Audi SQ7 SUV review
"The Audi SQ7 now has a V8 that results in phenomenal straight-line speed but this car feels like an indulgent last hurrah for petrol power"
- Straight-line speed
- Running costs
- Mediocre handling
- Difficult to park
The Audi SQ7 is a V8-powered version of Audi's largest SUV, complete with seven seats and a cavernous boot. It might seem like a niche proposition but there are a surprising number of rivals, including the Range Rover Sport SVR, BMW X5 M and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S - all with burbling soundtracks and prodigious power.
Straight-line speed is the Audi's forte because, despite weighing as much as two city cars, its brute strength can get it from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds with the assistance of a launch control system. Try this trick often, however, and the fuel economy figure of 23mpg will seem like a distant pipe dream.
The car’s handling doesn’t match the ferocity of the engine either; while the SQ7 is always safe and composed, it's simply too big to offer the same feedback or thrills as a Porsche Cayenne. Instead, the SQ7 becomes a comfortable, luxurious way to transport up to seven people and the family dog, but one with a serious kick of acceleration should you need it.
Families will appreciate the big 605-litre boot and the ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on every passenger seat. It's safe car too, as confirmed by a five-star Euro NCAP score. Running costs will be tougher to swallow because not only is the V8 thirsty, it also emits 276g/km in CO2. This and its list price puts the SQ7 in the highest bands for company-car tax and VED, while insurance and maintenance will also be on a par with high-end sports cars. We may not see the likes of the SQ7 for much longer, as brands including Audi are moving swiftly towards electrification.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The unashamedly thirsty SQ7 looks like something of a last hurrah for Audi, which is a brand already offering high-performance electric SUVs under its e-tron sub brand. The SQ7 couldn't be more different, with a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine that uses even more fuel than the diesel engine it replaces. Official figures are 23.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 276g/km, making this potent SUV as expensive to run as an Audi R8 sports car.
Buyers may be drawn to the SQ7's price, however - at around £80,000 it undercuts models like the Range Rover Sport SVR, BMW X5 M Competition and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, which all cost more than £100,000.
Engines, drive & performance
It may be 'just' an S, rather than one of Audi’s most extreme RS models, but there's a mighty 500bhp under the bonnet of the SQ7, up from 429bhp in the outgoing diesel version. The V8 bi-turbo petrol engine doesn't only have more power, it has more character too. Press the starter motor and V8 engine barks into life, setting the tone for the driving experience.
The SQ7 is one of the world's only seven-seat models that can do an impression of a dragster, leaping from 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds - faster than an Aston Martin DBX. Its turbos spool up quickly, and the sensation of being pushed into your seat is accompanied with a roar from the engine and tailpipes - the volume of which depends on which row you're sitting in.
Scarcely believable acceleration is the SQ7's best party trick because while the steamroller tyres, adaptive suspension and rear-wheel steering do a reasonable job of getting the big Audi through corners, there's only so much they can do to defy physics. This is an SUV that weighs over two tonnes and measures 1,739mm tall after all, so it can't match a Porsche Cayenne for handling or fun. Both the steering and eight-speed automatic gearbox feel better suited to relaxed, brisk driving rather than an attacking style.
Interior & comfort
Even with 21-inch alloy wheels fitted (22-inch rims are fitted to top trims), the SQ7's ride remains pretty civilised. The road’s lumps and bumps aren't ironed out completely but occupants don't get jostled around too much either. Audi has also been careful to tune the exhaust, so while it's loud when you accelerate, things settle down at a steady cruise on the motorway.
Costing more than £75,000, even the 'standard' SQ7 has plenty of kit, with Matrix LED adaptive headlights, dynamic front and rear indicators and adaptive air suspension. The interior is also fitted with Audi's Virtual Cockpit instruments and MMI Navigation Plus, along with sports seats trimmed in Valcona leather upholstery.
Upgrading to Black Edition changes the wheels to a different 22-inch design and adds black exterior trim, four-zone climate control and wooden inlays. Meanwhile, the range-topping SQ7 Vorsprung gets a different 22-inch alloy wheel design, HD Matrix LED headlights with laser technology, ventilated and massaging front seats, a head-up display and a Bang and Olufsen sound system.
Practicality & boot space
The SQ7 is a full-size SUV, so there’s plenty of space for both passengers and luggage. If you want a fast car that can carry seven passengers or a wardrobe, there's not much to rival it. The seats are very versatile too; you can slide and recline the middle row individually, and the third row fold flat into the boot floor when not in use. Adults will find the rearmost seats a squeeze for longer trips but kids should have no problem. Every passenger seat also has ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
The boot measures 605 litres with the third row stowed away, which is about the same space you get in a large estate car. Fold down all the rear seats and luggage volume increases to an impressive 1,755 litres, with lots of space available thanks to the high roof line. A large boot opening and flat loading lip should also make putting heavy items and even dogs in the boot a breeze.
Reliability & safety
The SQ7 is both a family car and an expensive, luxury product, so buyers will rightly expect it to be both safe and reliable. The Q7 scored a five-star rating for safety in 2019, following testing by independent body Euro NCAP.
Audi didn't perform particularly well in our 2020 Driver Power survey, finishing 21st out of 30 manufacturers. A relatively high 20% of Audi owners reported one or more faults within the first year of ownership, citing build quality as disappointing. Owners were more upbeat about their cars’ engines, gearboxes and ride comfort.
A rating of 92% for adult occupant protection in a collision is more impressive, along with a score of 88% for child occupants. Standard safety equipment includes parking sensors, an adjustable speed limiter and autonomous emergency braking. The SQ7 can even be fitted with a semi-autonomous system to help take control in heavy traffic.