When life lessons were taught about compromise, the Audi SQ7 skipped that day…
I’m sure it was a well-meaning parent or teacher who once said that life is full of compromise. You know, the whole “you can’t have everything” bit, that forces you to consider and prioritise what is really important.
It’s good, grounding advice that builds stronger character and a more balanced life outlook.
However, let’s say for a second, they were wrong.
Or more accurately, the 2021 Audi SQ7 makes them wrong.
You want space, you get it. Need punch, got that too. Lots of nifty gadgets, plenty of tech, and even a comfortable ride? Yes, yes and yes.
In terms of the primary engineering wants and practical needs of a car-buying public, the seven-seat SQ7 offers a solution without compromise. So why aren’t we all driving one?
Well, that lack of compromise comes at a price. And I’m not just talking about the price…
|2021 Audi SQ7|
|Engine configuration||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel with 48-volt mild hybrid and electric compressor|
|Power||320kW @ 4750rpm|
|Torque||900Nm @ 1250-3250rpm|
|Drive type||Four-wheel drive|
|Power to weight ratio||130.1kW/t|
|Fuel claim (combined)||7.6L/100km|
|Fuel use (combined)||9.1L/100km|
|Main competitors||BMW X7 | Mercedes-AMG GLE53 | Porsche Cayenne GTS|
Cards on the table, the SQ7 is pretty spendy. Your invoice starts at $161,500 before options and on-road costs, and while the car is generously equipped, there’s a couple of five-figure elephants on the specification sheet.
Ignore for a second the $1950 carbon vector trim inlays and $4900 night-vision assistant, however cool they may sound, and turn your attention to the two packages on offer to enhance your SQ7.
The $10,900 Dynamic Package, adds a Quattro Sport differential (to help with top-end power delivery, and a 48-volt active roll stabilisation function, to underscore the ‘S’ in your SQ7.
And the $13,500 Sensory Package throws in ventilated massage seats up front, heated seats in the second row, a leather-trimmed dash and a 23-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, to create a more luxurious environment in which to transport your six passengers.
That’s $24,400, on top of the list price (for $185,900 in total), to make the SQ7 what it arguably should be out of the box. That said, our car runs the former but not the latter, and while I’m sure a ventilated massage would have been nice on the commute home, I didn’t really notice a particular audio gap that would have been filled by four additional speakers when using the already impressive 19-speaker B&O stereo.
To be clear, you won’t miss the Sensory Package items if they aren’t there, I’m just suggesting that they should be there as standard.
Lucky the Navarra Blue Metallic paint, and all six other colour options, are yours for no additional fee.
But, we’re not here to muse about 730- or 1920-watt sound outputs, the most important output from the SQ7 is the same regardless of options and colours, and it lives under the bonnet.
A stonking great four-litre twin turbo diesel V8 is mated to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that powers (among other things) a third electric compressor which is there, primarily, to eliminate lag. This results in a generous power output of 320kW and a solid 900Nm wall of torque, that shift the 2460kg SQ7 from rest to 100km/h in just 4.8-seconds, all while returning a combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.6L/100km.
What was that note about no compromises again?
|2021 Audi SQ7|
|Wheels/tyres||285/35 R22 Hankook|
Real-world use is simply effortless. Tootle about town and the V8 rumbles away without any fuss, but should you need things to heat up, there’s no pre-flight check or preparation needed. Just squeeze and everything moves a little faster, and then faster still.
Peak power is right around the clock at 4750rpm, but all that torque is yours from a smidge above idle at 1250rpm through to a roaring 3250rpm. It’s an easy car to keep in the tractable response zone, although fall under it and you notice every gram of the 2460kg mass. Give it a swift stab of right-foot clarity though, and the chunky Audi will be moving again swiftly soon enough. Our fuel use was higher than the claim, but not hugely so (9.1L/100km) considering there was plenty of foot-stomping driving going on.
As when you get things really cooking and the big Audi simply unleashes from any sensible restraint and keeps piling on pace, without showing a single sign of breaching any limit, other than legal ones. It really is a magnificent engine.
