Feel of a feral force
Stealthy seven-seater packs safety, luxe — and a ferocious V8 diesel
WELCOME to the seven-seat SUV on steroids. Audi’s SQ7 is one of the quickest, smartest high-riding forms of mass transit available.
It will outrun a BMW M50d or a Porsche Cayenne S diesel and will out-hustle the pair through the turns (it’s worth noting both rival brands have new versions due in the next year or so).
At $153,616 the SQ7 is about $4000 dearer than its direct competition and the technology embedded in the car merits the premium, even if you need to find $13,500 for a dynamics pack to get the most out of the extraordinary 4.0-litre V8 turbo diesel.
Other incidentals include $2250 for metallic paint and $4000-$5000 to upgrade the standard 20-inch wheels with 21-inch jobs.
The relatively understated look of the SQ7 — a pair of tailpipes at each corner is the only hint of the performance it delivers — means plenty will also spend $950 to have the brake calipers painted red.
The equipment list is impressive. There are LED headlamps, a hi-res digital driver’s display, powered tailgate, head-up display showing speed and navigation, 8.3-inch infotainment screen, Bang and Olufsen speakers and wireless charging for compatible smartphones.
Driver-assist features include city-speed autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot and lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera, automatic high-beam dipping and automated parking.
Adaptive cruise control, active lane-assist and Audi’s traffic jam assist combine to steer the car — most of the time — between the lines and maintain a gap to the vehicle in front.
Space for the second-row occupants is huge and the seats
fold down for ready access to the third row. These deploy at the push of a button and are big enough to fit a couple of smallish adults on shorter trips. Kids will be fine.
ON THE ROAD
A 2.3-tonne SUV shouldn’t out-accelerate a sports car yet the SQ7 does just that. Effortlessly, repeatedly and with as little fuss as you’d expect from an engine packing 900Nm and no noticeable turbo lag.
The official sprint time of 4.9 seconds is quicker than the S3 sedan stablemate and largely attributable to the electric compressor that kicks in from takeoff to force-feed air into the twin turbos.
If the sprint is impressive, the SQ7’s roll-on acceleration is gobsmacking with the drive mode set to dynamic. The eightspeed auto doesn’t have to try too hard to keep the engine in its peak torque range of 1000rpm-3250rpm and overtaking becomes a point-and-squirt exercise.
If you plan to drive the SQ7 as it was intended, extend the price by $13,500 to include the dynamic pack with four-wheel steering and a sports differential, along with the electromechanical anti-roll setup also used on the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Panamera.
The electronics monitor speed, yaw rates and body angles to determine how stiff the roll bars should be. At low speed and on rough surfaces, the two halves of the bar are separated to let each corner move freely. As the pace increases the halves of the roll bar are twisted against each other to minimise body roll.
The only limitation to how quickly you drive the SQ7 is a subliminal appreciation of the consequences of inertia overcoming electronic wizardry as you power a couple of tonnes of expensive metal into a tight bend.
That threshold is well beyond anything the legal limits and sanity permit in Australia. Theoretically, the stability control would intervene … but you can’t help that nagging feeling things could get real ugly, real quick.
The artificially weighted steering doesn’t help here. The steering feel is masked by a contrived weight on initial turnin that doesn’t bolster confidence. Drop the steering feel back to comfort and there’s not enough weight to feel at ease through a series of tightening sweepers.
The sports seats are snug but there’s still enough room to stretch your back or thighs on a long haul and the flat-bottomed steering wheel is one of the few indications you’re not in a regular Q7.
Given the base diesel Q7 starts at $96,855, there are a lot of financial reasons why you mightn’t need the SQ7. This car isn’t about need, it’s about want — and who doesn’t want a seven-seat SUV to outhaul and outdrag most cars on the road?
The SQ7 is unquestionably the fastest, best-appointed sevenseater in the mainstream market. It is not the most engaging drive but the sheer ferocity of the diesel V8 and the data-driven vehicle dynamics overwhelm the competition in the real world.