There are a couple of things you should know about Audi’s new range-topping Q7 model, the SQ7. Firstly, it has helped established the Q7 as the best selling Audi in New Zealand and secondly, SQ7 introduces some innovative technology to the automotive area.
It has a 48v electrical system which drives an electric turbocharger, and also powers the electric motors that are part of the active swaybar system. Essentially the electric turbo spools up within a quarter of a second, mitigating the lag associated with regular turbos. The electric turbo then hands over to the sequential turbos, which generate almighty shove from 1000rpm onwards. How much exactly? Well, under the bonnet lies a 4.0 V8 turbodiesel featuring a dual VVT system that’s good for 320kW and 900Nm, big numbers in anyone’s book.
Mind you, they’re needed. For the seven-seater we drove tips the scales at 2500kg. Still, with a quick-shifting eight-speed auto, Audi reckons the big dog will get the 0-100 job done in 4.9sec. And that would make it not only the quickest diesel we’ve ever tested but the only diesel ever to break into the four-second bracket.
More on its speed later but meantime we should address what is the most masterful aspect of the SQ7, and that’s the way this thing gets down the road, at least as configured. For our’s had the Performance Pack upgrade. It’s kind of a misnomer this, because it doesn’t actually enhance straight line speed; rather, it makes the bits connecting the straight lines feel as if they aren’t really there. If you’ve any interest in cornering dynamics tick this $16k option box. Or you can take components of it, like rear axle steering ($3200). Even by doing so, you’re still shy of the GLS 500 and well below the ask of, say, a Range Rover Sport SVR or a Supercharged Vogue, neither of which offers seating for seven.
Anyhow, for this and other reasons we can understand why it’s sold out until May, for it genuinely lives up to the hype. For those who’ve ordered on blind faith or because their existing Q7 4.2TDI is in need of an upgrade, you are in for a treat. This is comfortably (and I use the term for its double meaning) the best handling of the large SUVs I’ve ever driven, even besting the Bentayga. Nothing else comes close, despite its weight.
Clearly the whatsits and gubbins beneath that keep it on the straight and narrow aren’t made of balsa wood. Some of the extra over the claimed weight of 2330kg will be due to the Performance Pack. The first, red calipers, adds grammes only in paint. Brakes are otherwise the same, though you can upgrade to carbon ceramics for $18k. We’d not bother, given the existing brakes work just fine. A best stop from 100m of over 36m reflects what work the brakes have to do to rein in such a weighty beast.
The other three items in the performance package are key to its on-road prowess. First there’s a torque vectoring sports diff, and torque vectoring by brake on both axles. There’s also the active sway bars, a.k.a electromechanical active roll stabilisation (eARS). This is the second component that relies on the 48v electrical system. It uses a host of sensors to predict body roll and the motor applies a torque input, twisting the two halves of the bar against each other, opposing centrifugal forces
Air suspension also chimes in when cornering, stiffening the outer air springs, and softening the inner ones, helping to keep the vehicle level. Movements of the sway bars during normal running are utilised in an energy recuperation system to keep the 48v lithium ion battery juiced. Moreover, on straights the two halves of the swaybar are decoupled, for improved ride quality.
That’s not all though; the final piece in the dynamic jigsaw puzzle is rear wheel steering, the few extra degrees of turn another aid to getting the big rig turned into corners and negating understeer. Oh, and making parking and U-turns easier, the turning circle of the 5.07m giant reduced by 1m.
On road, this is truly epic, its cornering ability almost paranormal. Helping is a quattro system with a 40/60 rearward bias, and weight split of around 53/47; it may have a 320kg V8 turbodiesel lump over the front axle but you’d never know that by how it drives. Push it hard into bends and it simply rounds them up, the body lean superbly controlled. Push harder and you can detect the effect of rear wheel steer helping to nose the front around the corner. I gave up trying to get it to understeer. You can get through corners in this at almost the same speed as you could in a sports sedan.
So there’s that, but at the same time the ride quality is disarmingly absorbent, especially given the low profile nature of the rubber (285/35R22s). Air springs and damping firm in the Dynamic mode, but not so much they impact on ride quality. The Comfort setting, best for urban climes, is wafting. Auto combines both, and it’s the setting you tend to use the most. It’s ridiculously quiet too, so much so it makes our dB meter look broken. We couldn’t measure any dB levels above about 67.8, the average being 66.8dB.
So does it do the business? In an aural sense we’d say it does, the burble from the V8 TDI a constantly pleasant reminder of what’s under the hood, especially when in the Dynamic mode, a sound enhancer adding a certain something. It’s a trick engine too, revving out to above 5000rpm, though is done essentially by about 4000. But given it kicks from 2000rpm that’s a useful enough spread, especially with eight speeds on hand.
Is it lag-free? Not quite, not with the immediacy of a supercharged F-Pace, for example. But the electric turbo spins up in a quarter-second so the SQ7 surges off the line after the briefest of delays.
Unlikely as it may seem, this behemoth is the diesel vehicle that finally cracked the five-second barrier, recording a best of 4.79sec. By contrast, the $130k 200kW Q7 requires 6.6sec. On the overtake SQ7 is blindingly quick; merely pull the shift lever to S, add a bit of gas and in a tick over 3sec you’ve completed the pass. Again, given its size and heft, it beggars belief just how fast this is.
Thrifty too, with an average in the 12s, and often using single figures on the highway. We saw a low in the high sevens, and Audi claims an overall figure of 7.2L/100km. Tall gearing helps, 100 using up just 1300rpm in eighth. In the interests of science we wondered what it would do at 2000rpm and discovered the answer is 153km/h. That’s gearing fit for a Greyhound bus.
Performance pack aside, the SQ7 is well equipped with all the active driver assistance aids, LED matrix headlights, four zones of AC, Audi Virtual Cockpit, head-up display, powered third-row seats, you name it. Ours also had 22-inch alloys ($7250). A luxury pack can be had for $10k, which includes a sunroof and special seats, while a B&O premium audio costs $14k.
For a vehicle that does it all, tows up to 3500kg, has 4WD and off-road ability, seats seven, has every bit of safety kit, plus is fast and handles and rides well, and is priced at under $200K it’s hard to beat. That it also has one of the best diesels ever is an added bonus. Little wonder sales of large SUVs now dominate in the luxury sector. SQ7 represents the next step in the evolution of the luxury SUV.
|Engine||3956cc, V8, TDI, 320kW/900Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed auto, all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||7.6L/100km||C02 Output||199g/km|