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Audi's large Q7 SUV is one of the most capable SUVs available, but what if you want something a little sportier to whisk up to 7 people across states or countries in effortless luxury?
In comes the SQ7. Audi took a standard Q7 as its starting point, then ditched the engine and replaced it with something even more powerful. That's just the start though, with a host of other tech upgrades used to enhance performance and handling. The questions is: has Audi set a new benchmark for what you can expect from a large performance SUV? Find out in our Audi SQ7 review.
On the road
Audi SQ7 review: On the road
- V8 petrol for the US, V8 diesel for Europe
- Decent handling for such a large car
- Air suspension as standard
Audi has done things a little differently for the US and European markets. The US SQ7 sports a 4.0-liter TFSI V8 petrol engine that generates an impressive 500bhp, while Europe gets a 4.0-liter TDI V8 biturbo diesel. Though it gives away a little power to its petrol rival at a still impressive 429bhp, the diesel has a huge 664lb feet of torque (compared to 568lb feet of torque for the petrol). This means 0-60mph speeds are virtually identical at 4.3secs for the petrol and 4.8secs for the diesel. Rapid, especially when you consider the size of the SQ7 and the weight the engine has to shift. That said, Jaguar's F-Pace SVR will rocket you to 60mph a shade quicker at 4.1secs.
Either way, both the V8 petrol and diesel power plants are supported by Audi’s mild hybrid tech that sees a 48V battery power the car’s electrical system when you are decelerating, with the car switching itself off to conserve fuel and instantly firing back into life when you need it. As well as this, it also powers an electric compressor to negate any turbo lag.
We drove the European-spec SQ7 and despite it being a diesel, Audi engineered it to sound like a petrol (with the help of a little electronic trickery). Hit the start button and the SQ7 greet you with a deep rumble and once you're on the move the you'll never get bored of the sound when you hit the accelerator.
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This is especially true when you find a stretch of clear road. Select the SQ7's Dynamic drive mode and switch to the Sports setting on the gearbox and the sound of the engine is amplified and enhanced.
The sound of the engine though doesn't mask the fact that the SQ7 is a large car, especially on a windy round, but Audi's engineers have done a great job to get the handling as good as it is for such a hefty car. It's not quite as polished as a Jaguar F-Pace, but the level of grip and the nicely weighted steering is very impressive. If you're looking for a really engaging drive though, you're not going to get it.
Standard on US-spec cars but an option in European models (unless you opt for the Vorsprung-trim model) is four-wheel steering. To improve handling at higher speeds the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front ones, while at slower speeds the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to make it that bit more maneuverable in tighter spaces.
The SQ7 also comes with air suspension and via a range of driving modes can be softened or stiffened depending on the conditions, as well as used to raise the car. Set the SQ7 to it's comfort driving mode and you'll be able to glide along quite happily, with lumps and bumps nicely ironed out (there's also hardly a hint of road or wind noise audible either). In its dynamic mode the suspension stiffens up noticeably for sharper handling, while selecting the offroad mode raises the SQ7 to its highest setting.
Interior quality and features
Audi SQ7 review: Interior quality and features
- Luxurious interior made with premium materials
- Dual touchscreen interface
- Decent standard equipment
Audi SQ7: key specs
Engine: 4.0-liter V8 petrol / 4.0-liter V8 biturbo diesel
Power output: 500 / 429bhp
Max speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.3 / 4.8 seconds
Fuel economy: up to 30.1mpg
The car's interior is stunning, with perhaps the best build quality for a car of this class. It looks fresh, modern and luxurious thanks to the black gloss paneling and chrome finish, while the leather seats are incredibly comfy too.
As we've seen with other recent Audi cabins, the SQ7 features two large, high-resolution touchscreen displays that replaces the more traditional rotary dial and conventional button controls we've see on previous generations.
Known as the MMI touch response system, it provides haptic feedback (a gentle pulse) when you make a selection on-screen (as well as acoustic feedback in you need it). The 10.1-inch upper display is your gateway to the SQ7's infotainment system and navigation, with the lower 8.6-inch display covers off climate control, comfort and convenience functions.
