Audi SQ7 2016 Review | First Australian Drive
Audi SQ7 2016 Review | First Australian Drive

Audi SQ7 2016 Review | First Australian Drive


Audi's Q7 is a belter of a car. When it landed late last year, it tore up the form book. For a start, it got smaller than the first generation and went diesel-only (in Australia, at least) when that was a brave decision. It also put some new-to-the-segment tech and an interior every car company would kill for.

The SQ7 is doing that all over again. Up until now, the Q7 didn't have a quick version whereas rivals BMW and Mercedes SUVs do: BMW has the triple-turbo X5 M50d and the X5 M. Audi realised it was on to something when the spectacular SQ5 shot up the charts and planned the SQ7 to have the same impact.

Looking to the brilliant SQ5 for inspiration, in went a whopping great diesel engine. And then the company really went to work.

Price and features

The SQ7 kicks off at a BMW X5 M50d-troubling (but not beating) $153,616, which isn't mucking around considering the base Q7 is under $100,000. It does buy quite a bit of stuff and you could argue that a base Q7 with all these boxes ticked wouldn't be significantly cheaper.

The SQ7 starts with 20-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, heads-up display, Virtual Cockpit, 8.3-inch MMI screen, safety goodies galore, auto parking, reversing camera, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, leather trim with S branding everywhere, sports front seats, keyless entry and start, four-zone climate control, air suspension, ambient lighting, leather trim, 19-speaker Bose sound system, DAB and up-spec sat nav.

The 8.3 retractable screen is run by Audi's console-mounted MMI rotary dial. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both present and correct.

To add to the standard features, Audi offers a range of packages as well as a long list of individual options.

The $13,500 Dynamic package contributes a quattro sport diff, active roll stabilisation and four-wheel steering. Eighty percent of the 300-odd pre-orders for the SQ7 have this package and it's a blinder - the active roll stabilisation is an astonishing piece of tech. For nerds like me it's possibly the only thing more impressive than this car's engine. It's not often you will hear me praising such an expensive option package.

There are two Titanium black gloss styling packages, both priced at $1850. Package One blacks out various bits and pieces but leaves mirrors in body colour and roof rails in black. Package Two is the same apart from the mirrors also going black.

You can also go up to 21 or 22-inches in wheel size for between $3300 and $6490; red brake calipers are $950; four wheel steering on its own is $2850; the excellent matrix LED headlights add $2200; metallic paint is a knee-collapsing $2250 while the rest of you will shut down when you learn the $5000 cost of crystal effect paint.

And hold on to your hats because the incredibly strong carbon brakes will rip them off when you stomp on the pedal while also consuming a staggering $19,500. On the upside, you'll never have to clean your wheels. Sadly, there wasn't a chance to sample these brakes as none of the launch cars had them fitted.

But wait, there's more (come on, it's an Audi) - full leather is $14,500, extended leather $12,300; different combinations of interior metal and wood trim are between $1350 and $3800; the B&O 3D sound system is $11,340 and the rear seat entertainment system with two screens a further $4950. If you load up an SQ7, you can easily - easily - land on the other side of $200,000.

Practicality

It's a big 'un, the SQ7, so it swallows lots of people and stuff. The middle row is split into three and each section can be folded separately. The third row of two seats are electrically retracted. With everybody piled in, you've got 235 litres of luggage space and with everybody bar driver and front passenger kicked out, you've got 1890 litres.

Up front there are two cupholders, another two in the centre row and two for the third row, bringing the total to six. Each door will hold a bottle for a total of four.

The third row is raised or lowered by buttons in the side of the boot. The middle row's outboard seats flip their seatbacks forward and then with another handle, you can tip them forward to make entry to the rear row much easier. The tailgate is also electric.

Design

Already a familiar sight on our roads, the new Q7 blends in pretty well with the rest of the Audi range and these days is more raised wagon than high-in-the-sky fake mud-plugger. It looks way smaller than the old one and that is a continuous source of joy for me.

The SQ7 will be tricky to pick. The 20-inch alloys aren't a guarantee of Audi Sport action and with red brake calipers available to any Tarquin, Dominique or Harriet, that's no guarantee either. The grille has had the Audi Sport treatment but you'll need to look closely. 

There are two things left to ensure you've spotted the quick Q7 - its thundering acceleration will ensure you can see the back which a) has an SQ7 badged affixed to it and b) has four squared off tailpipes. If you're close enough you'll hear an agreeable sound out of them too. 

Apart from that, it's pretty much a slightly lower Q7, just with titanium finish mirrors unless you decide to black them out.

