2017 Audi SQ7 TDI Review – First Drive
Isaac Bober’s first drive 2017 Audi SQ7 TDI review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, performance, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Audi SQ7 TDI turns the seven-seat SUV up to 11 with power and performance to make it the world’s fastest diesel-powered seven-seat SUV.
2017 Audi SQ7 TDI
Pricing From $153,616+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Service Intervals 15,000km or 12 months Engine 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel Power 320kW from 3750-5000rpm Torque 900Nm from 1000-3250rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive permanent all-wheel drive Dimensions 5069mm (L); 1968mm – excluding mirrors (W); 1741mm (H) Weight 2330kg Towing 3500kg Towball Download 140kg Spare No Fuel Tank 85 litres Thirst 7.2L/100km (claimed combined cycle)
DIESEL MIGHT BE for the chop in key European cities in 2025, but the tractor-fuel is going out with a BANG. Meet the Audi SQ7 TDI, the fastest diesel-powered seven-seat SUV in the world. And you know we’ve gone SUV made when being a fast seven-seater becomes a thing…
Built along the same lines as the smaller Audi SQ5 TDI, which despite being the most expensive and most focussed, became the best-selling Q5 variant, Audi expects the SQ7 TDI to strike a similar chord.
“We anticipate the SQ7 will capture the attention of the Australia luxury car buying market in much the same way as the highly sought-after SQ5 TDI has,” Audi boss Andrew Doyle told journalists via pre-recorded video at the local launch. “For our customers, this extraordinary vehicle will fulfil the desire for the latest innovative technology solution, at the same as delivering unmatched versatility in a highly attractive package.”
So, just how attractive is this package, from a financial standpoint? In base trim, the seven-seat SQ7 lists from $153,616+ORC but as with all premium brands, there’s a lengthy cost options list that can easily drive the price towards $200,000 with only a few ‘must-have’ items ticked.
It’s worth noting that the SQ7 TDI comes in standard seven-seat trim, but can, via special order, be had as a five-seat model which gets a full-size spare –the seven-seater gets a tyre maintenance kits because of the third-row. Audi believes the seven-seater will be the right car for the market (and they’re no doubt right, because, well, SQ5), hence the decision to make it the main-line variant.
What’s it like inside?
In a word: Luxurious. Even in the entry-level variant we spent time in at the local launch there’s a feeling of exclusivity just as you’d expect in a car costing $153,000 plus on-roads.
The standard seats in the front are comfortable but aren’t anywhere near as supportive as the figure-hugging cost-optional sports seats we tried, which grip you so tight that only your internal organs move about when cornering. That said, the base seats only felt underdone in particularly hard cornering situations, in all other situations, like around town or on long cruising stretches, they felt good.
Over in the back seats there’s plenty of room for three adults, and while we didn’t get a chance to check it out, you’d probably fit two capsule-style seats and a booster-style seat across the back. The backs of the second-row seats can be tilted backwards and forwards, and because each backrest is separate it’s possible to fold down just one or two of the seat backs.
To gain access to the third row the seats tumble forwards, with the base of the seat offering pneumatic assistance. This leaves a space to clamber into the back. Over in the third-row seats which can be raised and lowered (individually) from the boot, electrically, are comfortable, but as in the standard Q7 legroom is a little tight. This backrow is best left to teenagers, although there are top tether anchor points on all seats in the second and third row.
Boot space with the third row in place is 235 litres which is smaller than the boot of a Hyundai i30, but big enough for a weekly shop. This grows to 705 litres with the third-row folded flat into the floor, and 1890 litres with the second-row folded down.
The SQ7 comes standard with a powered tailgate which rises high enough for six-footers to stand under comfortably, and can be raised by poking your foot directly under the rear bumper and in-line with the Audi four rings badge.
Back in the front of the SQ7 and the materials used and the fit and finish is as you’d expect from Audi or, in other words, excellent. There are nice touches like illuminated door sills that show the SQ7 logo, leather wrapped steering wheel, stainless steel pedals and much more.
The dashboard is cleanly designed with all the controls in easy reach. And, thankfully, despite the level of ever-increasing control offered by Audi’s MMI unit there are still hard controls for the tri-zone climate control, meaning you don’t have to stab your way through menus and sub menus just to control the fan speed. In addition to the centrally mounted touch screen which can be controlled via the rotary dial, or your finger down on the transmission tunnel, or via voice, the SQ7 also features Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit as standard. And it’s excellent. The system can use Google Maps for navigation, and offers Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity as well as smartphone wireless charging.
What’s it like on the road?
Under the bonnet is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine producing 320kW of power and 900Nm of torque from 1000-3250rpm. That’s enough grunt to see the seven-seater get to the legal limit in just 4.9 seconds (top speed is governed at 250km/h).
