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Go Racing in a SUV

Go Racing in a SUV

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Ross Kiddie discovers the technology in Audi’s SQ7 is engineered for performance.

Audi SQ7 2017, Auckland, New Zealand , 27 October 2016. Photo: Simon Watts/www.bwmedia.co.nz

It’s going to cost you almost $200,000, but if you want a sport utility vehicle that you can do hot laps in at the Nurburgring, blast to 100km/h in 4.9sec and have it handle like a racing car, then the Audi SQ7 is the wagon that covers all bases. The SQ7 is an extension of the Q7 SUV, instead of having the 3-litre V6, it is powered by a 4-litre, twin-turbocharged, quad-camshaft V8, and is diesel-fed.

Audi rates the engine with a staggering 320kW and 900Nm of torque, the latter realised at just 1000rpm to 3250rpm thanks to an electric compressor which works to the point where the turbochargers kick in fully, thereby eliminating any lag. It’s a clever system, and I guess, you’d expect nothing less from Audi, or a vehicle of this price. The reality is the SQ7 is loaded with kit, it’s not just the stuff that makes it go quick, like the engine, the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, the clever sports rear differential and four-wheel-drive and steering, but the interior has a wealth of specification for both comfort and convenience. Nothing has been left to chance and, what’s more, the SQ7’s controls and layout are intuitive and it is also an SUV where seven occupants can feel comfortable. For me, the SQ7 is more about its engineering, and while the mechanicals are structured for high performance, the ease at which it all seems to happen is amazing, the levels of refinement are enormous and its ability seems somewhat subdued.

Audi SQ7 2017, Auckland, New Zealand , 27 October 2016. Photo: Simon Watts/www.bwmedia.co.nz

Yes, there is V8 burble out the exhaust pipes, and that in itself is misleading as you get the sound of a petrol engine, but as mentioned, the SQ7 is a diesel and there is little indication of that, except perhaps in its fuel usage statistics. Audi claims a 7.2-litre per 100km (39mpg) combined cycle rating for the seven-seater,
which correlates well with the 8.9l/100km (32mpg) figure constantly showing on the trip computer. That sits alongside a 5l/100km (56mpg) instantaneous reading at 100km/h, the engine loping over at just 1350rpm. What makes those figures even more remarkable was that they were gleaned from a spirited test drive. I took the test car west to Springfield, returning back to the city via the scenic route State Highway 72. The SQ7 is a touring car of true genius, it whispers through the air and is relaxing to drive, yet when you want to push a bit harder, and a bit quicker, it responds with an athleticism that is unrealistic for a vehicle
which weighs in at around 2.4-tonne. The steering is quick and affords the perfect feel, the suspension is compliant providing a moderately soft ride, yet it arrests body movement with amazing control along with dealing to uneven road surfaces. Often a rutted corner will unbalance a car and move it off-centre, but in the SQ7 that doesn’t happen, it steers precisely. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the huge sport specification Continental tyres (285/40x 21in), but the rest must be attributed to the perfection within the Quattro four-wheel-drive system which affords natural grip.

As mentioned in my introduction, the SQ7 handles like it was destined for the track, there are even drive modes and dash display readouts to encourage that. I also mentioned the SQ7’s acceleration off the mark. It’s impressive, too, at highway speed, an overtaking manoeuvre between 80km/h and 120km/h achievable in just 3.5sec.

Driver-selectable engine management protocols also override some of the air suspension settings, the SQ7 can be raised or lowered slightly to suit the terrain and/or type of travel. It’s fair to mention that much of the kit which makes the SQ7, in this instance, a formidable sports machine, is optional. The entry-level car sits at $175,900, but the advanced suspension package, ceramic brake package, sport diff and rear steering are added cost extras.

To my way of thinking if you paid the extra it would be money well spent, even just to experience the technology which makes an unrealistic sport machine the cat’s whiskers in terms of handling dynamics. What this drive also served to prove is that Audi is at the forefront of technology and that has lured me back into thinking a lot more about the brand, I simply can’t wait to see more exciting product from this high-profile German manufacturer come my way.

THE SPECS
PRICE: Audi SQ7, $175,900
DIMENSIONS: Length, 5069mm;
width, 1968mm; height, 1741mm
CONFIGURATION: Four-cylinder, fourwheel-
drive, 3956cc, 320kW, 900Nm,
eight-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h, 4.8sec
FUEL USAGE: 7.2l/100km