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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Audi SQ7 4.0 TDI quattro

Click to view picture gallery“Don’t let anyone tell that size
  doesn’t matter. Like a billion dollars,
  it matters… And big figures come
  with the territory for Audi’s
  indomitable seven-seat range-
  topping SUV, the SQ7...”


SO JUST HOW BIG are these figures? Big enough to make the SQ7 faster than its quickest diesel SUV rivals from BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Range Rover.

First, power: a 4.0 V8 with 429bhp and 663lb ft of torque. Next, price: upwards of £74K (while it comes well equipped there's plenty of tempting extras; tick the boxes and you can easily spend £95K). And, last but not least, performance: restricted to 155mph with 0-62mph in under five seconds.

The SQ7's big heart is not just big; it's hi-tech too. The 4.0-litre engine is a 'first' — in addition to a pair of sequential turbochargers (one for low-to-intermediate speeds; the second for intermediate-to-high speeds) the V8 is straddled by an innovative electric-powered compressor that acts like a supercharger, spinning up to 70,000rpm in a quarter of a second. Powered by a dedicated 48-volt electrical sub-system, the compressor delivers instant extra thrust while the main turbos are spooling up to eliminate any hint of turbo-lag.

Zero to 62mph from
standstill in 4.9 seconds
is rapid; but what the
stopwatch figures can’t
convey is the gut-tickling
feel of something
weighing two-and-a-half
tons surging relentlessly
forward when you press
hard on the accelerator
— the blisteringly
quick acceleration is
accompanied by a
mechanical and aural soundtrack that tramples
all over Meatloaf
and leaves you wanting
to whoop out loud...”
It works superbly and the the result is a humungous 663lb ft of torque from basically tickover (1,000rpm) which is fed to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.

Zero to sixty-two miles per hour from standstill in 4.9 seconds is rapid; but what the stopwatch figures can't convey is the gut-tickling feel of something weighing two-and-a-half tons (2,330kg) surging relentlessly forward when you press down hard on the accelerator — the blisteringly quick acceleration is accompanied by a mechanical and aural soundtrack that tramples all over Meatloaf and leaves you wanting to whoop out loud. This isn't just a juvenile male thing; Maggie, the only lady (but most definitely not a token one) on MotorBar's test-team, admitted to feeling exactly the same.

Even really powerful SUVs can feel handicapped by their bulk; making you feel you have to kick down extra hard to launch them off the line. Not so the SQ7; its loud pedal is as well honed as a sniper's trigger and even a small squeeze will send it rushing towards the horizon or effortlessly leapfrogging slower moving traffic. Unlike some, the eight-speed autobox is keen to share in the action and despite the monumental torque on tap will still, even in Drive, drop down the ratios to make sure you really do have all the power you might need at your command.

And, depending on your right foot, this new 4.0-litre twin-turboed V8 diesel can be as unobtrusive as a British butler or, in hard-charging Dynamic mode that sees the drivetrain as 'locked and cocked' as you could wish for, as spine-tinglingly growly as any thoroughbred sports car.

Its most endearing characteristic is that, despite its awesome power and torque, the SQ7 doesn't feel the least bit unruly trickling along in congested traffic — the permanent smile on your face comes from knowing that whenever you drop the hammer the SQ7 will scorch off the line with seemingly no effort on the V8's part, all the while glued to the blacktop. Be warned, this is addictive stuff…

In company with all the SQ7's big numbers, you'd be forgiven for thinking that its MPG figure would be the opposite — plastic-trashing small. Amazingly, it's not: officially the Combined Cycle figure is 39.2mpg.

And after a week indulging the electrifying thrust, criss-crossing demanding A and B roads, wasting time on all-down-to-40mph motorways and edging through busy-busy town traffic, our SQ7 recorded a highly impressive 35.4mpg — impressive because this is a luxuriously appointed seven-seater SUV with four-wheel drive and automatic transmission. But thanks to an 85-litre fuel tank you won't be getting too friendly with the staff at your local filling station, although when you do visit they'll certainly be glad of your business.

After a week indulging
the electrifying thrust,
criss-crossing
demanding A and B
roads, wasting time on
all-down-to-40mph
motorways and edging
through busy-busy
town traffic, our SQ7
recorded a highly
impressive 35.4mpg —
impressive because this
is a luxuriously
appointed seven-seater
SUV
with four-wheel
drive and an a
utomatic
transmission...”
It's one thing making a 'hot' medium sized SUV (such as the RS Q3) handle, and handle well, but altogether a far more complicated challenge to do the same for a high-riding seven-seater like the SQ7.

