Audi SQ7 first drive, CAR+ June 2016

Published: 01 May 2016

► New 2016 Audi SQ7 TDI tested
► Features a battery of advanced tech
► Diesel V8 thunders out 664lb ft

It would appear that the Audi SQ7 is to ordinary SUVs what the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building is to your average garden shed.

Only the second Audi Q-series model to receive S designation (after the SQ5; the RSQ3 doesn’t count), it features the world’s first production electric supercharger, while the optional ‘driving dynamics package’ adds four-wheel steering, a torque vectoring sport differential at the back and an electro-mechanical active anti-roll system (as per the platform-sharing Bentley Bentayga) – much of which is only made possible by the new 48v electrics that at once supplement and surpass the usual 12v juice.

It rides on standard air suspension and is powered by a new 4.0-litre TDI V8 with sequential twin turbocharging and the first diesel application of Audi valvelift technology. Compared to the previous 4.2-litre V8 TDI, power is up from 335bhp to 429bhp and torque jumps from a thoroughly ridiculous 590lb ft to a fully outrageous 664lb ft – available from just 1000rpm.

The valvelift controls the activation of the second, larger turbo by closing off one of each cylinders’ exhaust valves at lower rpm, thereby directing all of the gases at the smaller, faster- reacting turbo until there’s enough momentum to bring big brother online, which happens with a perceptibly satisfying wallop just below 3000rpm. This anti-lag trickery would probably be enough for most people, but Audi’s added the electric compressor, which draws down on the 48v electrics to achieve 70,000rpm in an eye blink, kick-starting the conventional turbos like flicking a switch should they/you be caught napping.

Sounds like a terribly complex way of going about things, especially when there’s also an eight-speed gearbox involved which does a fine job of masking the electric booster’s efforts by swiftly shedding four ratios on occasion.

But put this monster into manual mode and you soon realise just how incredibly quickly the engine comes on song – and if you’ve ever wanted to make six passengers vomit in unison, the SQ7 is your opportunity, for fully optioned up with all the chassis tech it will perform cross-country gymnastics that would make a hot hatch blush. The active anti-roll constantly arm-wrestles physics, the sport diff makes it drift and the four-wheel steering is astonishing for its nonchalant prescience (if I hadn’t seen it on the spec sheet I’d never have guessed it was fitted). All to the tune of a snargling V8 soundtrack. Lord above, it’s impressive.

What’s more, whack it out of Dynamic and back into Comfort, and even on optional 22s the ride quality is perfectly acceptable in Europe. You’ll be wanting the ceramic stoppers upgrade without a shadow of a doubt – what’s another few grand amongst friends at this level? – and still these get stinky under the pressure of 429bhp and 2330kg, and shame about the soul-sucking interior, which trades any hint of charisma for the clean functionality of a modern business hotel. But if you’re looking for one car to rule them all right now, this is very much a contender.

The specs: Audi SQ7 TDI

Price: £70,970
Engine: 3956cc 32v sequential twin-turbo diesel V8 with electric powered compressor, 429bhp @ 3750-5000rpm, 664lb ft @ 1000-3250rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 39.2mpg, 190g/km CO2
Weight: 2330kg  
On sale: Now

Love – Stupendous poke, physics-bending chassis tech
Hate – Chassis tech only optional, soulless interior
Verdict – Quite possibly one of the most complete cars on sale
Rating – ****

Read more from the June 2016 issue of CAR magazine

Audi SQ7

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count