Car reviews - Audi - SQ7
Urgent new twin-turbo petrol V8, 3500kg braked towing capacity, seven seats, defies its weight in corners
Room for improvement
Price increase (albeit a reasonable one), optional extras are very exxy, V8 soundtrack isn’t as raucous as it could be
New SQ7 switches to petrol V8, improves dynamics and tech but maintains family appeal
4 Nov 2022
ONCE the obscure, performance diesel seven-seat SUV with gargantuan torque on tap, the Audi SQ7 shifts to petrol for 2022 and, in doing so, gains performance and dynamic chops that feel more sportscar than 2.3-tonne family hauler.
By obscure, we refer to the fact 900Nm twin-turbo diesel V8s aren’t too common, in passenger cars anyway, so much of the outgoing model’s appeal was the bellowing diesel donk and the fact it was so unique.
The move to 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol power makes sense, even before driving the new SQ7, but once behind the wheel the dynamic prowess the new powertrain has unlocked is the real winner.
With the shift to petrol and addition of more tech comes a price bump to $164,100, up $2600 on the outgoing diesel model. Not too bad at a time when inflation threatens to accelerate faster than this SQ7.
On that note, for the extra coin you get more power, with peak outputs of 373kW and 770Nm resulting in a claimed 0-100km/h dash of 4.1 seconds – a not insignificant 0.7 seconds quicker than the diesel.
The only transmission option is the eight-speed torque converter automatic, which seems to be about the magic number of cogs at the moment and works perfectly in this application.
Aside from a lively petrol V8, the new SQ7 gets all the tech the previous model had, plus more, with a very healthy list of standard inclusions.
The SQ7 features rear-biased Quattro permanent all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering and adaptive air suspension, making it equal parts grippy, manoeuvrable and comfortable while still firming up considerably when needed.
In fact, Audi Australia product manager Matthew Dale told GoAuto the air suspension is capable of processing 400 inputs per second from various sensors around the vehicle.
For an extra $10,900, Audi offers a dynamic package with electromechanical active roll stabilisation and an electronically controlled sport differential.
The SQ7 test vehicle we drove didn’t have the dynamic package but its twin-under-the-skin SQ8 sibling did and the rear was noticeably more lively while also tightening the front up more in corners.
Audi did, however, fit the $19,500 ceramic brake package to the SQ7 tester, featuring mammoth 10-piston callipers and 420mm rotors that look pretty snug under the 22-inch wheels.
The handy 3500kg braked towing capacity remains which, alongside the fact the SQ7 has seven seats, makes it a very capable family hauler.
Cargo space is healthy too, with 617 litres behind the second row, 1890 litres from the first row back, and the air suspension actually lets you lower the load height of the rear with the press of a button.
The third-row seating is suitable for children, or petite adults, and having seven seats whittles down the competition for the SQ7; leaving really only the similarly powerful BMW X7 M60. But that’s more than 200 grand on the road and a Mercedes-AMG GLS63 is more than a quarter of a million bucks before on-roads and options.
Visually the SQ7 is as dominant as ever, with a lower stance and ‘S’ body styling elements like front and rear bumpers, grille, air ducts, tailgate spoiler and 22-inch wheels.
A panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, heated and folding side mirrors, and soft closing doors round out the exterior of the new SQ7. The soft closing doors are more of a ‘nice to have’, allowing you to gently latch the door and the car will properly close them for you.
The interior features plenty of ‘S’ badging, and Valcona leather upholstery with diamond patterned stitching. It’s premium in every way, with a diverse mix of colours and finishes, and absolutely nothing feels cheap.
The seats are also a winner with four-way lumbar support, electric adjustability, heating, and comfortable yet sporty bolstering. If seated in a sporty driving position, the legroom is a bit cramped, which is the only complaint. Your correspondent is not a particularly big guy, but it still felt a bit tight.
The infotainment system features standard smartphone integration, wireless or cabled, as well as Audi connect plus, and a 17 speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system is about as good as it gets for audiophiles. We can’t forget Audi’s signature SOS e-call in the centre of the roof console, which is exactly what it sounds like—an emergency distress function.
A 12.3-inch virtual cockpit offers performance or standard modes, with all the information you could want. It’s particularly good in performance mode.
On the safety front, it’s no surprise that Audi fits the gamut of its crash-avoidance tech to the SQ7, like pre-sense front and rear, active lane assist, side and cross traffic assist, and 360-degree cameras with kerb view.
