Audi SQ7

Quickest seven-seater from Ingolstadt puts a different spin on the luxury SUV market

TOBY HAGON

FIRSTDRIVES SPECS

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Audi SQ7 3956cc V8 (90į), dohc, 32v, TTD 320kW @ 3750-5000rpm 900Nm @ 1000-3250rpm 8-speed automatic 2330kg 4.8sec (claimed) 7.2L/100km $160,000 (estimated) October

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

MOTORWAY cruising in eighth gear is the best way to experience the effortlessness and newfound flexibility of Audiís SQ7, the fastest seven-seat SUV the company has produced.

The first production car with an electric turbo Ė or, more correctly, an electric compressor, which amounts to a 7kW air pump that revs to 70,000rpm Ė puts its full 900Nm to use with a squeeze of your right hoof, barely flustered by the prospect of building pace well beyond triple figures.

Not even 2330kg of aluminium and steel can make Audiís 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel lumber.

Itís a seriously smooth engine too, with a mild V8 rumble courtesy of a sound actuator tucked away in the quad-pipe exhaust system. Pity those sitting inside donít get the full bark that characterises the Q7 range-topper from the outside.

Yet for most driving situations, the headline act of the SQ7 Ė that electric compressor Ė lays idle, leaving the work to a pair of exhaust-driven turbos, which generally provide ample huff.

Little wonder, then, that most of the time the SQ7 isnít radically different to Audiís other excellent V8 diesels that weíve experienced.

Nevertheless, there are subtle but noticeable improvements. Reapplying power out of a hairpin bend, for example, unleashes a luscious torrent of near-instant torque, making the blast to the next bend that little bit brisker. Itís not Tesla-like in immediacy, but itís far better than any turbo-diesel weíve driven previously.

Where the SQ7 is not as convincing is with a fullthrottle, standing-start take-off.

Depending on what setting you have the Drive Mode selector in, and whether the transmission is in Sport or Drive, the big Audi still fumbles for a second before that brutal torque hit kicks in.

And even the best idle-stop system in the world Ė and the SQ7ís is up there with the best Ė will shade any turbo lag when it comes to delays in getting going, making the fuel-saving method redundant for those who may i i í hen, he udiís enced. ss, t ts. eashes ar-last decide to turn it off for the sake of better response off the line.

Speaking of fuel, economy is the SQ7ís big tick. Despite taking only 4.8sec to accelerate from rest to 0-100km/h and offering accomodation for seven, its official fuel number is 7.2L/100km.

But Audiís latest go-fast SUV isnít a one-trick pony, and itís arguably the carís dynamic smarts that most separate it from its rivals.

The implementation of a second, 48-volt electrical subsystem (most of the standard electronics still use a 12V system) is reserved for items requiring plenty of power, including the electric turbo.

The 48-volt system also powers the optional electro-mechanical roll stabilisation system. Working in tandem with the standard adjustable air suspension, it adds active anti-roll bars that decouple when more travel is required and stiffen when cornering. The result is a car that is impressively supple in its bump absorption. Only sharp-edged lumps mildly fluster the low-profile 22-inch tyres y ami i f i respo bi 4 seve Au isní a fitted to our test car.

And body control is phenomenal. Thereís not an SUV around that can match the SQ7ís talent in keeping passengers comfy and the driver smiling.

Torque-vectoring helps quell understeer; pitch in hard and Audiís big SUV does a fantastic job of pointing where you want it to.

Wearing Hankook rubber, our test car delivered a punchy full stop on a great dynamic equation.

And the optional carbonceramic brakes Ė expected to cost around $20K Ė offer great feel and potent stopping power.

The SQ7 isnít as fiery as an AMG or M in a straight line, but it makes up for it with cornering nous few SUVs get close to.

Itís so relaxed, so refined and so comfortable that it eats up country miles with ease. And it brings new seven-seat athleticism to the point where it feels wasted to do anything but drive it hard.

Itís a bold move to make a diesel your performance flagship, but the execution is excellent, making for a tantalising addition to an increasingly busy segment.

PLUS & MINUS

Some of the good bits cost extra; sounds better outside than inside Immensely flexible V8 diesel; refinement; body control; comfort; cabin

Power games

THE SQ7 is the first ĎSí-badged Q7 to emerge from Audi, though the firstgeneration model managed to distinguish its near decade-long run with the monster Q7 V12 TDI, tickled by the Quattro department.

Despite the SQ7 being the fastest-accelerating diesel SUV on the market, engine output honours go to its 12-pot predecessor. The new 4.0-litre TTD V8 produces 320kW and 900Nm, whereas the original Q7ís 6.0-litre V12 TDI pumped out 368kW/1000Nm.

01 EXHAUST HARVEST

Each cylinder has two exhaust valves feeding separate exhaust manifolds. One valve operates full-time, feeding the first of two identical turbos. The second exhaust valve opens at about 2000rpm to spin up the high-rev turbo. turbos

02 EXTRA VOLTS

As well as the standard 12V electrical system for lights, wipers, infotainment and safety systems, the SQ7 gets a 48V electrical sub-system, which provides up to 13kW to run the active roll stabilisation system and electric compressor. sub system

03 VIRTUAL SOUND

A sound actuator in the exhaust beefs up the V8 burble for a more satisfying sound, while revised gear ratios take advantage of the near-instant torque delivery for indirect fuel efficiency gains. sound 03

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