The SQ7 is a performance SUV with attitude. It looks outstanding, delivers awesome driving dynamics with blistering acceleration and it features all the premium and luxurious equipment levels associated with the Audi name.
The goodStyling, performance and handling
The badOptional extras really bump up the price
Audi SQ7 4.0 TDI Quattro 435PS tiptronic
There are certain cars out there that are easy to walk by without a second glance. Then there are others that leap out and grab your attention – the mighty Audi SQ7 definitely falls into the latter category.
That’s because it’s a high-performance SUV and despite its huge dimensions, it delivers incredible driving dynamics. In fact, this larger-than-life model can blast its way to 62mph from a standing start in just 4.9 seconds, and that surely confirms that any instant fascination with the vehicle was whole-heartedly warranted.
The SQ7 costs £70,835 (the price of the test car was increased to £94,650 with options fitted) and it boasts aggressive yet sporty styling with a true road presence. Stand-out design features include 21-inch alloys, a single frame grille, LED headlights with high beam assist, LED tail lights with dynamic sweeping indicators and plenty of S styling additions including the front bumper, side ventilation grilles, side skirts and roof spoiler.
Move inside the spacious five-door vehicle and it’s impossible not to be wowed by the premium styling and multitude of techno treats to be explored. The test car featured Audi’s virtual cockpit which allows the driver to personalise the instrumentation in the 12.3-inch high resolution display. In addition, there was a pitch perfect BOSE 3D sound system, an 8.3-inch fold-down colour display screen, 4-zone electronic climate control and all the connectivity capabilities demanded of modern day cars. There is also an embedded SIM card that connects the car to the internet and this comes with a free three-month trial. This service can be extended.
The interior is pure class and the leather sport seats can be electrically adjusted to find the perfect driving position. And if unexpected guests turn up and need transporting an additional two seats can be automatically raised from the boot floor to make the SQ7 a very capable seven-seater. In fairness, when it comes to space the SQ7 is as big on the inside as it looks from the outside.
The SQ7 seems to do everything on a large scale and that also includes performance. It boasts the highest power, torque and best acceleration in its class and the top speed has been electronically limited to 155mph.
It is powered by a 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine that has 435PS of grunt and it features a world first in the shape of an electric powered compressor which aids outstanding performance with no perceptible lag and helps fire the 2.3-tonne car along with breath-taking ease.
Acceleration through the eight-speed automatic transmission is brutally quick and, be warned, the SQ7 reaches national speed limits in a matter of seconds, so it does need to be given a certain amount of respect. But that caution aside, the car is all about power, performance and driving dynamics. Of course, it can be driven sensibly and responsibly when required, but when faced with the open road it loves to deliver the goods. The road-holding is ultra-grippy, the steering beautifully precise and, despite its high sides, there is no body roll even when pushed rather enthusiastically into bends.
The comfort levels within the car are outstanding for all occupants as it glides along with the effective suspension set-up ironing out any road creases. The cabin is also efficiently insulated against any road surface, engine or wind noise.
The driver has the option to select from different driving modes which alter the car’s dynamics and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you want to take a little more control of gear switches.
And just in case you think you are going unnoticed which is a tad unlikely to be honest, the test car was fitted with an active sound exhaust system to really crank up the volume.
The SQ7’s storage capabilities are excellent too with a boot that swallows 235 litres of luggage – a capacity which is increased to 1,890 litres with the rear seats dropped flat.
Obviously, no vehicle is perfect and the SQ7 is no exception. For all that high performance and outstanding driving dynamics you can expect to see the fuel gauge drop with official combined economy of 37.2mpg on 21-inch wheels and carbon emissions of 199g/km. During my week-long test which covered almost 600 miles, I was seeing an average of 29.3mpg.
That said though; very few performance SUVs with 4×4 capabilities offer the same levels of all-round entertainment as the SQ7 so it’s easy to see just why the vehicle has earned its flagship status at Audi.
Audi SQ7 TDI – first drive (2016)
Mention SUVs and it conjures up all sorts of images of practical, beefy and versatile cars – some ultra-stylish, some not quite so high on quality – but rarely do you factor a 0-62 sprint time of 4.9 seconds into the equation.