The first thing every journo on the launch drive did was plant their right foot to both hear the new V8 sing, and gauge its thrust.
A definite sense of urgency has arrived with the petrol V8, that perhaps the diesel lacked, although it’s extremely linear in how it delivers its torque – making all 770Nm by 2000rpm.
The efficiency of the hot-vee turbo setup, whereby the turbos sit between the two cylinder banks, is part of why the engine is so lag-free, but of course displacement plays a part too.
Audi’s claimed 4.1 seconds to 100km/h feels about right, but it’s a torquey enough beast to accelerate with ease at just about any speed (legal, of course).
Melbourne was particularly wet when testing the vehicle, so traction control did its thing. It wasn’t, however, overly domineering in dynamic mode which made the SQ7 feel even more lively.
Across two days of fairly enthusiastic driving, the SQ7 came in below its claimed fuel use numbers, a discovery as bewildering as it was impressive. We clocked 11.7L/100km in the SQ7, against Audi’s claimed 12.1l/100km.
Part of the fuel use puzzle is Audi’s ‘cylinder on demand’ (CoD) tech that cuts spark to one bank of the V8, essentially giving you 2.0-litre turbo four-pot consumption when cruising.
Never once was the cylinder deactivation perceptible, presumably because spark is reactivated quicker than you could ever register a power loss.
The standard inclusion of a quad-tip sports exhaust does wonders for the new V8, but at no point was it too rowdy. Personally, I’d like a little more noise, but for a luxury SUV the level of rumble Audi chose is probably for the best.
Once up to temp, the enormous carbon ceramic brakes offer race car stopping power and Audi says they also reduce unsprung mass by up to 50 per cent. It does, however, feel like overkill and, as a near-20 grand option, the money is probably better spent on the dynamic package.
The standard six-piston callipers, with rotors sized 400mm at the front and 350mm rear, are incredibly strong as-is and offer great feel through the brake pedal.
In corners, the air suspension clearly makes adjustments because it was always firm when we needed it, but plush when cruising. Of the hundreds of potholes we tried to avoid, a few couldn’t be dodged, and the SQ7 soaked them up without concern – even on massive 22-inch wheels with low-profile rubber.
The SQ7 corners flat and in many ways belies its 2.3-tonne weight, but pile on enough pace and you’re reminded it’s an SUV. The optional dynamic package fitted to the SQ8 we also drove made a noticeable difference, and it’s a shame it isn’t a standard inclusion on a performance-focused model like this.
Steering is direct, precise, and perfectly weighted, and due to the steep slant of the bonnet straight ahead visibility of the road is fantastic. You can really pinpoint where you want the front wheels and turn-in is a real winner, likely due to the 100+kg weight saving over the front axle with the shift to a lighter petrol engine.
Not everyone is a fan of climate and vehicle controls on a separate touchscreen, but screen placement and overall usability is great in the SQ7. Audi has clearly put in a lot of effort to make the layout as user friendly as possible, and it isn’t a system that trips you up.
Longer highway stints, of which we did one, are comfortable and fairly quiet. Aside from a little tyre noise, it’s a luxuriously quiet cabin. The sound system is exceptional, so any road noise is drowned out anyway.
Customers are already technically in the cars, with the order books open, and wait times are around six months according to Audi executives.
The as-tested price of the SQ7 we drove was $200,021 before on-road costs, made up of the $164,100 base price, sensory package ($13,300), S body styling with Scandium grey bumpers ($800), titanium black exterior styling package ($1450), Audi Sport wheels ($1950) and ceramic brakes ($19,500).
At $164,100 before on-road costs, and before any boxes are ticked at the dealer, the SQ7 isn’t cheap. For a seven-seater performance SUV, though, it’s a frontrunner and feels like pretty good value for what you get considering how much BMW and Mercedes ask for their equivalents.
As of January 1 this year, all Audi Australia models come with a five-year warranty and five-year roadside assist. Audi also offers a 12-year manufacturer warranty for bodywork against corrosion perforation.
We’d be going for the dynamic package, but holding out on the big brake upgrade, and Audi also offers a comprehensive five-year service plan for $4100 that on a performance model may be wise.
Audi also offers additional two-year factory warranty periods for $3900, which can be purchased back-to-back for a total warranty period of up to nine years from the time of purchase.
Simply put, the SQ7 is big on performance, big on luxury, and can easily justify its spot in a two-car garage as a genuinely practical family car with one hell of a lick of speed.
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