Complementing this is Audi's excellent virtual cockpit that sees a 12.3-inch digital display take the place of traditional dials and can be customized to display infotainment and navigation information. A nice feature that's available as standard on Prestige models in the US is the full-color head-up display that projects relevant driving information in the driver's field of vision.
The SQ7 enjoys a pretty long list of standard equipment before you have to hit the options list. This includes four-zone climate control, adaptive air suspension, leather seats, cruise control and front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, matrix LED headlights with LED rear lights and large 21-inch alloy wheels.
There's also an extensive list of extras you can opt for, including a panoramic glass roof, adaptive cruise control, a punchy 558W 3D Bose sound system and a 360-degree camera with top view.
Passenger and trunk space
Audi SQ7 review: Passenger and trunk space
- Excellent space upfront and in the rear
- Can be configured with a third row of seats
- Very large trunk
If you're looking for a large car with no shortage of space (both for people and luggage), then the Audi SQ7 doesn't disappoint.
Up front, the driver and passenger will enjoy plenty of headroom and legroom, while the wide dimensions of the SQ7 mean you won't feel like you're stuffed in next to your traveling companion either.
This sense of space continues in the rear with generous headspace and ample legroom - even if the front seat is moved all the way back. Unlike in some SUVs, you can realistically fit three adults across the back row of seats if needed. A nice touch is that each seat can be individually reclined.
Still need more space for people? The SQ7 can be spec'd with a third row of seating that comprises of two fold-out seats. Best suited to children, they'll also accommodate adults if needed, but they won't be thanking you after a long journey. If you're going to be ferrying a load of children around, the SQ7 has to be one of the most child-friendly cars you can buy, with ISOFIX mounts on all of the six passenger seats. When the two fold-out seats are not in use, these can be powered down easily via a button in the tailgate, stowing them away flat to the floor.
With the seats folded down the trunk is vast with 27.1 cubic feet of space, while with the third row of seats in place, it's reduced to a still practical 10.4 cubic feet (though this lags behind the Volvo XC90's 15.9 cubic feet in this configuration).
If you've got a lot of cargo to shift, then with both rows of seats folded down flat you can expect a huge 69 cubic feet of space to fill (and more than the XC90).
An electronic tailgate is standard and to help make loading and unloading that bit easier, and there's a switch to lower the car's air suspension. We found this to be really handy for those heavy loads, while it also makes it easier for dogs to jump up into.
Audi SQ7 review: Safety features
- 5 star Euro NCAP and NHTSA ratings
- Wide range of safety tech available
- Adaptive cruise assist is really useful for long drives
Audi SQ7: Pricing
Prices start at $84,800 / £73,830, but go heavy on the options and it can come to considerably more (the on the road price for our test model was £99,785 - around $115,000).
The Audi SQ7 gets an impressive five star safety rating from both the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), while there’s no shortage of safety tech available.
The SQ7 gets Audi's automatic emergency braking (AEB) tech as standard. Working at speeds of up to 52mph, the system will warn you if you’re about to hit a pedestrian or the vehicle in front. It's advanced enough that should you not respond in time, the SQ7 will automatically apply the brakes to try and avoid a collision.
Another useful safety feature available on the SQ7 is Intersection assist that helps monitor cross traffic when pulling into an intersection. It can help by notifying the driver of a potentially hazardous situation by initiating braking at speeds of up to 6.2mph or with visual and audio warnings at speeds of up to 18.6mph.
Turn assist will notify you of an oncoming vehicle when turning left by applying the brakes and keeping the vehicle within its own lane if necessary, while Adaptive cruise assist is a great feature for those long drives. Combining the functions of adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and active lane assist, the car will control speed (initially set by you) and apply the brakes if necessary and keep you within your lane while on a highway. You'll need to keep your hand on the steering wheel, but it's as close to autonomous driving as you can get right now.
Audi SQ7 review: Verdict
With an impressive engine, acres of space and no shortage of luxury features, the Audi SQ7 has to be one of the best large SUVs available today. It may be overkill for some, but for those looking for a large and practical SUV that'll keep pace with most sports cars on the straight, you'll be hard pushed to find fault with the SQ7.
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