Hot Audi SUV with sport car per­for­mance

Audi’s hot new SQ7 is good value, even at its huge price, says Damien O’car­roll.

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The SQ7 is the sec­ond ve­hi­cle in Audi’s SUV range to get the S treat­ment, with the SQ5 be­ing the first. The SQ5 rep­re­sents more than half of Q5 sales lo­cally, so it is fairly ob­vi­ous that we Ki­wis like our per­for­mance SUVS – so it is for­tu­nate that the SQ7 is ev­ery inch a very se­ri­ous per­for­mance SUV. While the SQ5 gets a twin-turbo three-litre diesel V6 that pumps out 230kw and 650Nm, the SQ7 has some­thing far, far sil­lier un­der its bon­net – an all-new and to­tally bel­liger­ent four-litre diesel V8 with three tur­bos, 320kw of power and a colos­sal 900Nm of torque. And, yes, you did read that right – the SQ7 has three tur­bos, and one of them is ut­terly un­like any­thing you will have seen on a pro­duc­tion car be­fore. That is be­cause the “first” turbo in the SQ7’S se­quen­tial setup is an elec­tri­cally pow­ered one that es­chews the tra­di­tional ex­haust gaspro­pelled method of spool­ing it up in favour of an elec­tric mo­tor that is pow­ered by the SQ7’S 48-volt elec­tri­cal sub sys­tem. Yes, that IS right – the SQ7 has two elec­tri­cal sys­tems; a tra­di­tional 12V sys­tem that does all the usual tasks, as well as an aux­il­iary 48V sys­tem that han­dles all the high­volt­age heavy lift­ing re­quired by the turbo and the ac­tive roll sta­bil­i­sa­tion sys­tem. With this 48V power boost be­hind it, the elec­tric turbo can spool up to an in­cred­i­ble 75,000rpm in 0.3 of a sec­ond, elim­i­nat­ing tra­di­tional turbo lag, and mak­ing the en­gine’s full 900Nm avail­able from be­low 1,000rpm. The sec­ond turbo in the line-up is re­ferred to by Audi as the “ac­tive” turbo, and is con­stantly spin­ning. This takes over things af­ter the elec­tric turbo has moved things off the line, and by 2,200rpm the third turbo (or the “pas­sive” turbo) has wo­ken up and spun into life to pro­vide ad­di­tional power fur­ther up in the rev range. What this means in real life is frankly ridicu­lous per­for­mance from some­thing so large – the SQ7 can leap to 100km/h from a stand­still in 4.9 sec­onds. Avail­able as an op­tion lo­cally is an­other im­pres­sive part of the SQ7’S 48V arse­nal – the ac­tive roll sta­bil­i­sa­tion sys­tem. Ba­si­cally a pair of ac­tive anti-roll bars on the front and rear sus­pen­sion, the sys­tem packs an elec­tric mo­tor on each sway bar that can pro­duce an im­mense 1,200Nm of torque to keep the SQ7 flat­ter through a cor­ner than any­thing so tall has a right to be. Be­cause the mo­tors run on an AC sys­tem, they can also re­verse their be­hav­iour on a straight piece of road to feed elec­tric­ity back into the 48V lithium-ion bat­tery. Again, the re­sult here is deeply im­pres­sive, with the SQ7 feel­ing bizarrely flat through cor­ners. As a re­sult of this, the SQ7’S “com­fort” mode can be con­sid­er­ably softer, mean­ing that pure lux­ury and su­perb ride com­fort are also on of­fer. The ac­tive sys­tem comes as part of the op­tional Per­for­mance Pack­age (that was fit­ted to our test car) that also adds four-wheel steer­ing, a trick sports dif­fer­en­tial, and red brake cal­lipers to the SQ7 for $16,000. On the in­side the SQ7 is very much an Audi, with a su­perbly built and laid out in­te­rior and some ut­terly mag­nif­i­cent leather seats, while Audi’s new “vir­tual dash” is a bril­liant look­ing thing and very cus­tomis­able. On the down side, how­ever, while the pop up screen for in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem keeps the dash un­clut­tered, it is rather dated and it has to be said that Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto are ever-so-slightly com­pro­mised by hav­ing to use a dial in­stead of touch­screen. Around town the SQ7 is a re­mark­ably com­fort­able lux­ury cruiser, with feather-light steer­ing (ac­tu­ally too light for my tastes) a sup­ple ride and a re­mark­able turn­ing cir­cle, thanks to the op­tions 4WS sys­tem. Mean­while, out on the open road it is an ab­so­lute mis­sile. The 4.0-litre triple-charged diesel V8 is quite sim­ply an amaz­ing piece of kit that is mas­sively pow­er­ful and ac­tu­ally fu­gal with it, and the huge torque is sim­ply ev­ery­where. The ut­terly amaz­ing body con­trol and su­perbly com­fort­able ride mean that rapid cross-coun­try blasts are ex­tremely ef­fort­less, but do re­quire keep­ing a close eye on the speedome­ter as it is so ut­terly ef­fort­less… The Audi SQ7 is an truly im­pres­sive ma­chine that, even for its base ask­ing price of $175,900 rep­re­sents re­mark­able value for money.

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