Admittedly there are some truly up-market, high-end versions out there such as the Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne, but now they have a new rival to contend with because Audi has just introduced a flagship model to its Q7 line-up and it has pretty impressive performance stats along with some very interesting new and innovative technology.
Flip the bonnet lid and you’ll find an all-new 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbodiesel engine delivering a whopping 435PS and 900Nm of grunt – those figures give the SQ7 the highest power to weight ratio in class and the highest torque to weight ratio in class so it’s already off to a flying start.
It is also the first car to feature an electrically-powered compressor which is designed to speed up response times, so giving instant power at low revs and eradicating any signs of turbo lag. And that, in layman’s terms, translates into rapid responses.
The SQ7 looks amazing from any approach and its athletic stance is guaranteed to turn heads wherever it passes by. Eye-catching styling cues include 21-inch alloys, Audi Matrix LED headlights, red painted brake callipers with the S logo, LED tail lights with dynamic sweeping indicators, a single frame grille, S styling on the bumper, side ventilation grilles, side skirt and roof spoiler, a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass and lots of chrome trim.
Step inside the car and there’s a level of on-board technology that simply cannot fail to impress. The luxury that surrounds you is premium in every sense of the word and there are creature comforts and techno treats galore to be explored at every turn. The car features Audi’s superb virtual cockpit set-up that was initially introduced on the TT a couple of years back – this allows the driver to personalise the information that is displayed. In addition there is a head-up display, BOSE 3D sound system, an 8.3-inch high resolution touchscreen, multi-media interface with sat nav, DAB digital radio and smartphone connectivity, ambient lighting and a seemingly never ending list of top notch kit.
In a day and age where space and practicality is key, the seven-seater SQ7 excels on all counts with a third row of seats that fold away flush to the boot floor when not in use. When all seven seats are occupied, the boot still caters for 235 litres of luggage. Then with the back seats dropped down that capacity increases to 705 litres and with the 35:30:35 split-folding second row of seats flat a massive 1,890 litres of storage space becomes available.
The car is priced at £70,970, but in true Audi tradition a whole host of optional extras bumped up the test car’s price-tag to £95,160. That said; many of the options were upgrades to systems that would be perfectly acceptable as standard, so the increase can be monitored to suit demand and budgets accordingly.
One of the first things that warrants a mention when you take your seat (heated and leather of course) behind the 3-spoke, flat-bottomed, leather, multi-function sport steering wheel is just how sophisticated and comfortable the car is. The all-round visibility from the high-seated driving position is superb as is the attention to details with the very finest materials incorporated to create a premium and elegant cabin environment with all controls, dials and instrumentation perfectly positioned for ease of use.
Press the start button and the car gently rumbles into life, add slight pressure to the throttle and that rumble becomes more of a roar and is a not-so-subtle hint to what’s in store. The eight-speed automatic transmission is beautifully smooth and responsive as it whizzes through the gears and you can take a little more control via the paddle shifts if the mood takes you. The acceleration is blisteringly fast for such a colossus of a vehicle and yet it handles with incredible agility – even when pushed hard into long sweeping bends it stays firmly planted and on track with no body roll whatsoever. Another notable factor is how well insulated and silent the cabin remains with very little wind, road or engine noise to speak of.
Motorway cruising is beautifully effortless and the SQ7 seems to glide along eating up the miles of Tarmac with instant power bursts at your disposal at any time. Then the busy cities complete with lots of congestion pose few problems thanks to that great visibility and a whole range of parking aids.
We even took the car off-road and it weaved its way through slippery fields and climbed muddy banks with absolute ease. Well, after all it does boast quattro all-wheel drive, and the off-road setting adds further to its capabilities. Other settings such as Dynamic can be activated when you really want to crank up the responses and sharpen the handling and there are more standard settings for those looking for a quieter life.
The top speed on this powerhouse has been electronically-limited to 155mph and according to official figures the SQ7 can deliver combined fuel economy of 37.2mpg with carbon emissions of 199g/km (on 21-inch tyres).
And, being an Audi, the car is packed to bursting with a comprehensive list of safety specifications to protect occupants and pedestrians alike.
All in all, the Audi SQ7 is a masterclass in technology and premium styling. Okay, it’s not cheap, but the entry price is extremely competitive and the longer you spend driving the car the more its appeal grows as does the justification for its price-tag.