£70,970 Price range
The Audi SQ7 is the German company’s latest niche-filler – a seven-seater SUV with the ability to out-run some of the quickest hot hatchbacks in a straight line.
As with any S model from Audi, the biggest upgrade over the standard model lies under the bonnet. The twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine is helped by an electric system that improves throttle response – a world first in a production car – and it really steals the show out on the road thanks to mind-blowing acceleration.
Also a world first is a clever electrical system that controls the SQ7’s active suspension, which in turn keeps this 2.3-tonne leviathan under control in fast corners.
The rest of the car is more or less a regular top-spec Q7, which means you get one of the best interiors in class and a spacious boot, too.
As with other expensive Audis, to really get the best out of the SQ7 you need to spec up some pricey options such as the clever adaptive suspension. Nevertheless it comes as standard with LED headlights, huge 20 inch wheels, a sporty bodykit with four exhaust pipes and air suspension.
The regular Q7 has a simple yet very functional and beautifully built cockpit. The SQ7’s interior adds the usual S treatment, so you get a flat-bottomed steering wheel, some S badges and some carbon fibre inserts. The end result is still the same spectacular cabin, but with a little nod to the car’s sportier leanings.
Not only are the materials top notch, but also the infotainment system is one of the best in business, too. The central screen rises from the dashboard and has crisp graphics, while the rotary dial, mounted on the centre console, makes navigation through the menus easy. Compared to rivals it sits between the easier-to-use BMW iDrive and trickier-to-get-used-to Mercedes COMAND system.
For £600 extra the SQ7 can be ordered with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the conventional dials with a high-res screen that can show a wealth of information to the driver including the sat-nav map. It’s very easy to get used to and the amount of information it gives means you rarely take your eyes off the road. It’s an essential option, but it’s still a bit cheeky for Audi to add it as an option on this range-topping Q7.
Audi SQ7 passenger space
Front-seat passengers in the SQ7 get electrically adjustable heated seats upholstered in a combination of leather and Alcantara suede, while passengers in the middle row get acres of space. You can also fit three baby seats in the back and two small children in the rearmost row.
Audi SQ7 boot space
With all seven seats up there is 295 litres of space – it won’t be enough for the luggage of seven, but it’s still about 50 litres more than what a supermini such as the Skoda Citigo can fit. When five seats are in use the boot swells to 770 litres which is more than in the Mercedes GLS (680 litres) and BMW X5 (660 litres). Fold all the seats and the resulting 1,955-litre capacity is actually more than the maximum capacity of the practical VW Touran MPV.
The current Q7 is a fair amount lighter than the old one, but at 2,330kg the SQ7 doesn’t sound exactly featherweight. To combat the laws of physics the SQ7 is fitted with something called an active roll bar. This means that, when needed, the electric system can stiffen up the whole car and the results are nothing short of impressive.
The SQ7 has a huge amount of grip in corners and very little body roll – it certainly doesn’t handle like a two-tonne car when you get to a set of corners. There’s also a small speaker mounted in the rear, next to the exhaust, which improves the diesel sound immensely. Have a look at the video below to hear for yourself.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine that lives under the SQ7’s bonnet produces 435hp – and it’s a real monster out on the road. It has around 100hp less than the BMW X5M, but the more impressive figure is the torque. Thanks to a very advanced air compression system, the Audi produces a whopping 664lb ft of torque at 1,000rpm – that’s barely above idle. This means that from the moment you press the accelerator the SQ7 pins you to the seat with a force that doesn’t diminish even the slightest as speed builds up in an alarming way. The SQ7 hits 62mph from rest in 4.9 seconds but, despite its power, it can average 31.8mpg if driven carefully. The X5M does the same benchmark quicker at 4.2 seconds, but you’d struggle to get more than 15mpg out of it.
Even the normal Q7 is quite an expensive car so the SQ7 won’t be the bargain of the century, but if you take into account the impressive on-road capabilities, some limited off-road ability and one of the best car interiors currently on sale it doesn’t look too bad.
However, to bring out the true potential of the SQ7 you have to spec up some optional extras. The driving dynamics package costing around £2,500 brings the impressive active anti roll bar, a sports rear differential that juggles power between each wheel and four-wheel steering – all essential to make the most of the engine’s massive power.
Just like the regular Q7, the SQ7 ticks all the boxes of a successful premium SUV such as a classy interior, balanced ride and seven seats, but also adds impressive handling, sports-car acceleration and the pulling power to rival a small lorry. It also looks more modern next to a BMW X5M and is more agile in corners than the Mercedes GLS 63 AMG, and its diesel engine will use a smidgen less fuel than those petrol-drinking competitors.
If you’re in the market for a quick seven-seater SUV, the Audi SQ7 should be near the top of your list.