Inside is, again, standard Q7 so there's little to shout about apart from the Audi Sport and SQ7 logos scattered about and a red ring around the starter button. Diamond patterns in the Valcona leather on the front seats add a bit of class, too. If you want more, start ticking boxes and keep your wallet handy.

The Q7's interior is still fresh as the day it was born and with the Audi Sport treatment is further ahead of both of its German competitors and still a block or two ahead of Jaguar's F Pace.

Engine and transmission

The SQ7 ships with a 4.0-litre V8 with two traditional turbos working sequentially. To combat turbo lag down low, an electric motor spins a third compressor, driven by the brand new 48-volt power system - that's how Formula 1 engines stay on boost all of the time. The engine produces 320kW and a colossal 900Nm of torque. With 2270kg to shift, all of that grunt sends the SQ7 towards 100km/h and the horizon in 4.9 seconds.

Naturally all that power reaches the road via Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system and an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

The 48V power system feeds the electric compressor up to 7kW of power and also charges a 0.5kW lithium-ion battery and can peak at 13kW. A DC convertor will step down the power to 12 volts for the car's electrics.

The SQ7 is rated to tow a whopping 3500kg braked and 750kg unbraked.

Fuel consumption

Audi claims 7.2L/100km from this land rocket. The vigorously driven machines on our launch program still managed to deliver a figure of 9.2L/100km. It's unlikely to come as a surprise to you that we absolutely hammered them and they still delivered this figure.

Driving

We already know quite a bit about the Q7 and I've driven the 3.0 TDI in both power levels and have come away hugely impressed. It really is head and shoulders above the pack and that's against some super-impressive competition from Mercedes, BMW and Volvo.

Gadding about on urban roads, the SQ7 could easily be a standard Q7. The engine is tractable and flexible, with just a bit of V8-style woofle to hint at the potential. Floor it and you'll understand.

When you floor a turbo engine from stand-still or when puddling, the exhaust pressure isn't enough to have the turbine spinning to generate the power and torque it's meant for. Even a big V8 can't generate oomph to spin up the compressor and no amount of variable vane, twin-scroll trickery will do. So while the two turbos are waiting for more revs and more pressure in an orderly queue nestled between the cylinder banks, another electrically powered compressor (EPC) is already spinning at 70,000rpm.

The EPC is out and away from the engine - where exhaust turbos love, nay, demand heat, it is the enemy of electrically-driven things. Plumbed straight into an intercooler, the EPC responds in milliseconds to the throttle, provides a handy boost at low revs and gets out of the way once the big boys start spinning properly.

So this is what happens in an SQ7 off a standing start. You press the accelerator and it launches off the line and just keeps going faster. There's no amazing \"oh, there must be something clever there\" it's just relentless, breathtaking acceleration. The point is, it doesn't feel turbocharged, it just feels plain fast. The closest thing I can come to is the way a hybrid like a BMW i8 has all that electric torque available while it waits for the engine to come up to speed. McLaren's engineers call it torque filling. It's brilliant. And it sounds fantastic.

There is plenty more besides. The Dynamic Pack includes four wheel steering (giving the SQ7 a turning circle smaller than the Q3), a tricky rear diff and to supplement the excellent air suspension, electromechanical active roll stabilisation.

To cut a very long and complicated explanation short, these three things work together to keep the SQ7 flat and flying. The active roll stabilisation is basically sway bars that are twisted together by a helical gearbox to handle lateral loads - when subjected to 1G of cornering force, the SQ7 will tip just one degree, almost imperceptible. At least it's imperceptible from the driver's seat because to generate that kind of go you have to be really moving. The four wheel steer turns the wheels in the same direction as the fronts as you go faster which means incredibly stable lane change or swerve manoeuvres and it tucks the rear end in when you're chucking it into corners.

It might be over two tonnes but you rarely feel it. It's just a pity that it is actually that chunky despite all the aluminium in its construction. And the steering could do with more feel, it's a little bit distant (but not like Audi's of old)

Safety

The SQ7 is crammed with active and passive safety tech including, six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, auto emergency braking, active bonnet, blind spot warning, exit warning (detects pedestrians and cyclists approaching), and rear cross traffic alert. 

The Q7 scored five ANCAP stars, the maximum available, and this rating also applies to the SQ7.

Ownership

The SQ7 comes with Audi's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty along with free roadside assist for the duration. An Audi service plan is available to fix your service costs, coming in at $1900 for three years/45,000km. 

And you get a nice glossy magazine sent to your home.


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