Audi SQ7 review
Audi’s ultimate SUV offers sports-car pace and seating for seven
If you’re looking at luxurious and desirable SUVs, you’ll find an impressive range of contenders competing with the Audi SQ7 for your sizeable budget. It’s the flagship version of Audi’s highly capable seven-seat Q7 line-up, and dealers have been offering the SQ7 since summer 2016 in their efforts to distract performance-orientated SUV buyers from other brands. The list of SQ7 rivals includes SUV exotics like the BMW X5M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover Sport SVR and Mercedes-AMG GLS 63; all share the alluring characteristics of luxury, impressive practicality and sports-car pace. They also all cost a small fortune to own and run.
The Audi SQ7 spec sheet includes a 429bhp version of the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine used in the Bentley Bentayga. It uses the same engineering platform, too, also shared with the latest Porsche Cayenne, and as result there’s no argument that SQ7 performance levels are spectacular.
The Audi uses innovative technology in the shape of a 48-volt electric supercharger that pumps air into the big V8 engine at low revs. More air means more fuel can be burned, helping the SQ7 to accelerate instantly when you put your foot down – eliminating the short period of ‘turbo lag’ that can take the edge off performance in some engines. The novel 48-volt system also runs an optional electro-mechanical anti-roll system that gives the hefty SUV an uncanny ability to corner virtually flat at very high speeds.
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Talking of speed, the Audi SQ7's performance figures are pretty mind-blowing. It'll sprint from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and top speed is limited to 155mph. On the road, that performance means you can grab the sort of overtaking opportunities mostly reserved for serious sports cars, while the active anti-roll system and phenomenal grip of Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system means the car can carry startling pace through corners, too. Progress is accompanied by a thrilling exhaust note that sounds more like a high-performance petrol engine than a diesel, and helps to accentuate this 2.3-tonne behemoth’s dramatically sporty credentials.
The downside of all this fun is the high cost of ownership; you can spend close to £100,000 if you get carried away with the luxury options list, although the official starting price is just under £74,000. An official 39.2mpg fuel-consumption figure sounds promising, but you need to drive cautiously to get close to it, while 190g/km CO2 emissions mean company-car drivers are walloped for 37% Benefit-in-Kind tax.
If you can handle the finances, though, it’s unlikely the SQ7 will disappoint. Luxury interior appointments include the sort of high-end infotainment options you’d expect, and the SQ7 also benefits from Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instrument display.
All Q7s are refined and comfortable to drive, and the car's size means it’s immensely practical as family transport, too, with versatile seating for up to seven and a vast boot. Owners may also appreciate that the SQ7 is – in spite of its imposing road presence – a more subtle performance flagship than some of rivals. Until you put your foot down, at least.
Verdict 4 / 5
The technically advanced Audi SQ7 offers blistering pace, serious luxury and family-friendly practicality in a relatively restrained-looking package. While less engaging than a Porsche Cayenne, it’s an extremely competent driver’s car, but the cost of ownership is not for the faint-hearted.