Hot Audi SUV with sport car performance
Audi’s hot new SQ7 is good value, even at its huge price, says Damien O’carroll.
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.