It’s nothing new that driving enthusiasts like to get behind the wheel of fast cars. But it is new to have such a vehicle that also fits a family of seven. The 2023 SQ7 is Audi’s large performance SUV offering if the Audi Q7 is not enough to raise your eyebrows.
To match customer demand for petrol engines, the luxury German brand has done away with the 4.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, and swapped it with a more powerful yet familiar 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 seen in brand cousins like the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne. It thrusts forward with a head-jerking 373kW and 770Nm – up from 320kW but down from 900Nm in the old diesel.
Throw in four-wheel steering and adaptive air suspension and you start to get a sense of what this Slovakian-built performance SUV is all about. But numbers and facts only tell some of the story. Come for the ride as we give the SQ7 TFSI a thorough test to see if it lives up to its reputation.
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: Specifications
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Output: 373kW@5500rpm / 770Nm@2000-4000rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 22×10, 285/35
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 2470kg
Power-to-weight: 6.62:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 12.1L/100km
Our consumption: 11.8L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 85L/95 RONPower efficiency: 30.82kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.04 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.11 seconds*
60-110km/h: 2.83 seconds*
1/4 mile: 12.44 seconds at 181.4km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.106g*
100-0km/h braking: 36.92m in 3.12 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.492g*
Decibel at idle (/Dynamic mode): 40/50*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 85*
Starting price: $164,869
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: How much does it cost?
Audi Australia sells the SQ7 for $164,869 (excluding on-road costs). There are many optional extras that can quickly bump up that price. For example, you can upgrade to longer lasting front and rear ceramic brakes with grey calipers for a whopping $19,500. You can also pre-purchase a two-year service plan for $3900, or 5-years for $4100. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months.
Do we think there is $165k worth of value in this machine? Well, it does undercut its nearest rivals, such as the more powerful BMW X5 M60i, which starts from $172,900. But it doesn’t come standard with seven seats.
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: Interior & packaging
The core shape of this second generation Q7, and inherently, the SQ7, has been out since 2016. But facelifts and cosmetic updates are keeping it up to date. Audi’s design language is made up of smooth sheet metal with sharp creases to convey an elegant look via a conservative theme.
The SQ7 tries to break away from the Q7 by adding some athletic appeal, adopting a prominent, dark and vertical front grille, large countersunk and dark front intakes, and stylish three-dimensional LED headlights. Through the midsection, that familiar Q7 design is overshadowed by huge 22-inch alloy wheels and muscular side skirts. Sporty values are further embellished with striking rear LED taillights that mirror 3D shapes used in the front lights, quad exhausts, and that flashy SQ7 badging.
Then stepping inside is an immersion of extravagance and technology. You are surrounded by a great balance of high-quality brushed metal, glossy black panelling, leather-bound surfaces and beautifully contrasting stitching. Luxury is written in throughout. You feel it from the suede headlining, the door closing aid, the electric auto folding third row, Bang & Olufsen speakers that rise up from the dashboard, and broad, plush seats with so many adjustments. Especially classy is the carbon fibre pattern in parts of the dash that embed an illuminated ‘Quattro’ emblem.
You are also encircled with lots of high-resolution digital interfaces. Firstly, there is a 10.1-inch centre touch-screen that controls your infotainment like sat-nav, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Then there is an 8.6-inch lower touch-screen to control climate and important car functions. Physical buttons and knobs are arguably easier to feel and use when in motion, but at least the menu on this screen is dedicated to those functions and doesn’t change. If two digital displays aren’t enough, you also have the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Graphics are pleasantly sharp, easy to grasp, and customisable.
A notable pitfall with so many digital screens and a driver-centric environment where everything is at finger-reach is that there are not enough storage holes. Practicality takes a hit as there is no centre shelf in front of the gear shifter, and the centre console has no depth to store anything thicker than a book.
But when it comes to general space, this tank will fit an army inside. Every dimension in every row is generous. It also helps that the second row gets many of the features the front row gets. For example, four-zone climate adjustments, ambient lighting, charging ports, leather seats and window blinds. Further back, there is a huge 705 litres of boot space to fill when five seats are in place.
As mentioned, some features you’ll really enjoy are rudely an optional extra. For $166k before on-road costs, some of these features should really come as standard. But cashed-up luxury car buyers love their power to customise. Items we think you shouldn’t have to pay extra for are ventilated front seats, heated second row seats, ceramic brakes to match the high output engine, suede-style headlining, and rear window blinds.
Some highlights of what you do get as standard include a 19-speaker sound system with a separate amplifier and sub-woofer, a wireless phone charger, high speed crash and pedestrian avoidance with braking, front and rear cross-traffic alert, active bonnet safety, side door exit warning, fully automated parking assistance, a 360-degree camera, a heated steering wheel, active shadowing high beam, powered door closing aid, and a sunroof.
