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Driven: Audi SQ7 marks diesel ‘resurgence’

Two-and-a-bit turbos: Audi’s SQ7 V8 diesel has two conventional turbos in series, plus a third centrifugal compressor that is driven by an electric motor - not a turbine.

Mighty V8 SQ7 helping to restore faith in Audi diesels

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Audi logo9 Dec 2016

By DANIEL GARDNER

AUDI Australia says the new V8-powered SQ7 large SUV flagship will be one of the models to put Audi diesel sales back on track after a dip caused by a sales freeze on certain 2.0-litre diesels due to the Volkswagen Group global emissions scandal.

While that crisis is far from over, the German car-maker says the Audi range can return to grace with the arrival of new-generation Euro 6-compliant compression-ignition engines.

Landing this week on Australian turf, the flagship of the Q7 large SUV line-up goes on sale from $153,616 before on-road costs, joining a growing number of performance-focused high-riders offering practicality and pace.

Speaking at the Australian launch of the SQ7, Audi Australia general manager of corporate communications Anna Burgdorf said a slowing of diesel sales growth at the height of the crisis had been reversed.

“There is no doubt that not being able to sell some of those engines has had an impact,” she said.

“However, we’re now selling the Q5 2.0 TDI with an EU6 engine,” she said. “There are no issues and we are back to healthy sales figures.” Ms Burgdorf said she did not believe the emissions scandal had impacted Australian consumer perception of its diesel models, but the arrival of a new flagship for the Q7 large SUV range would be instrumental in a diesel sales resurgence.

“I’m not sure that the faith in diesel has been impacted. I think a diesel engine that delivers excellent performance, good economy but also good long-term performance … I don’t think that has been impacted,” she said.

“But I do think a car like the SQ7 will again throw the spotlight on how good modern diesel technology is.

“For us it will signal a resurgence because it’s a new opportunity and we really do see that it will be very popular.” Before the SQ7, Audi’s smaller Q5 SUV range flagship SQ5 had demonstrated Australia’s demand for high-performance diesel-powered SUVs, consistently representing around a quarter of all Q5 sales.

Ms Burgdorf said the new SQ7 had the potential to follow suit.

“I certainly think it has go the ability to do it,” she said. “Demand will be high for this car and already we’ve got some strong interest. Particularly early on it will be harder to secure production potentially at the levels we will want it, but I think we are looking at around 50 per month. We think that is pretty naturally what SQ7 will do.

“Will it be the strongest as the Q5 was initially? We don’t know yet because it’ s completely new but potentially yes if we can get the production.” With global demand predicted to be high, Australian customers may have extended order lead times until production can catch up.

Audi Australia already has 300 pre-orders from early adopters lured by the first SQ7 with its 4.0-litre forced-induction V8 diesel with 320kW of power and a mammoth 900Nm of torque. Customers who order the seven-seat version will be able to do the zero-to-100km/h dash in 4.9 seconds.

Audi predicts the seven-seat version to be the most popular, but a five-seat variant is on offer as a no-cost option. This version cuts the 0-100km acceleration to 4.8s and adds a spare wheel.

The SQ7 TDI engine represents a significant investment by Audi, and is an all-new unit that features unique three-stage forced induction.

At higher engine speeds, a pair of conventional turbochargers work in series to produce up to a hefty 2.4 bar of pressure (relative), but from idle, a new electrically-driven centrifugal compressor produces boost for more responsive performance off the line. Peak torque is achieved at just 1000rpm.

The secondary brace of turbos have variable geometry turbines for improved responsiveness at low exhaust gas velocities and are situated in the 90-degree V of the engine, following the lead of BMW and then Mercedes with their petrol V8 engines.

Despite the momentous torque and a significant 2330kg kerb weight, Audi reports that the SQ7 can still return a fuel economy figure of just 7.2 litres per 100km.

The electrically powered compressor (EPC) needs up to 7kW of power and required the addition of a secondary 48-volt electrical subsystem with a DC/DC converter and 500Wh lithium-ion battery.

With 48 volts at their disposal, Audi’s engineers developed a new optional Active Roll Stabilisation system that employs the new subsystem to activate a pair of electromechanical anti-roll bars in vigorous cornering.

Like an electric drivetrain, the system can convert vehicle body movement in to electrical energy, with the planetary drive roll bars generating electricity for the 48-volt battery when the vehicle rolls.

Ticking the Dynamic package box adds another $13,500 to the bottom line but also brings a new four-wheel steering system and a Quattro Sport rear differential, as well as the Active Roll Stabilisation.

At low speed, the rear wheels turn up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels, for greater manoeuvrability, but above 15km/h the rear wheels turn in the same direction to increase high-speed stability.

A Quattro Sport differential completes the Dynamic package kit and is linked into the same control systems as the chassis control module and distributes power to the wheels with the most traction depending on the driving conditions and the Drive Select setting.

Audi says the performance-focused technology complements the SQ7’s range-topping power output with “taut, sporty handling” and the grip associated with its Quattro four-wheel-drive system.

From the standard kit list, Audi includes adaptive air suspension, 20-inch wheels, 400mm front brake discs and whopping six-pot brake callipers that Audi will paint red for $950. For a little more cash ($19,500) customers can have a carbon-ceramic brake system for ultimate track stopping power.

Between the V8 diesel and the Quattro system is Audi’s eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission, redeveloped for SQ7’s hearty torque output.

The SQ7’s MMI navigation system uses data such as traffic conditions and road gradient to tailor shift patterns for either greater fuel efficiency, comfort or driving enjoyment, depending on the driver’s requirements. Paddle shifters also allow the driver to take full control of the transmission.

The SQ7 gets a generous standard safety and assistance kit list, with dual-stage front airbags and curtain bags for all three rows, active bonnet, adaptive cruise control that operates from 250km/h down to zero, autonomous emergency braking, front- and rear-cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera and active lane keeping with blind-spot monitoring.

Night vision assistant with pedestrian detection is available for $4800.

SQ7 interiors get black Valcona leather upholstery, heated front sport seats, four-zone air-conditioning, electrically folding third-row seating, a power tail-gate for access to the 235-litre boot (or 705 litres with the third row stowed) and 32-colour ambient LED lighting.

The driver gets a D-shaped sports steering wheel in leather and self-dimming rear-view mirror, Audi’s proliferating virtual cockpit 12.3-inch digital instrument display, five Drive Select modes, manual adjustable steering column (electric costs $950), head-up display and MMI multi-information system with navigation.

Entertainment features include an 8.3-inch pop-up display, 10GB hard drive, Bose 19-speaker surround sound system with 558 watt, 15-channel amplifier and sub and CD/DVD player as well as SD card, USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Owners can upgrade the standard wheels to five 21-inch wheel designs or a 22-inch version, and have a choice of 13 paint choices including the Sepang Blue which is unique to the SQ7. Carrara White and Night Black are the only two included in the base price.

Other options include a panoramic glass roof for $3990, a Titanium black gloss pack costs $1850, three leather pack choices ranging from $3600 to $14,500, Bang & Olufsen sound system for $11,340 and a rear seat entertainment package for $2700 or $4950 with two 10.1-inch tablets.

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