Car reviews - Audi - Q7 - SQ7
Instant response, strong performance, great economy for the size, astounding smooth-road dynamics with optional Dynamic package, classy cabin
Room for improvement
Expensive and with options to spare, automatic can stumble, struggles to hide its weight, some packaging downsides
Can the Audi SQ7 successfully combine sensible efficiency with surplus luxury?
7 Sep 2018
ACCORDING to Oscar Wilde, moderation is a fatal thing and nothing succeeds like excess. He shuffled off this mortal coil over a century ago, though, while nowadays the likes of the Audi SQ7 could appear seemingly determined to prove that nineteenth-century poet and playwright wrong.
This seven-seat large SUV has all the hallmarks of excess, from its enormous footprint on the road to its huge 21-inch wheels, its burly eight cylinders under the bonnet and lashings of leather inside, all with a pricetag to match.
However, Audi has also developed a clever electrical system to take the environmental burden off the 4.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, helping to allow the sort of claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption to rival hatchbacks. Yet the SQ7 can also seat seven, and accelerate quickly enough to challenge Australia’s last affordable muscle car, the petrol V8-powered Holden Commodore.
You might even say that being able to seat seven could make it more efficient per passenger than several hatches too. So much for excess, right?
The SQ7 certainly is not cheap. Priced from $155,140 plus on-road costs, it includes as standard 20-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors with automatic reverse-park assistance and 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, auto on/off wipers and LED headlights, leather trim with heated and electrically adjustable front seats, electric-fold third-row seating, four-zone climate control, satellite navigation, digital radio, and 19-speaker Bose audio.
This is in addition to a significant list of standard passive and active safety technology (see below) but not, it seems, the most progressive handling technology.
As tested, a $13,500 Dynamic package delivers a ‘quattro sport differential’ (to juggle torque between each rear wheel), active anti-roll bars that thwart bodyroll, and four-wheel steering.
Other options include 21-inch wheels ($4000), a panoramic glass roof ($3990), semi- or full-length leather interior parts packages ($3600 or $14,500 respectively), Alcantara headlining ($3400), digital television ($2650), Matrix LED headlights with auto-adaptive high-beam ($2200), and even an electrically adjustable steering column ($950) for a potential $200,330 fully-loaded total.
Audi’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI) will soon be replaced, with the centre console-mounted rotary dial and shortcut tabs ousted for twin screens and touch-sensitive tabs – as previewed by the newer A8, A7 Sportback and Q8 – but age has not wearied this system.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the trio of individually reclining seats in the middle row provide ample space and flexibility.
It requires a fair bit of contortionist work when it really should be effortless, and once in the furthermost row, each seat is quite flat and there are no air vents.
Engine and transmission
A 48-volt electrical system allows the SQ7 to become something of a micro-hybrid, powering an electric compressor that instantly spins to support the two turbochargers and help reduce dreaded ‘turbo lag’.
The proof is in the figures, though, because the 4.0-litre twin-turbo, electric compressor-equipped V8 diesel produces 900Nm from 1000rpm, and it holds that output strong until 500rpm before the 320kW of power comes online from 3750rpm until 5000rpm.
In Dynamic mode, this eight-cylinder diesel can sound overtly loud and contrived, which might suit some who want their large SUV to sound like a petrol of the same cylinder count, but thankfully an Individual mode allows for a Comfort sound mode teamed with Dynamic/Auto/Comfort for the drivetrain and suspension respectively.
However, even with those monumental outputs, the eight-speed auto could be to blame for the not-quite-instant overtaking response at speed.
Ride and handling
When equipped with the optional Dynamic package, the SQ7 forcibly feels like a supersized hot hatchback on a smooth-surfaced twisty road. And we do mean ‘forcibly’ because the active anti-roll bars use electricity to place pressure against the body lumbering through corners, to great effect, while the four-wheel steering helps this Audi feel far more agile and wieldy than its size suggests.
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