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: Powertrain & handling
For the SQ7, the proof is in the power to thrill. Otherwise you’d simply get the Q7. So how does it go? Well, it’s a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. It goes. Fast. The full 373kW comes in at 5500rpm, so it pays to let it rip. And it’s an engine that feels in its natural habitat up there. Although 770Nm is a cut back from the 900Nm of the previous diesel, it still pulls away like a freight train. Behind the wheel, it’s a delightfully exciting experience.
You feel like the commander of your destiny with no limitations (except the road rules). It gets from 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds. Our tests with a Vbox on a private road revealed just that, with a best of 4.11 seconds. It’s quite magical considering it weighs nearly 2.5 tonnes. Adding to the experience is the unreal sound of that voracious V8. Even when driving calmly, it’s calm but threatening purr is unmatchable.
We need to put things into perspective, though. As thrilling as it is behind the wheel, there are some competitors that offer even more power for similar money, clocking even quicker times – if that is of prime importance to you.
The eight-speed auto transmission is impeccably smooth yet ultra-fast to transition through the ratios when you unleash the beast. Seventh and eighth gear are also very tall for those high-speed autobahns of Germany.
In reality, if you can afford to buy an SQ7, you’re probably not worried about fuel consumption. But in case you’re wondering, as you would expect, it’s not light on the juice. The official average is 12.1L/100km. Surprisingly, our average was lower, at 11.8L/100km. Though, we spent more time on highways than around town.
With those tall gears and plenty of low-down torque, higher speeds are effortless for it. It also has coasting ability when ‘efficiency’ driving mode is selected, and “cylinder on-demand” technology. When load on the engine is low, four of its cylinders are deactivated. Audi claims this reduces fuel consumption by an average of five per cent.
To compliment the powerful drive system, the SQ7 TFSI is fitted with air suspension and auto-levelling electronic dampers. It’s also one of the few that allows you to customise the SUV’s height or ground clearance manually. The setup goes a long way to enable the SQ7 to feel like two very different SUVS; one that provides a smooth and luxurious ride, and one that can be sprinted around corners.
We found it works best when you select the mode you want manually, rather than leaving it in ‘auto’ mode where it has to work it out itself. If auto mode is selected, a softer bias is generally felt at higher speeds and a stiffer setting takes play at lower speeds. But auto mode can get it wrong. Given the experience between ‘comfort’ and ‘dynamic’ (performance) modes are more extreme than a car with conventional suspension, if it decides the setting and it’s not to your suiting, the results are felt more than conventional suspension setups.
We proceeded over the same speed bump twice in auto mode. The first time, it felt impeccably smooth. The second time it was rough and thudded. Select comfort mode as your auto mode, and flick it to dynamic mode when you have an itchy foot.
From a performance perspective, it grabs hold of corners incredibly sturdily. The unique suspension configuration gives it an outstandingly grounded feel. It’s difficult to expel any sort of body roll. And with such broad 10-inch-wide tyres, there’s an unwavering amount of grip to rein in all of that power.
All-wheel steering helps to make it feel extremely steady at highway speeds and tight swerving turns. It also helps with manoeuvrability at low speeds; reducing the turning circle by about a metre. The steering feels appropriately weighty for that stable sensation at higher speeds, and lighter at lower speeds for easier parking.
Off-road credentials on paper are competitive with a selectable off-road driving mode, an active centre diff, electronic diff lock, and that adjustable suspension height. But it’s all a bit redundant with low profile tyres and no spare wheel. And given its price, you wouldn’t want to divert any further out than a rough dirt road.
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: Key attractions/reasons to buy
We love that exhilarating V8 power and sound from the SQ7. And its dynamics match engine performance with air suspension and electronic dampers, making it feel incredibly grounded at high speed. The package is also backed up with indisputably strong brakes that offer plenty of stopping power.
You certainly feel the top shelf luxury in the cabin, with premium materials, seats, lots of tech and digital screens. The space is also huge, with room for seven passengers.
Audi offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and five years of free roadside assistance.
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: Key considerations before you buy
Even though the SQ7 offers an undeniable shot of adrenaline for thrill seekers with its twin-turbo V8 engine and sportscar-like dynamics, its price tag is high. Especially for some of those optional extras.
It’s worth noting that our experience with the parking sensors and the active city safety system were not great. They seem to be overly sensitive. We had the auto emergency braking trigger aggressively even though there were no objects or cars in close range.
We’d also like to see some small improvements made on interior practicality, as there is a lack of storage areas with all of those digital screens taking up dash and console volume.
Lastly, this generation Q7/SQ7 is getting long in the tooth – it was first released in 2016. You might like to hold your horses until the next generation is released, but it might lose the V8 and instead transition to hybrid or fully electric power.
2023 Audi SQ7 TFSI: Video
How does it rate against its rivals?
The Audi SQ7 is a bold SUV that successfully rolls luxury and heart-thumping performance into a 7-seater family SUV formula. It offers an undeniable shot of adrenaline for thrill seekers with its twin-turbo V8 engine. It is expensive though so keep an eye on those options. Some rivals are even quicker too, if that’s your priority.