Audi SQ7 TDI review – diesel power has never been so appealing
Despite a size and weight disadvantage, the Audi SQ7 is fast and capable thanks to a raft of technology
The concept of the SQ7 is just full of contradictions; not only does it want to be a heavy, high-riding SUV that can drive like a performance car, it also wants to be an semi-economical, diesel-powered off-roader that can accelerate faster than a sports car. But despite such disparate and contrasting goals, and despite its enormity, the SQ7 manages to tick all those boxes. Just.
It doesn’t achieve such feats through subtly and finesse, though. Instead Audi has thrown every last bit of technology at the SQ7, so it’s engine is boosted by an electric supercharger as well as two conventional exhaust gas-driven turbos. Underneath the big Audi SUV there’s adaptive dampers, three-chamber air suspension and, if you go wild with the options list, rear-wheel steering, a torque vectoring rear differential, electromechanical anti-roll bars and carbon ceramic brakes.
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To power a lot of this technology, the SQ7 has a 48 volt electrical subsystem. It sits alongside the conventional 12 volt power supply, which continues to operate the infotainment and lights, and has its own separate battery.
It all contributes to make the Audi SQ7 a remarkably talented car. What it doesn’t do, though, is truly excite.
Audi SQ7 TDI in detail
Performance and 0-60 time – Don’t be fooled by the diesel engine and SUV proportions, the SQ7 is fast
Engine and gearbox – Like the rest of the car, the engine is a packed with high-tech gizmos, the most notable being an electric supercharger
Ride and handling – As long as you stick with the smaller wheels, the SQ7 rides well, being remarkably well controlled and deeply impressive
MPG and running costs – After all, the SQ7 is a performance SUV so it isn’t going to be cheap to run. However, with its diesel engine it will likely be cheaper than many of its rivals
Interior and tech – As it’s a modern Audi, the interior is clear and intuitive with a great, contemporary design
Design – It isn’t pretty and it isn’t subtle, but it’s big, imposing and makes an impact on the road
Prices, specs and rivals
There are two trim options for the SQ7, the most basic car (£74,385) and the Vorsprung Edition (£89,905). Both are mechanically identical, except for the wheels. The Vorsprung Edition has a set of 22-inch Audi Sort wheels rather than the standard 20-inch items, but has the same triple-charged 4-litre diesel hot-V V8, adaptive dampers and air-suspension as the regular car.
The special chassis upgrades are all optional, ceramic brakes are £8100 while the Dynamic Pack – that includes rear-wheel steer, the torque-vectoring differential and the electromechanical adaptive anti-roll bars – costs £5700. If you want all-wheel steering without the other items, that costs £1100.
Inside there’s a greater difference between the regular SQ7 and the Vorsrpung Edition. There’s a set of sports seats covered in super-soft leather, Alcantara headlining (a £1425 option on the regular cars), a head-up display (usually £1350) and a panoramic glass roof (£1700).
If you must have a diesel SUV, then the SQ7 outclasses its rivals in almost every respect. It's more powerful, has more torque, is faster and is cheaper than the Range Rover Sport SDV8, while the diesel Maserati Levante isn’t in the same performance league as either. The diesel Bentley Bentayga, with the same engine, power and torque is marginally quicker to 62mph even though it’s 176kg heavier; the Bentayga reaches 62mph in 4.8sec while the SQ7 manages it in 4.9sec. The Bentley is not far off twice as expensive as the Audi at £135,800.
A petrol BMW X5 xDrive50i, with 444bhp, can match the SQ7 to 62mph (4.9sec) and is slightly cheaper at £70,705. Mercedes-AMG’s GLE43 is comparable on price, but it’s almost a second slower to 62mph (5.7sec). You have to go for the V8-powered GLE63 to better the Audi, that will hit 62mph in 4.2sec but costs over £95,000.
If you don’t need an SUV (and be honest you don’t, do you?) then the SQ7 is less dominant. For similar money you could have an Alpina B5 Biturbo, which is more powerful, lighter and far more gratifying to drive. A used Audi RS6 isn’t much more money, either.