Not that a challenge has ever stopped Audi, who made history in 2012 by winning the Le Mans 24-hour race using pioneering hybrid diesel technology. For the record they then repeated the win in the 2013 and 2014 races, taking the total number of Audi Le Mans victories to date to 13).

Of course when Audi created the SQ7 they already had their quattro all-wheel drive and height-adjustable, adaptively-damped air suspension to hand (this continually adjusts the damping for a cosseting ride coupled with responsive handling on tarmac, and seamless adaptation to rougher terrain). But they still needed some new high-tech 'tricks' to harmonise the V8's vigour with the ride and the handling dynamics to create an 'anyplace, anytime' high-performance driveability.

Which is where the SQ7's clever active anti-roll bars and the four-wheel steering (for über-precise cornering) come in. Note that word: 'active'. The SQ7's anti-roll bars are principally tasked with reining-in body lean to maintain this high-riding SUV's dignity when cleaving through bends and tracking faithfully round corners.

When running down straights the bars actively decouple to provide a more compliant ride; the instant you dive into a corner they instantaneously re-couple for poised handling. All of which explains why the handling is sharp (and without doubt on a par with many a competent sports car) and also why you can, literally, throw this big SUV around without worrying that you'll run out of road room.

Not only that, but it's got both ends of the comfort-handling spectrum satisfyingly covered — even hustled along, and rolling on 20-inch alloys, the SQ7 is sweet-riding and as steadfastly unruffled as it is impressively wieldy.

And what better place to enjoy it all from than the tasteful, richly-appointed and superbly tailored cabin. The dash architecture flows pleasingly, and without exception the switchgear is easy to identify and use; indeed, everything that moves in any way operates with a satisfyingly 'engineered' action.

The ultra-supportive front sport seats, upholstered in soft Valcona leather with tactile diamond-stitched design centre panels, are truly restful to sit in; better still they feature three-stage heating along with full power adjustment for the extending front seat base, the adjustable bolstering and the lumbar support. Once you're sitting pretty, just press the memory button to make sure it stays that way (there are two settings so your 'other half' won't accidentally spoil yours!). It goes without saying that plenty of space in all directions around the seats; headroom is especially generous.

The ultra-supportive front sport seats, upholstered in soft Valcona leather with tactile diamond-stitched design centre panels,
are truly restful to sit in; better still they feature three-stage heating along with power adjustment for the bolstering and the lumbar support.
Once you’re sitting pretty, just press the memory button to make sure it stays that way — there are two settings so your ‘other half’ won’t accidentally spoil yours!”
This SQ7 comes comprehensively specced (although naturally there's a tempting list of options) so expect to be spoiled rotten by four-zone climate control, keyless start, a multifunction wheel that does 'the lot', rear-view camera plus front and rear radar parking sensors, powerfolding heated door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking and leaving), and powered tailgate along with drive-off auto locking, one-shot windows, auto-dimming frameless rearview mirror, cruise and speed limiter, and an electric parking brake with auto hold that works a treat in stop-start traffic.

Additionally there's an active sound exhaust system, LED headlights and tail lights (with those cool dynamic indicators), rain lights, high beam assist, auto wipes, hill descent control, stability control, DVD autochanger with SIM and SD card slots, plus a set of 20-inch alloy wheels shod with 285/45 Goodyear Eagle rubber.

Many of the optional items fitted to our press car will be must-have add-ons for most SQ7 buyers — these include an automated parking jockey that will steer you into parallel or bay parking slot, a head-up display that puts road speed and navigation prompts right in the driver's line of sight, side proximity warnings (visual and acoustic) that work when you're on the move, a 360-degree camera with five selectable views including a very helpful bird's-eye overhead reveal. Plus there's a whole range of extra 'assists' ranging from night vision to eyes-everywhere safety systems to things like the Driving Assistance Tour pack that uses adaptive cruise control, active lane assist and traffic jam assist to minimise travel stress by steering, braking and accelerating for you in congestion at speeds up to 37mph.

Crowning the cabin is full-length panoramic sunroof that bathes the interior in natural sunlight while during the hours of darkness ambient LED lighting tint the interior with a soft tone in one of several customisable colours.

Wherever you're sitting inside the SQ7 you'll be well insulated from the hubbub on the other side of the tinted and privacy glass; at the legal limit it's truly hushed — perfect for audiophiles because while the default hi-fi will satisfy most, sitting temptingly on the options list is a choice of 3D surround sound systems: a £6K Bang & Olufsen music system or a BOSE set-up for £1K; both delivering superbly intense sound quality.

