2018 Audi SQ7 Review
Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Audi SQ7 Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: With performance, economy, luxury and space, can the Audi SQ7 really be all things to all families?
2018 Audi SQ7 Specifications
Price $155,140+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel+electric compressor Power 320kW at 3750-5000rpm Torque 900Nm at 1000-3250rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 5069mm (L) 1968mm (W) 1741mm (H) 2996mm (WB) Kerb Weight 2330kg Towing 3500kg maximum braked Fuel Tank 85L Spare space-saver spare Thirst 7.2/100km claimed combined, 8.7L/100km tested
EVERYTHING is enormous about the Audi SQ7 … with the exception of one fact and figure. This is the top model grade within Audi’s premium large SUV line-up, and it climbs an Everest-sized mountain of numbers that start with all between a one and a nine.
It costs just over $150,000 before on-road costs, it weighs a hefty 2405kg, it delivers 320kW of power, claims a 4.9-second 0-100km/h sprint, and is 5069mm long. We’ll skip six, but…
Importantly, the SQ7 seats seven people and it sips just 7.2 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, yet it does this despite using V8 engine producing a staggering 900Nm of torque.
So the only small-number claim is ‘7’ – yes, that fuel consumption figure, thanks in part to some electric trickery helping to overcome the size and mass. But can this expensive, spacious, fast, and also seemingly frugal family car now manage to score a perfect 10 here?
What’s The Price And What Do You Get?
Priced from $155,140+ORC, the SQ7 could only be seen as affordable relative to its Audi peers. After all, it is the biggest model from the German brand available for this price tag.
Beyond seven seats, standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, leather seats, heated front seats, four-zone climate control, satellite navigation, digital radio, and 19-speaker Bose audio, plus extensive active safety equipment discussed later.
However, while 20-inch alloy wheels are standard, 21s cost $3300 and 22s (!) ask $6490.
As fitted to our test car, a Dynamic package charges $13,500 and includes a quattro sport differential (which can juggle power and torque between each rear wheel on demand), active anti-roll (which uses the electrical system to force beams in different ways to counteract bodyroll) and four-wheel steering (which turns the rear wheels slightly when cornering to help the big bus feel more nimble).
Other further options include twin-rear tablet screens asking a further $4950, panoramic sunroof at $3990 extra, a digital TV requiring another $2650, and ‘Matrix’ LED headlights with automatic-adaptive high-beam and sequential rear indicators needing $2200 more. Arguably at least some of the above should be standard.
What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?
The SQ7 stretches over 5.0 metres from its chiseled matte-silver grille to its electric tailgate, so it would be fair to assume it is absolutely enormous inside. And it mostly is, especially when being used as a five-seater where the three individual seats in the middle-row can slide right back and offer a limousine-rivalling level of legroom. There’s virtually no intrusion from the centre transmission tunnel, either, so an adult trio can happily be accommodated.
Meanwhile there’s no need for the driver or front passenger to necessarily move the electrically adjustable front seats forward to negotiate more room with middle riders, and with the twin electrically-foldable third-row seats moved into the floor there’s 705 litres of luggage space available. That’s basically a medium sedan’s worth, plus 50 per cent extra…
When the twin electrically-foldable third-row seats get raised, however, slight issues do as well. Sixth and seventh passengers are only decently accommodated here, perched on a relatively flat seat and with only a reasonable amount of legroom and headroom. There’s no air vents, and the way the outboard middle seats tumble then fold forward makes for clumsy entry and egress – it’s a two-stage process of pushing backrest then pulling up base.
Outboard seats that tilt and slide forward at the touch of a button would be so much easier. That said, even with all seven seats in use this Audi can still deliver a Mazda2-sized 235L luggage space behind the third-row, which is impressive.
What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?
Audi cabins are generally not only finely finished and slick to look at, but they are also easy to operate. Thankfully the SQ7 is no exception, with its standard 8.3-inch centre display being beautifully complemented by a 12.3in driver display dubbed Virtual Cockpit. It’s a high-resolution high watermark to match the lovely inlays, textures and mood lighting.
Operation of the infotainment system is effortless, whether connecting a USB cable and using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring, the twin SD card readers that can hold 10Gb of media storage, the Wi-Fi hot-spot feature or Google Earth maps – complete with ‘one shot’ voice control entry for navigation addresses that works perfectly.
