Driving the new Audi SQ7 TDI

The fastest seven-seat, TDI SUV in the world now calls Australia home.

What a way to celebrate the easing of restrictions, behind the wheel of the new Audi SQ7 TDI quattro.

Ian Dyk

18 May, 2020


Only six weeks or so after the Australian release of the new Audi Q7, its lightening fast sibling, the SQ7 TDI, has arrived Down Under as part of an ’S’ offensive that includes the Audi SQ8 TDI, S6 Sedan and S7 Sportback models.

Performance aficionados are spoilt for choice with this veritable performance feast, which offers a performance luxury model for just about any conceivable lifestyle and in the case of the SQ7, that includes enough interior accommodation to comfortably seat up to seven occupants in absolute style, while still delivering sportscar performance that seems at odds with a vehicle of this size.

This of course has always been the case with the Audi Q7, which in ‘standard guise’ is certainly no slouch when it com es to performance, but the new SQ7 TDI dials that up to 11, with its 4.0-litre, twin turbo V8 TDI producing 320kW of power and a massive 900Nm of torque that is on tap right throughout the rev range. This results in a vehicle that rockets from stand still to 100km/h in a mere 4.8 seconds on the way to an electronically-governed top speed of 250km/h. This is even more impressive though when you bear in mind that this is a five-metre long, seven-seat luxury SUV that wants for nothing in the luxury appointment stakes.

Not surprisingly, this level performance has earned the SQ7 the title of the world’s fastest, seven-seat diesel-powered SUV, but just being fast blindingly doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

At a glance these sorts of figures suggest pure, brutal power, but the SQ7 is anything but brutal. This is the very definition of refinement, with power just seeming to surge from nothing, and then counting to surge. 

Not surprisingly, this level performance has earned the SQ7 the title of the world’s fastest, seven-seat diesel-powered SUV

The SQ7 maintains the tradition of Audi S vehicles tending more to the subtle than the over-the-top

There is no lag or need to ‘wind up’ thanks to its 48 volt system, which amongst other things, provides power assistance under hard acceleration from standstill so that you have usable power on tap the second you touch the throttle. Add to that an eight-speed tiptronic transmission, all-wheel steering and power down through all four wheels thanks to the quattro system and you also have a vehicle that exhibits handling and a ridiculously smooth ride that also belie its size. The addition of active roll stabilisation also means that even on windy roads, the SQ7 exhibits no body roll to speak of no matter the pace.

Not only that but the SQ7 can deliver fuel figures of 7.6L/100km and even with ‘vigorous’ use of the throttle, the fuel figures indicated in the virtual cockpit readout once again, are at odds with a large, fully loaded vehicle like this. This efficiency is helped by the presence of that 48-volt mild hybrid system, that can save up to 0.5L/100km and also allows the vehicle to coast between 55km/h and 160km/h which allows its 0.5kW battery to recover up to 8kW of power.

Effortless is the only way to describe the way the SQ7 does everything. Power on tap, surefooted in any conditions and regardless of speed, it is both a driver’s car and as comfortable a place to be as even the most discerning passenger could want.

Visually, the SQ7 maintains the tradition of Audi S vehicles tending more to the subtle than the over-the-top. Badging is kept to a minimum, with just the small SQ7 badge with the red rhombus on the front grille and on the rear flank.

The large Singleframe grille has received a distinctive new treatment, and the large air intakes on each side add to the purposeful look of the SQ7 as well as performing their practical role. The rear also sports a new S diffuser and for those who know their S vehicles, the signature quad exhaust is a given.

Black styling highlights are also the name of the game, with the grille, wing mirrors and side panels all finished in black, although the more traditional aluminium look finish is available on request.

The lights too, both front and rear are distinctive and the addition of matrix LED headlights with laser light effectively double the range of lighting, which comes in handy given the level of performance the SQ 7 delivers.

Large 22-inch alloy wheels are standard equipment, as is the S adaptive air suspension which provides the ‘magic carpet’ ride, and the big red brake callipers that hug 400mm discs (front) and 350mm on the rear are another subtle reminder that this is an S model. Those who really want to push the envelope can opt for carbon ceramic brakes with even greater stopping power and a weight saving to boot.

Inside the SQ7, whether behind the flat-bottom, leather wheel or in one of the passenger seats, the finish and feel uphold Audi’s reputation for superb interiors and then some. The considerable space is further accentuated by the sleek, sweeping dash with its integrated twin touch screens – a 10.1 -inch screen for functions such as navigation and Audi connect plus features, and smaller 8.6-inch screen that controls various vehicle and comfort functions.

Figure-hugging S sport seats are beautifully finished in Valcona leather with the distinctive diamond stitching and S logo embossed, and the level of craftsmanship throughout is second-to-none as you would expect.

The overall impression is one of space, serenity and understated style, with so many little touches enhancing the whole experience. From the soft close doors to the aluminium trim on the pedals to the heads up display and the satisfying click and feel of the haptic feedback on the touch screens.

The overall impression is one of space, serenity and understated style, with so many little touches enhancing the whole experience

The SQ7 represents a contradiction in many ways given its vast array of very special skills

Those wanting to refine the interior even further can opt for the sensory package which adds a leather finish to the entire dashboard assembly as well as Alcantara finish for the headlining and doors. It also includes a massage function and ventilation for the already heated front seats as well as heated rear seating for rear passengers. This package also includes the Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system which effectively turns the interior of the SQ7 mobile concert hall.

For the driver, everything is exactly where you would expect it to be, and you can comfortably press on without taking your eyes off the road. The heads up display and standard virtual cockpit supply all conceivable information you need and the virtual cockpit can be tailored to provide the display that best suits your needs.

The very highest levels of driver assistance and safety also go without saying in the SQ7, with five star ANCAP obviously, and a complete suite of no less than 39 driver assistance and safety systems as standard.

From adaptive cruise control and Audi pre-sense (front and rear) to collision assist, intersection crossing assist, lane assist and exit warning to name just some.

Indeed the list of standard equipment in the SQ7 just goes on and on, whether it be the state-of-the-art infotainment or the less obvious vehicle systems designed to deliver the sublime ride in all conditions.

As has been said many times before, the SQ7 represents a contradiction in many ways given its vast array of special skills. Its performance and handling will plaster a smile on the face of anyone seeking a true driver’s experience, and yet the standard of ride would put most limousines to shame. That it can carry seven occupants adds another string to an already impressive bow and the sheer level of appointment and finish place it in the true luxury ranks.

The new SQ7 is priced at $161,500* which is a shade under the cost of the previous model, but with more than $15,000 worth of additional equipment. It’s the sort of vehicle you can drive all day and get out still wanting to drive some more – whether you’re the driver or a passenger. Indeed, the SQ7 is living proof that you can please all of the people all of the time.

(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges)