First drive: Audi SQ7

Audi's new SQ7 is the SUV that everybody wants, but probably can't justify. And with a 429bhp V8 sitting proudly under the bonnet, producing CO2 emissions of 190g/km and mpg of just below 40, it's certainly not going to win any eco awards.

Although not as economical as other options out there, the expensive SUV is certainly a head turner, and a lot of fun in the windy roads of the Vosges mountain range, AOL Cars finds out.
What is it?

Based on the German carmaker's award winning Q7 model, the SQ7 claims to be the most powerful diesel SUV on the market. As the first S model to feature in the Q7 line-up, the high performance car is only Audi's second venture into S-badged SUVs, following in the wake of the 2012 SQ5.

The SQ7 is also the first production car to feature an electrically powered compressor (EPC) – technology usually seen in racing – which promises to abolish any turbo lag in the powerful car.

It boasts an impressive standard spec list and an array of safety equipment, which incudes 24 driver assistance systems performing a wide range of functions, including Audi pre sense city emergency braking system and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist.

What's under the bonnet?

A powerful 4.0 litre V8 TDI engine sits under the bonnet of this SUV, providing plentiful power to propel the 2405kg car to 60mph in under five seconds. This is an impressive feat given that the 2,260kg Porsche Cayenne S Diesel takes 0.4 second slower to reach the same speed.

The V8 produces 664ft lb of torque at 1000rpm and at 3750rpm the model's peak power of 429bhp arrives.

Featuring alongside its two conventional turbos, the aforementioned electrically powered compressor is powered by a 48-volt electrical subsystem and provides the extra boost for the SQ7 to pull away and increase speed with virtually no turbo lag. By filling in the torque gaps, the EPC gives the drive access to all the power more of the time.

What's the spec like?

The spacious seven-seater boasts a host of spec, much of which is specific to S badged models. Despite its sporty appearance, comfort within the cabin is exceptional; with plentiful leg-room in both rows of rear seats and with the option to upgrade the front sports seats to sports seats plus, it's comfortable for the driver too.

The Audi virtual cockpit brings a functional and colourful appearance to the SQ7's dash. Situated behind the steering wheel, the 12.3-inch display presents all required information in an easy to read, interactive format. The cockpit display can be adjusted via steering wheel mounted buttons, while a heads up display can be added as an option.

The MMI navigation system takes pride of place in the centre of the dash, while buyers will have the choice between two sound systems as standard – a 19-speaker Bose system or one from Bang & Olufson, which boasts 23 speakers.

Twelve exterior paint options are offered on the model, while the distinctive radiator grille and underbody guard are finished in matt grey. Alloy wheels up to 22in in diameter can also be specified.

First drive: Audi SQ7
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First drive: Audi SQ7

Any rivals?

The SQ7 will be lining up against the likes of BMW's X5 M50d, the Range Rover Sport, and Porsche's Cayenne S Diesel. However, with all three rivals costing from below £66,000, the SQ7 sits at the pricier end of performance SUVs.

What's it like to drive?

Thanks to the EPC, the SQ7 has virtually no turbo lag when pulling away. A slight delay can be felt as its 8-speed tiptronic gearbox catches up, however this is only a slight qualm that is forgotten by the time you reach 30mph.

The SQ7 excels on a variety of roads, proving quiet and refined on motorways, and coming into its own on tougher terrain.

This is due in part to the car's optional electromechanical active roll stabilisation. Powered by the same 48-volt battery as the EPC, a compact electric motor with a three-stage planetary gearbox separates the two halves of the stabiliser.

The two halves are interconnected and pushed together when the car is moving fast in order to reduce body roll, while they are actively decoupled on rougher roads to improve comfort.

AOL Cars verdict

The SQ7 is a brilliantly fun car to drive, with the promised lack of turbo lag, and very little body roll.

However, considering the price range and the luxurious interior spec, we don't expect the model to sell in high numbers, and those that do are unlikely to be used to their full potential.

The Knowledge:

Model: Audi SQ7
Price: £70,970
Engine: 4.0 litre V8 TDI Quattro
Power: 429bhp
Max Speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 4.9
MPG (combined): 39.2
Emissions: 190g/km
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