Audi SQ7 is polished, practical and fearsomely quick
AUDI’s SQ7 looks quite similar to many of the large SUVs on the road – until you spot the discreet badge and the quartet of squared exhaust tips peeping out from below its tail as its zooms past and disappears over the horizon.
The big Audi is a full seven-seater, and apart from its many luxuries, it has the power and urge of a supercar.
The stats make eye-popping reading: a 4.0-litre V8 diesel that produces 320kW and 900Nm, an 8-speed tiptronic transmission, quattro all-wheel drive and a 4.9 second sprint to 100km/h – which puts the 2.2tonne SUV virtually line-ball with a Porsche 911!
It all adds up to a very different animal, like a Kodiak bear with the manners of a labrador and the pace and agility of a cheetah.
Get in behind the flat-bottomed leather-clad steering wheel, push the start button and the seat tightens up around you in an Elle-like hug.
Then you can select which ride you prefer, auto, comfort, sport, dynamic, off-road and a few more, and the vehicle’s air suspension sets it to the best height.
The dash is of the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ variety and simply superb and seating, head, shoulder and legroom is more than ample.
There’s a pop-up 12-inch high-resolution display that works with a centrally-mounted infotainment system, a 15-channel, 19-speaker Bose 3D Surround Sound system, multiple steering wheel controls and places to connect your smartphones or tablets, plus rear seat aircon controls, the latter with 4-zone climate control.
There’s a fine reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, LED front and rear illumination and LED taillights with dynamic indicators, . and virtually every other feature imaginable.
Space? The third row of seats is tucked away underfloor, but just touch a button to set them up electronically, or leave them flat and lower the second row and you’ve got nearly 1900litres of space at your disposal.
So it has the space and comfort, but the real star of the SQ7 show is its engine.
Apart from two turbochargers, it’s unique in having a small electric supercharger – they call it a compressor – which provides instant thrust to propel the vehicle to blinding speed, while still using an average of only 7.2litres/100km.
Nor is there any diesel clatter.
The V8 sounds like a V8 should, with a deep mellifluous burble that will keep the driver happy and not annoy folk in the old age home.
The SQ7 is easy to slide in and out of, drives smoothly, and if you’re in Daniel Ricciardo mode, it’s an exceptional thing to steer.
It gives a very composed ride, does not do a tower of Pisa around corners, but despite its quattro drivetrain and (optional) all-wheel steering , it remains a two-tonne machine, so it’s not going to outcorner an Audi TT. But it can make a u-turn on the proverbial sixpence, and it will happily tootle along city traffic in nanna-mode.
The SQ7 cost $153,616, but our testmobile came with a bunch of options, among them the $13,500 dynamic pack which included a quattro sport diff, all-wheel steering and electro-mechanical active roll stabilization.
It also had 21-inch wheels ($5000), Valcona leather, Alcantara headlining and other bits to bring the total to $187,866.
Verdict: This beautifully-built and engineered monster is a motoring revelation.