For the driver there's a special treat: Audi's highly-praised Virtual Cockpit. This features a 12.3-inch TFT display with a superb digitally-generated instrument panel in the binnacle dead ahead of the driver. And it's easy to switch between the driver-customisable views — from comprehensive trip and infotainment information to 3D active background mapping overlaid by large or minimised dials (the rev-counter's central ring shows the selected gear and drive select setting; the speedo a large digital speed readout), or even a 'sports' setting with a large central rev-counter — at any time at the touch of a button on the wheel.

For the driver there’s
a special treat:
Audi’s highly-praised
Virtual Cockpit.
This features a 12.3-inch
TFT display with
a superb digitally-
generated instrument
panel in the binnacle
dead ahead of the driver.
And it’s easy to switch
between the driver-
customisable views
at any time at the touch
of a button on the
multifunction wheel...”
Naturally Audi's intuitive MMI man-machine infotainment interface is standard-fit and comes with a touchpad while making matters even safer is the voice control system and the paddle-shifters on the horizontal bars of the beautifully grippy leather steering wheel rim, which also has a handy driver-configurable 'favourite' button — we set ours for changing the Audi Drive Select driving modes (Lift/Offroad, Allroad, Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual).

Comms equipment is fully up to the mark with an embedded SIM card for Internet-based services, a WiFi smartphone connection with wireless inductive charging, Audi Connect for Google Earth and Google Street View, news, weather and traffic information plus other entertainment options. There's also Audi's myCarManager to call up SOS and roadside assistance.

In such a commodious cabin you'd expect lots of storage for personal 'stuff' — you'll find plenty; starting with a large damped, lit, lined, lockable and cooled glovebox, deep and accommodating Prosecco bottle-holding bins, a deep central tray between the front seats with USB and Aux ports and a smartphone wireless charging pad topped by a matched pair of adjustable armrests, large siamesed cupholders with a key-holder and, to save 'space'(!), the central infotainment screen power-retracts into the fascia when not needed.

On the move the soothing ambiance isn't just down to the effective soundproofing and a fluent ride, but mostly to the purringly-potent V8 that, unless called on for some aggressive acceleration, remains deceptively muted.

The third row seats in most seven seaters are generally only usable by small children but those in the SQ7 (with powered unfolding out of the floor) are suitable for adults for short trips and, refreshingly, can be reached without any advanced yoga skills.

More importantly, the middle row offers limo-grade seating with genuinely 'hat-friendly' headroom, multi-adjustable backrests and loads of foot room; the long and deep side windows ensure fine views out and because you sit so far back from the front seatbacks views forward between the front seatbacks are also good. The 40:20:40 format is made even more versatile by the fact that each of the three sections slides fore and aft independently of the others.

Better still, there's dedicated rear cabin climate control along with big outer door bins that, like those up front, will keep hold of your bottle of Prosecco. The outer armrests provide plenty of elbow room and the wide drop-down central armrest comes with the de-rigueur pop-up cupholders.

Not only does the SQ7
accommodate seven,
its 705-litre boot
will happily swallow their
combined luggage.
And if you’re planning
some load-lugging
just drop the middle row
seats, power-fold the
third-row into the floor
and you’ll have a
perfectly level loadbay
that will hold 1,890 litres
of cargo...”
But whichever seat you bag, the SQ7 makes a fab mode of transport. Not only does it accommodate seven, its 705-litre boot will happily swallow their combined luggage. If you're planning some load-lugging just drop the 40:20:40-split middle row seats (they spring forward when released and self-lock fully flat) and, power-fold the sixth and seventh third-row seats into the floor and you'll have a perfectly level loadbay that will hold 1,890 litres of cargo.

Incidentally, the central '20' section of the middle row itself folds down completely flat and makes carrying bulky load-throughs a doddle. A handy benefit of the air suspension is that the vehicle height (and hence the loadbay floor) can, for even easier loading, be lowered by pressing the appropriate button in the boot.

Other appreciated touches include the powered tailgate and the roller luggage blind that goes up/down with it for quicker access, and the driver-operated remote child door locks. And courtesy of the V8's meaningful 663lb ft of torque, towing is never going to be a problem — in fact you can haul a braked 3,500kg.

You'll never tire of squeezing the SQ7's accelerator hard, even when you don't really need to — it's just so delicious the way this huge SUV instantaneously takes off like a scaled cat. But whatever your driving style, you and your passengers will always travel first class, sumptuously cocooned from a wearisome world. And even with prices starting from £74K, the oh-so-wantable SQ7 is a bargain — something even very rich EIPs (Extremely Important People) will appreciate. ~ MotorBar
.
Audi SQ7 4.0 TDI quattro | £73,945
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.9 seconds | Test Average: 35.4mpg
Power: 429bhp | Torque: 663lb ft | CO2: 190g/km

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