The SQ7 drinks 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle, although you might see figures on the Net suggesting 7.2L/100km, but that’s for the five-seat variant. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be run in both D for Drive or S for Sport and shifted manually via steering mounted paddle shifters.
Touch the throttle from a standstill and the SQ7 will launch itself ahead from minimal revs thanks to the use of an electrically powered compressor (EPC), which can spin up within milliseconds and reduce lag to the point of non-existence. Once there’s a set amount of pressure for the conventional turbochargers, the EPC is bypassed. However, should pressure drop below a certain level, then the EPC cuts back in to keep air forced into the conventional turbochargers ensuring there’s no let-up in performance.
This EPC is a world-first in a production car and given how well it works in the SQ7 only a fool would bet against it appearing downstream in other Audi models. That said, because of the energy required by the EPC and the cost-optional active roll stabilisation system on the SQ7 a 48-volt system has been fitted which, in place of the 12V system on garden-variety Q7s. This gruntier electrical system, which includes a small storage battery means the EPC and active stabilisation can be run simultaneously with no loss of performance. Like the EPC, we can expect to see 48-volt systems find their way into other Audi product.
But that’s enough of the tech stuff. Back to the engine. As mentioned, touch the throttle and the thing starts hard-charging towards the horizon gently pushing you back into the seat. Keep your foot pressed on the throttle and the smooth transmission will grab one gear and then the next without a moment’s let-up in power. There are very cars on the planet that accumulate speed as effortlessly and confidently as the SQ7.
Despite having 900Nm of aggression on tap from 1000rpm, the SQ7 never ever feels nervous or like you’re just one toe twitch away from head-butting the horizon. So well balanced is the power delivery, the throttle response and the gearing that the SQ7 will creep easily along in stop-start traffic or charge, like a wounded bull along an open stretch of highway. It’s an intoxicating drivetrain, to say the least…
…Which is helped in no small measure by the soundtrack. There are supercars that don’t sound as growly at idle or as, er, roary as revs rise.
The SQ7 weighs in at just over 2300kg (without the driver) which is the sort of number you’d ordinarily read and think all the engine’s good work will be undone by a lumbering beast of a car. Don’t worry, it isn’t. Even on the standard air suspension the SQ7 rides comfortably across the worst of the roads surfaces with barely a bump felt inside the cabin. Throw the thing into corners and lean on it and it feels just as stable as it does trundling around a roundabout. That said, the standard suspension is ever-so-slightly undone by mid-corner bumps which see the thing squirm slightly on rebound. The standard SQ7 runs on 20-inch alloys while the other one we sampled rode on 22-inch alloys.
Switch into an SQ7 with the cost-optional active roll stabilisation system and the cornering speed rises with the body control and roll resistance not just impressive for a beast weighing as much as two Audi A3s but for one of Audi’s performance sedans.
But the truly impressive trick of the SQ7 is how it manages to blend the comfort of its around-town ride with its precision and agility when hard cornering. And because you can adjust the level of comfort from, well, Comfort to Dynamic you can easily set-up the car to suit the road and your mood.
My only criticism is with the steering which is well weighted, precise and quick but there’s a lack of feel that seems out of step with the rest of the car’s tactility and poise. The brakes are excellent with good progression and pedal feel. But the engine braking is just as impressive, and on long downhill stretches the SQ7 will work hard to keep itself from running away.
What about the safety features?
The entry-level SQ7 comes with Audi’s full suite of active safety systems, including hill hold assist, Audi pre-sense (both basic and city), cruise control and speed limited, attention assist which detects if you’ve started to nod off, turn assist, adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, traffic jam assist, exit warning which detects and warns of either a pedestrian or cyclist approaching the car to avoid you opening the door into them. There’s also cross-traffic assist at the rear, a reversing camera and 360 degree surround view, and high beam assist. Beyond this there’s also permanent all-wheel drive, LED headlights.
We didn’t get to play with clever systems like traffic jam assist which, when activated, can take over basic functions like braking, acceleration and even steering at up to 65km/h. But for me, it’s the active lane assist that stand out as a genius system that offers a glimpse at what autonomous motoring will be like. Once active, the system can steer the car through some impressive cornering arcs, although Audi goes to great pains to explain the driver must keep their hands on the wheel always. One thing to note is that if you do use lane assist then you should turn down the sensitivity otherwise it can have the tendency to gnaw at the steering wheel.
The SQ7 hasn’t been tested by ANCAP, and Audi didn’t mention anything at the local launch, but it’s probably be safe to assume it will be covered by the five-star ANCAP rating for the conventional Q7 which was tested by EuroNCAP. The rating applies to Q7 from September 2015.