Running on ‘sports’ adaptive air suspension, the SQ7 can sit 15mm lower than a regular Q7, but in comfort mode still offers a plush and compliant ride when you need it. It is running on 22-inch wheels, so ‘comfort’ is somewhat contextual, but over the speed humps and railway crossings of Melbourne’s inner-east, it does just fine.
Escape the urban sprawl though, drop the car quite literally into Sport mode, and that $11-grand 48-volt active roll system starts to earn its keep.
As we found with the mighty AMG GLS 63 S, these active systems make a big car feel smaller on the road, and through a pacy B-road, the SQ7 feels as nimble as a Q5. Body roll is all but eliminated and the car simply feels confident through changes of direction and long, high-speed bends.
Normally here is where I’d suggest a ‘but’ and mention the SQ7’s greater than 5m length (5069mm) and near 3m wheelbase (2996mm) scuppers any plans of managing tighter country corners and switchbacks, or even just hampers it around restrictive city streets.
Not so though, as the big blue bus has four-wheel steering.
Like most modern systems, the wheels turn in sync to offer stability at high speed, but at low speeds will counter-turn to enable the SQ7 to shave about a meter off its turning circle (11.1m from 12.4m).
It makes a massive difference, particularly if u-turns are part of your daily routine, although you will need to get used to it so as to avoid clipping curbs with the rear wheels as you cut it more sharply than you may expect.
From an engineering perspective, there’s not a lot this thing can’t do.
|2021 Audi SQ7|
|Colour||Navarra Blue Metallic|
|Options as tested||$10,900 (Dynamic Package)|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2019) ANCAP|
And you get all this with the Q7’s impressive family packaging.
There are ISOFIX mounting points in the second and third row. Each of the three middle seats can slide forward on its own rail, which makes the most of the SQ7’s cavernous interior size.
You score neat animated indicators, a powered cargo blind, clever light-up seatbelt receivers and soft-close doors. In short, plenty of gee-whiz to feature in even the most hardened teen’s TikTok videos.
Technology is central to Audi’s being, and in terms of convenience, safety and assistance goodies, the SQ7 is a full house Vorsprung Durch Technik.
All the Audi safety gear is included, as it is across the Q7 range, contributing to the car’s five-star ANCAP rating when tested (for the MY20 update) in 2019.
While it took me a little while to get used to the twin haptic screens that control the car’s functions, they are very slickly implemented. More than once I’d look to the top screen when my attention was required below, but once I figured this out, it became a very impressive and assuredly modern way to interact with the car.
They do get pretty smudgy, however, and the user interface feels as though the engineers who built it, designed it, and that’s not the best thing. But once you’ve worked out where everything (mostly) is, you do get used to it.
Even the Google Maps overlay on the navigation screen (both on the central screen and virtual-cockpit instrument cluster), which I often find less clear to use than just a regular map interface, became second nature.
The hypermodern sensation of being able to run a photorealistic, birds-eye view of your route and destination felt more aligned to the no-compromise nature of the SQ7 than it does in my A4 allroad long-termer. Perhaps it’s the way the dashboard display can be configured, perhaps it’s just part of the all-in techno play that the SQ7 encourages, or perhaps I am simply becoming one with the machine.
You see, as I said earlier in the piece, that there is a price to pay for this no-compromise approach, a price beyond the 162-gorillas you need to buy one, that is.
Like a Terminator, the SQ7 does everything near perfectly, but it does so clinically. Coldly. Without any sense of emotion.
It’s a car you can like and admire, but not really form a warm bond with.
Now, you may think I’ve lost the plot in suggesting the downfall of a near $200k family hauler is that it doesn’t inspire you to feel all warm and fuzzy about it, but I’m simply suggesting that the car is engineered so far beyond what you actually need, that your involvement with the SQ7 is merely cursory.
Yes, you drive it. But in all reality, it is doing everything it wants the way it wants to.
Many won’t mind, and most won’t care, as this is fundamentally a brilliantly packaged exercise in engineering. A big, blue rolling box of semiconductor shortages that says you can have it all, as long as you want it cold.
Which in its own full-circle way is perhaps an example of why those life lessons about compromise are as important as ever.