2016 Audi SQ7 first drive review
The new Audi SQ7 claims to be the world’s most powerful diesel 4x4, with a stonking new 429bhp V8, and all the latest chassis tech. Can it be as exciting a quick petrol SUV?
- Audi launch world’s most powerful diesel SUV
- 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 tri-turbo, 0-62mph in 4.9 secs
- On sale May, priced from £70,970 on the road
It’s not achieved that mantle by a small margin either, it’s several degrees hotter than any of its rivals from Porsche, Range Rover or BMW, and also more mechanically complicated underneath.
Powered by a brand new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine with well over 400bhp, it boasts V12-esque levels of shove-you-in-the-back torque (think 664lb ft available from tickover upwards), so it can accelerate much quicker than any 2.3-tonne SUV has any right to.
It also features the same high-capacity 48v electrical architecture first seen on the Bentley Bentayga, which powers two very clever new pieces of dynamic kit, and (we’re told) more innovations in the future, but we’ll delve deeper into the technical nitty-gritty below.
There is only one trim of SQ7, but while the SQ5 always seemed like a bit of a performance bargain, this seven-seater starts at over £70,000 – and that’s before you start ticking off the option boxes.
It’s monstrously quick in a straight-line, with a mountain of torque that builds from virtually no revs and never seems like it’s going to let up. Only the brief pauses for a gearshift interrupt the relentless way it piles on speed; accompanied by a wonderful, bassy rumble.
If anything, it’s a little excessive – anyone with a family would find themselves especially unpopular if they tapped into the SQ7’s full reservoir of performance with their loved ones sat on-board. As we wound down a tight, slippery mountain road, the speed it can carry becomes faintly alarming, as you realise just how much work the huge (optional) carbon discs are doing to keep it all in check.
Overkill or not, it’s hard not to have a smile plastered across your face each and every time you bury the throttle, and as a technical achievement alone, this powertrain sets new class benchmarks.
Bruising straight-line performance has been a consistent feature of all recent fast modern Audis – petrol or diesel – but the new SQ7 is equally adept in the corners as well. However, we have to put a slight caveat on that appraisal, as all the test cars we drove came fitted with the driving dynamics package to improve the handling.
As standard the SQ7 has tweaked steering and lowered adaptive suspension, but the dynamics pack (likely to cost around £8,000) adds a sport differential which can shuffle power between each of the rear wheels, four-wheel steering to improve maneuverability, and finally (and most importantly) a set of adaptive anti-roll bars.
The combined effect of these systems all working together is tantamount to witchcraft. It grips ferociously, and the body remains flat and composed no matter how fast you enter a corner. Yet stick the SQ7 in comfort mode and it’ll ride like a limo, even on the 21-inch wheels of the car we tried, no matter how bumpy the road is.
Elsewhere, the SQ7 is much the same as any lesser Q7. So you get seven standard seats, lots of space on-board, and a gorgeous cabin that feels beautifully made and in now liberally sprinkled with SQ7 badges, and fitted with a pair of figure hugging sports seats.
However, as brilliant as this new engine is – unless you simply have to have the fastest version of something, then we’re not sure if its worth the extra over the standard, equally brilliant Q7 3.0 TDI.
It does come well equipped for that money, with all the luxury kit you’d expect from a £70,000 car, and strong residuals to boot, but we’d like to try one without all the optional handling gubbins before giving it our full seal of approval.
- Price: £70,970
- Engine: 4.0-litre V8 tri-turbo, eight-speed automatic
- Power/Torque: 429bhp/663lb ft
- 0-62mph: 4.9secs
- Top speed: 155mph
- Economy: 39.2mpg
- CO2/BIK tax liability: 190g/km / 37%
- Boot space with 7/5/2 seats: 235/770/1,850 litres
Another seven-seat SUV with a complicated, powerful diesel engine, the X5 isn’t as spacious as the SQ7, but is cheaper.
Range Rover Sport
Even in standard trim the Range Rover matches the SQ7 for comfort, but its also nowhere near as fast or nimble in the bends.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel S
Sharper steering and a lighter weight mean the Cayenne is still the driver’s choice in the SUV world, but it’s firmer than the Audi.