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In-depth reviews

Audi SQ7 TDI (2016-2020) review

Audi’s biggest S model digs deep into its technical arsenal to create a talented, if somewhat joyless SUV, but then aren’t they all?

Evo rating
from £70,970
  • Huge spread of capability, spacious and full of tech. Powertrain is extremely strong
  • Offers little-to-no driver involvement, expensive and can struggle to hide its weight

The Audi SQ7 has been lording it over private school car parks since 2016 with its V8 diesel engine and obnoxious styling, but alongside the Q7 range for 2020, the range-topper has undergone a substantial mid-life update focusing on styling, tech and an all-new interior.

The powertrain is unchanged, mind, and as one of the few models within the Volkswagen group still available with the techy mild-hybrid twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine, the SQ7 has suddenly become a unique entity within its Volkswagen group parent company, which so often offers variations on a similar theme.

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That V8 engine is just the tip of its technical arsenal though, as the SQ7 includes everything from three-chamber air suspension and active anti-roll bars courtesy of the 48V mild-hybrid system, to laser-assisted headlights and four-wheel steering. I could go on

So as a technical flagship, luxury car, performance-oriented SUV and family hauler the Audi SQ7 TDI promises everything. But can it deliver?

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 packed with high-tech gizmos, the most notable being an electric supercharger.
  • Ride and handling – Handles its imposing bulk well, but is far from involving.
  • MPG and running costs – The SQ7 is a performance SUV so it isn’t going to be cheap to run given the size of its components.
  • Interior and tech – The interior is all-new, sharing its touchscreen layout and high-tech ambiance with the latest SQ8.
  • 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 basic car (£73,830) and the Vorsprung Edition (£92,530). The two are largely similar under the skin, although the Vorsprung swaps out the standard model’s 21-inch wheels for a 22-inch wheel and tyre package and rear-wheel steering. Other exterior upgrades include the black trim package (not usually advisable, but it does hide the obnoxious grille slats), LED Matrix headlights with laser-beam assistance and red brake calipers.

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Standard features inside are extensive, starting with the adoption of the far more contemporary interior design borrowed from the Q8 which is centred around the twin-haptic touchscreen set-up. All seven seats are trimmed as standard in waxy, quilted leather, with the front sport seats electrically adjustable and heated. Plump for the Vorsprung and they also pick up ventilation and a pneumatic massage function.

The Vorsprung also includes extended leather on the doors, dash and console sections, grey oak interior trim, soft-close doors, four-zone climate control, a panoramic glass roof, heated rear seats, a head-up display, Bose premium sound system and 360-degree parking camera, all helping to justify the nearly £20,000 price premium.

Where once the SQ7 had to compete against two other in-house rivals in the form of the Bentley Bentayga Diesel and Porsche Cayenne S Diesel, it is now the only model of its parent company (SQ8 aside) to utilise the innovative V8 diesel powertrain.

The flip side of this is that it’s no longer the only high-specification diesel seven-seater, as both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have all-new rivals it must contend with. The BMW X7 M50d might top the Audi for interior accomodation and glamour, but its two-cylinder deficit means it never quite feels as effortless or regal as the SQ7. The quad-turbo in-line six diesel is down on grunt too, but it’s the 561lb ft of torque figure that represents the biggest difference, which is over 100lb ft down on the Audi. It’s only a few thousand pounds less than a fully loaded Vorsprung. If you’re after the high-spec powertrain, but not so much the leather-wrapped grab handles, the standard SQ7 suddenly seems impressive value at £73k.

The new Mercedes GLS is even bigger, and although its 400d variant is less performance oriented than the BMW and Audi with 335bhp, the new in-line six turbo diesel is a sweet unit that is more pleasant than the BMW’s, even if it still lacks the ultimate power of the Audi. 

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. The brilliant new Audi RS6 isn’t much more money, either

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