If you had to embark on a long relatively boring road tip southbound from Sydney to Tumut what car would you choose? 420 kilometres of mostly straight, freeway speeds and just a fleeting dash along some great roads east of Gundagai to Tumut calls for one thing in my mind. Something large for all the gear our eight-month-old needs, something safe, efficient and ideally refined and quiet. But when I was allocated the keys to Audi’s SQ7 what I was granted was something almost off the planet. Near supercar performance, breathtaking handling and space for seven. The monstrous SQ7 is simply astonishing.
The last time I drove a diesel that came even remotely close to the king of the Q7 range was way back in 2008. It was a Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI. That unit was a twin turbo 5.0-litre V10 that produced 730kW / 750Nm and hit 100km/h in 7.4 seconds. The Touareg and Q7 have always been closely related, sharing platforms under the Volkswagen Group banner. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s amazing how far a “blown” diesel has come.
The Audi 4.0-litre diesel V8 is capable of 320kW / 900Nm and will explode down the road to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. At launch in late 2016 it was touted as “The world’s fasted seven-seat diesel SUV.” The Bentley Bentayga features the same platform and diesel engine as it’s part of the VW group as well. But it does lack a third row, so I guess Audi can still claim that title. Although the Bentayga is marginally quicker and costs a bucket load more.
The power that unfolds under a heavy right foot is obscene but strangely delivered like a pillow to the face. The enormous torque arrives at just 1000rpm. To be simplistic, this engine is basically a triple turbo, but to appease the diehards it should be explained further. There are two turbocharges inside the actual V8 90-degree “vee”, producing up to 2.4 bar boost. But to help them out, an electric compressor that Audi says acts as a supercharger drives the turbos when exhaust gas pressure is lacking, like from standstill. This is called turbo lag, as a result Audi says the compressor wheel can be spinning at 75,000rpm within 250 milliseconds. It’s like a jockey showing a horse the whip, always.
To power the third method of boost, Audi had to install a world-first 48-volt electrical system that runs alongside the usual 12-volt system that runs the rest of the usual electrical bits and pieces. There’s even a small lithium-ion battery that can store some extra power when needed. So, in short, the SQ7 takes off like a cut snake.
But if it wasn’t for the head-up display or the Virtual Instrument Cluster you’d almost be blind to the fact of how quickly you’re approaching a licence suspension. The delivery of power is so smooth and almost relaxed it’s frankly ridiculous. This kind of refined superpower is usually reserved for V12 Rolls Royces. There’s a shove in the back, then just a relentless pursuit for warp speeds.
The actual ride really does depend on what “drive select” mode tickles your fancy. Choosing Off-Road, All-Road, Comfort, Auto, Eco, Dynamic or Individual modes will produce a significantly different effect on the car’s handling. Dynamic will sink the SQ7 down almost to sports wagon levels, All-Road will raise it for some unlikely but no-doubt possible rock crawling or water crossings. Incidentally when in Dynamic road there is a tad too much throttle response when pottering around town, the throttle in conjunction with the 8-speed tiptronic gear box becomes a tad jerky and almost bouncy on the rev’s. Best to use that mode at higher speeds.
There’s a clever electromechanical stabilisation system, adaptive air-suspension and on our as-tested model, four-wheel-steering system and quattro self-locking centre differential on the rear axle. The latter adding $13,000 as part of a Dynamic Package. There’s a small piece of dirt road near my house that acts as a shortcut to access a major arterial road. My wife hates it, the congregations shake apart most cars I test, plus are guaranteed to raise the ire of our eight-month-old. In the SQ7 you almost don’t feel the surface at all, my wife literally said, “That’s amazing.”
The last time I encountered four-wheel steering was on a 1989 Honda Prelude, one of the best steers of all time in my mind. But add it to a 2.3 tonne SUV and the result is dramatically reduced turning circles, plus physics-defying levels of cornering. Even though the rear-wheels turn in or out up to a maximum of just five per cent, the effect is more than obvious. The rear-end just whips its way through corners just as sharp as the front end. It makes you feel like God.
But Is It Practical?
I wouldn’t say the Q7 in general is the roomiest seven-seater around, mind you I did spend 10 days in a Kia Carnival before Christmas. There isn’t an abundance of cup-holders or even USB charge points, with just two in the front. There is one 12V point in up front and two in the rear however. The centre console bin is essentially useless unless you like to conceal very small items, but it does have a wireless charging pad for compatible phones. With the third-row down, space as far as SUV’s goes is adequate, although the floor is quite high. An optional cargo net was a clever touch, acting as a secure wall between luggage and passengers.
We found the heavy doors to be unusually hard to shut, on more than one occasion we drove off with one ajar. This appears to be a common complaint about Q7’s in general, you have to really give the door a solid shove for the latch to engage. This problem should not be a thing.
The cabin is an absolute masterclass in craftsmanship, on par with the best has to Audi offer. Its materials are impeccable, every button, every touchpoint is just on point. The largely all-back interior was probably the only letdown.
Four-zone air-conditioning will ensure all are well and truly comfortable and to quote my wife “the little gear stick is in the way of the interface controller”. I guess that’s a legacy of RHD conversions. The Audi MMI system itself I feel is excellent, particularly when up against BMW’s iDrive. Our vehicle was equipped with Apple CarPlay although it lacks the wireless connection BMW offers.
Fuel economy is excellent, the claimed average being 7.7l/100km. I sat right on 8.7-litres which I still think is astounding. So as a family car I feel it could be a little cramped when fully loaded, but as a five-seater it’s probably the most exotic SUV outside of the Bentley you could possibly opt for.
The SQ7 comes with everything Audi has to offer when it comes to safety technology. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) up to 85 km/h, Side assist, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Traffic Jam Assist, Blind Spot Monitor as well as Lane Assist come as standard. The full Audi Q7 range scores the must has five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The options list is long but for the best sound system you’re ever likely to hear perhaps tick the $11,340 box for the Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced Sound System with 23 loudspeakers including 3D Sound loudspeaker, centre speaker and subwoofer, 23-channel amplifier for a total output of 1,920 watts. I mean even two tweeter speakers pop out of the corners of the top dash on start up. It’s lunacy.
Other highlights include:
- LED headlights with LED daytime running lights
- Audi virtual cockpit and Head up Display (HUD)
- MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch
- Audi Connect, smartphone interface and music interface
Let me be clear, I haven’t lost all perspective. This car is basically out of reach for just about everyone. The suggested entry price is $153,616, our car would sail way north of $170,000 with options. That’s before on road costs. OUCH.
EFTM Rubber Stamp of Approval.
This is one of those vehicles that makes you feel like a king. It’s almost embarrassing what the car is capable of, it screams German excess and literally is one of motoring’s great feats. I must award the Audi QS7 EFTM’s Distinction Rubber Stamp of Approval