BMW has it. Mercedes has it. And even Land Rover has one. But Audi? No. It has been a little slow in this regard. We are talking about a full-sized SUV injected with so much testosterone (not literally, of course) that it confuses itself for a sportscar. The BMW X5M, the Mercedes GLE AMG and the Range Rover Sport SVR are prime examples.
The Audi SQ7, barring a few tech updates in the suspension, brakes and engine departments, is the Q7 all the way; same chassis, almost the same length and width, and pretty similar looking too. No wonder the press presentation of the car steered away from talking design, a rarity when it comes to Audi presentations. So, the difference between the SQ7 and the Q7, visually, is the new blue hue, and of course a new, more dramatic-looking front bumper. Its design isn’t as extrovert as the ones we find on M cars or AMGs, but, one can still tell that this is no ordinary Q7.
Otherwise, the headlamps, the hood, the front fenders and even the side profile – barring the different wheel design and size – is carried as is from the regular Q7. It’s the same story when viewed from the rear. The SQ7 sports the exact same tail lamps, the same tailgate and in fact, the same rear bumper as well. The only visual difference here are the chrome-tipped quad pipes on the SQ7 instead of the standard two exhaust outlets one gets on the Q7.
The Audi SQ7 might be an SUV, but you still don’t sit in the sky. And it is easy to get in and out of. But it is the design, the quality of materials, and the rich feel to everything you touch that makes the SQ7 really stand out. It is a big step up over the older Q7 even in terms of design. The interiors look grander and more soothing, and the SQ7 is also stuffed with features.
It gets Audi’s new virtual cockpit, which essentially replaces traditional analogue dials with a customisable high-resolution screen. One can have the traditional speedo and tachometer dials on it along with driver information regarding fuel economy, distance travelled etc; their complete music selection; or have the screen taken over by the map with nicely presented turn by turn direction guidance.
In addition, there’s HUD (again with satnav guidance, which is a huge help in a foreign land), 4-zone climate control, and easy to use and logical high-end MMI system. The SQ7 gets ventilated front seats with electric adjustment for not only height and fore and aft movement, but for side bolstering as well. It also has three rows of seating, lots of stowage places, and of course given its exterior dimensions, there’s good amount of room for upto six occupants. Plus, it has a decently big boot.
The styling, the interiors, the equipment, the space, is all incidental, because the new Audi SQ7 is all about performance. First up, it gets a brand new diesel engine; yes, the SQ7 comes with a diesel motor, and that’s it! It’s a 4.0-litre V8 with some trick turbos. It uses two traditional turbochargers that run off the exhaust gases. But, before these turbos get to full boost, in order to avoid any sort of turbo lag, the SQ7’s new engine also employs an electric powered compressor (or EPC) to feed denser air to the cylinders.
The two traditional turbos, meanwhile, are sequentially placed with the smaller turbo coming on boost sooner than the mightier one (there for outright power). The smaller turbo which runs off gases coming from only one exhaust valve per cylinder is up and about at around 1000rpm. The bigger turbo comes on song at 2500rpm. The latter is run on the gases from the second exhaust valve, which hitherto remained closed.
The end result is a max power output of over 430bhp and an outstanding peak torque figure of 900Nm. On the road this translates into kick-in-the-back acceleration from a standstill, and an equally quick response in kickdown mode, no matter what pace the SUV might be doing. The new engine sounds good too. It doesn’t tug at your heartstrings as high-revving petrol V8s might, but it still can put a smile on your face.
Additionally, it is a super refined engine that’s in a hurry to get to its 5,000rpm redline. And unlike most diesels where the performance starts tapering off close to the rev limiter, the SQ7’s diesel V8 goes flat out towards the limiter wall, banging off it, upshifting via its 8-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, and then charging back to the limiter wall. It’s lovely.
The engine is only part of the SQ7’s charm. It uses some smart technology in is underpinnings as well. The Audi SQ7 comes with a new 48-volt electrical subsystem that works independently of the traditional 12-volt electric architecture we get on every other production car. The 12-volt system still handles all the essential bits and bobs, while the 48-volt system – powered by a separate 13kw lithium-ion battery – has only two jobs. First, is to power up the EPC in the engine before the regular turbos kick in. And, the second is to work the electromechanical anti-roll bars.
These anti-roll bars work in a similar fashion to smart hydraulically run adjustable ones. However, the ones on the SQ7 are quicker reacting, have lesser losses, and are more environment-friendly, for these have no oil that might need to be disposed of. The idea with these adjustable anti-roll bars is to ensure the SQ7 has a comfortable ride in a straight line with less torque needed to twist the bar and as a result give more pliancy and movement to the suspension.
But, when it comes to cornering, depending on the steering angle and the lateral forces at play, the torque needed to twist these bars changes. So, if the lateral forces are higher, the torque needed to twist the bars goes up as well. As a result, the SQ7 corners with a pretty flat stance.
And that’s not all. The SQ7 also gets four-wheel steer and a sport differential with torque vectoring. The four-wheel steer makes the SQ7 corner as if it were a much smaller car – fast turn in and higher corner speeds. The sport differential then comes into play at corner exists transferring the right amount of torque to the wheels with the most traction. No wonder the SQ7 doesn’t feel like an SUV at all around a series of corners.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||435bhp|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||900Nm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||85|
|Tyre size||285/45 R20|
|Multimedia interface with scratchpad||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||575 @ 6000rpm||503 @ 6000||435bhp|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||750 @ 2200rpm||625 @ 2500||900Nm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||85||105||85|
|Tyre size||285/40 R20 (front)||275/45 R21||285/45 R20|
|325/35 R20 (Rear)||275/45 R21|
Audi will launch the SQ7 in India in a few months. When launched the SQ7 will have most of the bells and whistles as the car driven here. And it will be offered only as a seven-seater. As far as technology goes, especially the four-wheel steer, the sport differential and the electromechanical sway bars, these are offered as a package add-on on international models. For India, we hope Audi brings this as standard for these, along with that gorgeous diesel engine makes the SQ7 a tastier prospect that the regular Q7; a crore plus price tag notwithstanding.