in diameter are available) and whether you’ve got the standard-fit air suspension set to Comfort or Dynamic.
The one option box you have to tick
This active anti-roll system comes as part of an optional ‘driving dynamics package’ that also includes all-wheel steering and a ‘sport’ rear differential; the former helps the SQ7 turn more tightly at low speeds and feel more stable at high speeds by ever so slightly changing the angle of the rear wheels when required, while the latter gives you greater control when pushing right to the limit – something you’d never expect a vehicle this size to encourage, but it does.
All told, the driving dynamics package is worth every extra penny, and thus equipped the SQ7 is astonishingly good fun to drive.
As you’d expect, Audi has subtly beefed up the exterior to suit the SQ7’s status as the range-topping model. There are also various fancy trim finishes available on the inside, but the cabin is otherwise similar to the standard model. This means there is plenty of space, quality and technology to admire, even if the clinical, horizontal design may leave you cold.
Although you need to spend beyond the already hefty asking price (which is listed as nearly £71,000 at time of writing) to get the best out of it, the Audi SQ7 is a remarkable machine.
Rarely have we driven a vehicle that is so vast yet so fun, and this heady combination of driver engagement, adaptable comfort levels and flexible passenger accommodation is sure to win it plenty of fans at the higher end of the SUV market. A very impressive technological display indeed.