New Audi SQ7 2021 review
We test high-performance Audi SQ7 SUV that also has a glorious V8 soundtrack
In the world of V8-powered large SUVs, the SQ7 makes a good case for itself. Its performance will put a smile on your face and those of up to six passengers, it’s built as an Audi should be and it’s cheaper than its rivals. Although it’s nothing special on twistier roads, few big SUVs are. So if you must move lots of people quickly and have some fun doing it, the SQ7 is a good choice.
In a world that’s quickly shifting away from diesel, Audi’s rapid SQ7 SUV has finally swapped its mighty eight-cylinder diesel engine for an even mightier V8 bi-turbo petrol motor. You might well ask why it didn’t make the move sooner, allowing BMW X5s, Porsche Cayennes and Range Rover Sports to take all the V8 petrol glory. So has this latest Audi performance SUV been worth the wait?
At the SQ7’s heart is a glorious engine that propels this sizeable seven-seater from 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds; that’s quicker than an Aston Martin DBX. Power stands at 500bhp (up from 429bhp in the diesel) with 770Nm of torque (down 130Nm) available between 2,000 and 4,000rpm. It gets the car from 50-75mph in just 3.8 seconds, and top speed is limited to 155mph.
It’s not all about power, though, because Audi’s cylinder-on-demand (COD) tech shuts down four of the eight cylinders under lighter loads to improve efficiency. Well, Audi claims 23.3mpg as an average, so the word efficiency should be used in context.
Paying £79,095 (before options) is unlikely to leave you moaning about the cost of fuel, though, especially as you’ll be buying an SQ7 to enjoy the performance.
And enjoy it you will – in a straight line. Press the starter button and the sound of the V8 springing into life will make the hairs on your neck spring to life as quickly as the V8 itself; the fruity crescendo from the exhausts is a taste of things to come.
At parking speeds the SQ7 is like a powerful pet on a lead, requiring, in this case, a delicate foot to prevent you from being propelled forwards at an unexpectedly rapid rate of knots. But when you do get a chance to put your foot down, the two twin-scroll turbos spin furiously, the V8 lets out a full-blooded roar and you’re shoved snugly back into your leather seat.
At this point, it’ll be worth looking in the rear-view mirror to see the look of shock (or fun) on the faces of your passengers – and there could be five of them behind you sitting across rows two and three. Never has so much straight-line performance and aural drama been available to so many.
You’ll have spotted by now that we’ve referred to straight-line performance a couple of times and there’s a reason for that; this is not a car to be hustled. It does a reasonable job of disguising its bulk on twisty roads, but there’s only so much the adaptive air suspension and rear-wheel steering (it moves the back wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at slow speeds, and in the same direction as the fronts above 37mph) can do. After all, this is a car that weighs significantly more than two tonnes and is 1,739mm tall. Physics ensures the SQ7 has its limitations, and in cornering terms they come much sooner than they would in the Porsche Cayenne. But then, the Porsche would force you to leave a couple of passengers behind.
When you’re not enjoying the performance and noise, the SQ7 has a civilised side. The steering is more suited to relaxed driving, while the slick eight-speed automatic gearbox suits that, too.
Generally, the ride is pretty comfortable, in spite of this model’s sportier bent. Our version sat on the smaller 21-inch wheels (more expensive Black Edition and Vorsprung models get 22-inch rims), and while you’ll certainly notice the lumps and bumps on the road surface, you’ll not actually be jiggled around too much inside.
That boomy exhaust note soon settles down when you relax your right foot, too, making the SQ7 a decent cruiser. And the cabin is as luxuriously trimmed as you’d expect given the price, although Audi will still tempt you with a sizeable options list.
All Q7s offer decent space inside, wherever you sit, although adults could complain if you leave them in row three for too long. You might find yourself a little more relaxed with a better view out in a Land Rover Discovery, but that car doesn’t come with a burbly V8 up front.
In fact, when you look at the power and performance on offer, the SQ7 starts to seem like good value when compared with V8-engined rivals. Porsche gets closest on price with an £85,000 Cayenne GTS – but it’s slower and has fewer seats. Go for a Range Rover Sport SVR and it’s slower again and costs more than £100,000. A BMW X5 M Competition or a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S will both beat the SQ7 in a sprint, but they’re even more expensive than the V8-engined Range Rover Sport, priced from £113,000 and £116,000 respectively.
|Model:||Audi SQ7 TFSI Tiptronic|
|Engine:||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|