Even the consistency of damping force with the console-mounted rotary dial and shortcut tabs (to switch between phone, media, nav or settings screens) reeks of attention to detail. They also match the force of the knurled-silver climate control knobs, which is lovely.
If there is a gripe, it’s with differentiation between the SQ7 and more affordable Q7 model grades. Despite the use of higher-grade leather wrapped around sportier seats, the samey soft-touch dashboard plastics and general ambience don’t quite feel special enough. There’s a solution though, in the optional leather dashboard – but it costs $3600 extra to coat the doorhandles, console trim and lower door trim in leather (this should be standard) and up to $14,500 to wrap the entire dashboard in leather trim. Above a $150K pricetag, it hurts.
What’s The Performance Like?
The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel V8 gets to make its epic 900Nm of torque at just 1000rpm. That’s right off idle, so when the accelerator is pressed from a set of traffic lights, full thrust is right there. Almost every other engine needs 1500rpm, at best.
How does Audi manage such a feat? Well, it uses a 48-volt power system to spark-up an electric compressor that instantly feeds air into the turbochargers to spin them quickly to maximum operating speed. That not only eliminates or minimises ‘turbo lag’, but it allows the engine to more frequently operate in a lower, more efficient part of the rev band.
Essentially, when the accelerator is floored, this big engine can deliver strong performance, but for the most part when cruising or moving around the city, the electric compressor helps the engine to keep humming along at low revs, aiding refinement and economy. That’s how a V8 diesel can also make 320kW of power (from 3750rpm) and claim to drink 7.2 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. We saw 8.7L/100km on test, which is still superb.
The SQ7 even allows drivers to enter a sports sound mode that makes this diesel bark like a V8 petrol, with an almost overly abrasive exhaust that some will love but others will find forced. Otherwise this drivetrain delivers a stunning blend of performance and economy. If there’s an issue it’s with an eight-speed auto that can sometimes pause and stutter – we suspect it’s slightly troubled by the hefty kerb weight given that it is especially noticeable when transitioning from cruising to quick overtaking. It could be smoother and sweeter.
So are there any downsides?
Beyond the slightly average third-row accommodation, the important downside to recognise with the SQ7 is its sheer cost, size and weight. How often do you need seven seats? It’s an important question to ask.
Add options to the base price, and it takes an expensive SUV into stratospheric, near-$200K territory. Some of those aforementioned options really just should be standard.
While this Audi also feels surprisingly nimble for a big bus (more in the next section), it also sometimes cannot escape its two-and-a-half-tonne kerb weight. The expensive 20- to 22-inch tyres simply won’t last long, especially with some sporty driving thrown in.
What’s It Like On The Road?
At least when optioned with the Dynamic package, the SQ7 successfully fights flab with firepower. Not only is it quick and responsive via the accelerator, but the grip from the Continental ContiSportContact tyres combines with the cleverness of the active anti-roll system, the slinky four-wheel steering and the adjustable damper control near-ideally.
Choose between Comfort and Auto mode around town, and the Audi will feel decently soothing and enjoyably light in its steering. Only some niggling from the low-profile tyres impacts what is otherwise a luxurious premium large SUV. It is also a price to pay for that ‘S’ badge that promises – and delivers – almost alarmingly excellent handling.
That is particularly the case on smooth roads, where the fastest Q7 feels like a fast hot hatchback, such is its agility and poise. Only rougher roads can trouble this heavy and firmly suspended model – another consequence of its smooth-road speed.
A special nod goes to the steering that never feels too sharp or nervous, yet doesn’t feel overly heavy or dull either. It just points nicely.
Does It Have A Spare?
Yes, but only an 80km/h-limited temporary space-saver spare.
Can You Tow With It?
Yes, a hefty 3500kg – matching the segment benchmark.
What about ownership?
Annual or 15,000km intervals teams with a three-year/45,000km servicing packaging asking $1900 in total. As with rival premium brands, Audi lags behind mainstream competitors with only three-year or unlimited kilometre coverage – where five years is now the expectation.
What about safety features?
With dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), a head-up display, blind-spot monitor with active lane-keep assistance, surround camera with all-round parking sensors and auto reverse-park assist as standard, the SQ7 delivers a superb safety package as standard.