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Audi SQ7 2016 review

High-performance seven-seat Audi SQ7 hits British roads, and it could be the ultimate SUV

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

There are few areas the SQ7 hasn’t got covered. It’s seriously rapid, enormously practical and comes with an abundance of clever tech. It takes the notion of a performance SUV up a notch. At more than £70,000 (without options) it isn’t cheap, but it also presents a bigger picture. Everything you see here will eventually filter down through the Audi range – so although the tech is currently exclusive to the SQ7, it won’t be that way for long.

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The new Audi SQ7 is the automotive wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s the latest addition to the Q7 line-up and, according to the company, the world’s fastest diesel SUV. This is the first time we’ve been behind the wheel in the UK.

Beneath the SQ7’s unremarkable exterior sits some incredible technology. It’s powered by an all-new 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 diesel that develops 429bhp, but the really impressive stuff comes in the shape of an electric-powered compressor (EPC). Its job is to help spin up those turbos at low revs to give maximum response; the result is 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph.

Reading the specs is one thing, but experiencing the car in action is another. Put simply, a 2.4-tonne, seven-seat SUV shouldn’t be able to move as quickly as the SQ7 does. The magic number is the 900Nm of torque that’s available from only 1,000rpm, thanks to the new EPC system.

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From a standstill, the Audi accelerates with the mind-bending ferocity you’d expect from a supercar – and it’s made all the more surreal by how high you sit and how large the SQ7 is. In a standing-start duel, a Range Rover Sport SDV8 or Porsche Cayenne S diesel wouldn’t have a chance.

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The Audi could easily be crowned the best-sounding diesel SUV, too. At idle there’s a really menacing burble from the four tailpipes, and it becomes more violent as you romp though the rev range. There might be some trickery going on with the car’s speakers to amplify the noise, but it sounds fantastic and is utterly convincing.

However, it’s not all about the noise and speed, as the new 48-volt electrical system that enables the engine to work its magic also makes the SQ7 surprisingly agile. Gravity and physics are very much against you in something as large as the SQ7 when cornering, but active anti-roll bars stiffen the car when you up the pace to keep it stable.

This sounds like a gimmick, but it works, remaining flat and very composed out of tight and fast corners. The quattro four-wheel-drive system ensures there’s maximum traction available, too, meaning all of that instant engine shove results in instant and strong acceleration. As with most rapid Audis the steering could do with more feel, but overall the SQ7 is a remarkably fast and convincing performance SUV.

Being from the Q7 family also means it works on a practical level. Seven seats come as standard, and even with all three rows in place there’s still a decent 235-litre boot. The rest of the cabin remains as impressive as ever, as it’s trimmed in leather and aluminium. Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit is another standard feature, along with sat-nav, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise control.

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